Monthly Archives: February 2014

Defender Challenge Series Announced

An exciting new rally car was unveiled at this year’s Autosport International motor racing show in January. Bowler Motorsport is building the new Defender Challenge car, which will be available to enter a one-make rally championship over the coming year, aimed to be the ideal feeder series to get people up to the standard where entry into the Dakar Rally can be more than just a pipe dream.

The modified Defender 90 hardtop is powered by an uprated version of the 2.2-litre diesel engine, developing 170bhp and 450Nm, mated to a six-speed transmission. It remains road legal, but has the necessary safety equipment fitted including roll bar, and fire extinguisher system and comes with all the necessary Motor Sports Association paperwork and log book, making it ready to race.

The Defender’s suspension has been upgraded to meet the demands of high-speed competition with the help of Bilstein (more details in Products on page 14). The vehicle’s bodywork has a Bowler Motorsport body kit to accommodate the lightweight 18inch wheels. A Bowler Defender Challenge vehicle costs £50,000 (plus VAT), and there is a £10,000 entry fee to the championship. Bowler also offers a servicing and logistical package that would allow an owner driver just to turn up and race, and not need your own support team behind you.

Does Rolls-Royce need a 4x4?

The news that the iconic luxury limousine manufacturer is actively considering building a 4×4 was somewhat underwhelming. Given the market for luxury SUVs, perhaps RR had to be seen to consider the idea. Of course, it was even less of a surprise that, should RR build such a vehicle, it was claimed it would become the most expensive production 4×4 in the world. Now of course it would. Are you listening Bentley?

In a world where the greatest range of British-built 4x4s are owned by an Indian company, the fact that another brand so synonymous with Britain is now owned by BMW shouldn’t really surprise or disappoint. Add to that the fact that Bentley is owned by Volkswagen and you wonder if the comments by Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös were made for VW’s benefit – since that German manufacturer has already announced a luxury 4×4 Bentley will be with us in 2015.

BMW does have extensive experience of some very clever high tech carbonfibre technology, and so there would be no problem with the technology to build a 4×4, the question would be what kind of market there would be for such a product? Perhaps the most important comment from the RR boss about this whole story was confirmation that should the company go ahead, any 4×4 Rolls-Royce would be built in the UK, at the Goodwood plant, because of the value that RR customers put on British engineering. It’s just a shame that the profits for such skill will leave the country.

Of course, Rolls-Royce has been involved with a successful 4×4 before… The original Austin Champ was fitted with a RR designed engine. Now that is what you call a heritage.


Box it upThe MUD UK cubby box bin is a simple but effective way of creating extra storage space in the cabin of your Land Rover Defender. It fixes to the rear face of the Defender’s standard cubby box to create an easy access storage bin for both front and rear seat occupants. It has been designed to fit all Defender models, and comes with all necessary fittings. It’s a great place for storing maps, CDs, and will even hold large water bottles. Fit one and we’re sure you’ll fill it, one of Murphy’s indubitable rules! The cubby box costs a very reasonable £28, including VAT and is available direct from the MUD UK website.

Website: www.mudstuff.co.uk 

Remote controls

Warn’s newly designed winch remote control system is now even easier to fit and operate, since it merely plugs in directly to the remote socket and can then be used wirelessly. This gives much more user flexibility and can be used up to 50ft away, which in itself is an impressive distance. The kit has a wireless transmitter with holster and mounting hardware, which can then be safely stored in the vehicle. The receiver plugs directly into the ‘D’ plug of the control pack. The wireless system is compatible with the Warn 3700 and 4700 utility winch models and available from the Arbil 4×4 dealer network. If you want to know more, contact the guys at Arbil, or check out the website.

Website: www.arbil4x4.co.uk 


Competition shocks from Bilstein

Top suspension company Bilstein has joined forces with Bowler to create a new shock absorber for the new Land Rover Defender Challenge Series (see details, News, page 10). As this is a ‘one make’ championship series, it is important that the shock absorbers for the Challenge are of a particularly tough standard, but not prohibitively expensive for competitors. The new dampers feature an active compression valve as well as a uniball supporting bearing to eliminate the slop and movement often found in standard fittings. A large 46mm diameter piston has been employed to ensure maximum damping force. Each damper uses Bilstein’s proven gas pressure technology and is of an inverted monotube design for maximum performance and rates have been factory pre-set to ensure a level playing field for all competitors across the championship. The units each have a remote reservoir, offering an increased oil capacity for improved heat dissipation and damping sensitivity. The units were unveiled with the new Championship at the recent Autosport International Show at the NEC.

Website: www.bilstein.com 


The growth in SUV ‘soft-roaders’ continues apace. For the traditional, more serious mud-plugger, such vehicles are often dismissed, disparagingly. Armed with some knowledge to aid your driving ability and the soft-roader will go a lot further than is often considered. And at the end of the day, isn’t it great that the soft-roader needs some driver input rather than just switching the super sophisticated terrain control to ‘Auto’ and ploughing on regardless?

Words: Robert Pepper  Photography: Robert Pepper and Wayne Mitchelson

soft roadersThink 4×4 and vehicles like the Discovery, Land Cruiser and Grand Cherokee come to mind, or maybe pick-ups like the Hilux or Ranger. These vehicles are capable of carrying heavy loads over rough terrain, but are not cheap to buy or to run. Smaller, certainly lighter vehicles such as the Santa Fe, Freelander, SX4 and others offer rough-terrain capability at lower prices – these are soft-roaders designed for lighter duty work and they lack low range gears. The question is whether the trade-off is worth it, and how far can you go in a softie?

First off, any 4×4, whether it has low range or not, needs two basic features to be seriously considered for off-roading. The first is front and rear recovery points, which doesn’t mean screw-in eyes but might mean a rear towbar. If there is no front recovery point then at least use two screw-in eyes and use a long bridle (at least 5m) to equalise (but not halve) the load.

The second is a full-size spare wheel, or at least the option to take one somewhere. Spacesaver spares or worse yet, the aerosol can option you spray into a punctured tyre, just don’t cut it off-road. These two criteria alone cut the wide field of soft-roaders to far fewer, and it is these which are your real candidates for any terrain rougher than a dirt road.

Looking to improve the performance and efficiency of your 4×4? Paul Guinness takes a look at what’s available to get more from your engine


Tuning guide – more power, less fuel Most folk are probably perfectly happy with their diesel-powered 4x4s, SUVs and off-roaders. They manage to offer reliable, sturdy motoring, reasonable power and decent enough torque in most cases. And if those who crave more performance choose to run a petrol-powered 4×4 instead, perhaps usurping a Td5 Discovery in favour of a V8, then they’re probably content to spend more on fuel in return for that extra on-road ‘oomph’.

Sometimes, though, even the most contented drivers crave just a bit more power, or some extra response when their right foot is applied to the ‘go’ pedal. And when it comes to towing or even off-roading, a bit of extra torque could be handy on occasions.

Assuming you don’t have limitless funds available, however, it doesn’t always make sense to change your 4×4 for a more powerful model, given how much extra you’d almost certainly end up spending. So what’s the alternative? Simply this: improve what you already have. Paul Guinness offers a guiding hand through the maze of aftermarket products and services to get that little bit more from your 4×4’s engine.

Nigel FryattBob Cooke – contributor


Suzuki Grand Vitara SZ4EVEN the most cautious and careful driver can have an ‘incident’ when driving off-road. It’s one of those activities that you shouldn’t do, if you are not prepared for the consequences that might involve some damaged metal (or plastic), since it’s not always just your pride that gets dented.

That would be a good way of introducing, or indeed excusing, the dent that now appears on the Suzuki’s front bumper. I could regale you with stories of derring-do, on how the little Suzuki had been ploughing through the rough stuff, embarrassing vehicles more suited to serious mud-plugging, when one of those nasty mobile rocks ‘jumped out’ in front of me and caught the valance. I could say that, if it was true. Sadly, I have to admit that the damage was done… in a car park. Now it was the muddy, slippery car park at a small wildlife nature reserve somewhere in Surrey, and not a tarmac covered Tesco’s car park, but that still doesn’t quite excuse it.

Stupid thing was, when I drove in and parked I noticed the small wooden fence, less than a foot high, low down on the passenger’s side. It would be easy to miss that I thought to myself. Of course, some time later when I came to reverse out of the space, putting the wheel to full lock and looking over my shoulder to see all was clear behind and easing back, the resulting graunching noise told me that, basically, I was an idiot.


March 2014 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

march coverIt’s better to be 70 years young than 40 years old. How appropriate, this month, is that quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Not someone I knew much about, but he seems to have been a leading light in the Supreme Court in the USA in the early part of the 20th Century. He retired at 90 days and 309 days old – which I reckon you can ‘round up’ to be 91 years young.

Why mention him? Well, I reckon old Wendell would have got on well with our contributor Les Carvall. Having finished a successful business career, Les sat back, relaxed but found that the tartan slippers weren’t best suited for his itchy feet. But instead of going fishing or sitting in his shed drinking tea, Les decided to drive around the world in a Suzuki Jimny. Now that’s quite a simple sentence to write, but it’s not an easy thing to do. The physical achievement of all that driving is one thing, the organisation of getting not one, but two Jimnys around the globe through some of the remotest parts of Asia is the bit that really impresses us. You can read the full story this month and if it doesn’t inspire you to actually do that trip you’ve always promised yourself… well then you are certainly getting old.

You need a certain maturity to compete on a rally raid event, and the Dakar in particular. For us mortals, a high-speed off-road event that covers some 5600 miles is pretty unimaginable, especially given the conditions. It’s an iconic event, ‘the Dakar’, and this year it was totally dominated by the Mini All4 Racing machines, with seven finishing in the top ten. Now that’s not a problem if they were battling it out, but sadly three stages from the end, the monstrous ‘team orders’ came into play and the top three Minis trundled across the finish line without breaking into a sweat. Don’t know about you, but that seems to devalue everyone’s efforts when that happens. Didn’t impress the organisers of this year’s event either it seems. What you cannot deny, however, is how impressive the domination of the Mini All4 Racing rally raid cars have been for the last three years.

BobCookeBob Cooke – contributor

Jeep CherokeeThe sign said ‘winch vehicles only’, which is why I didn’t take the Cherokee over that particular hump, but it didn’t stop Tom Parr driving his Land Rover up the steep climb leading into that area. The sudden burst of laughter from his on-looking buddies after the car disappeared over the other side was a call I couldn’t resist, so I parked the Cherokee and walked over. Surprise, surprise, Tom’s Land Rover had planted itself so deeply into a water-filled hole that it had flooded the driver’s footwell; it took a snatch recovery from a friend’s car to pull it back out of the hole.

The Slindon Safari off-road site, near Arundel in West Sussex, is a place where you can quite easily get a car stuck, but that’s only part of its attraction. There’s a good selection of really difficult off-roading that allows well-modified and winch-equipped vehicles to get to grips with the terrain, but there are also areas just challenging enough to enjoy a day out with an unmodified car, and plenty of middling tortuous terrain for something in between, like the Cherokee. There are wide open areas, there’s a lower section with so many humps and holes that you could easily lose a car in it, but my favourite areas are under the trees where, at times, you could imagine yourself in a dark and almost impenetrable jungle. That’s an impression enhanced after the recent heavy rains, since some of the tracks threading through the forest area had become so waterlogged that progress along some of them brought images of the most demanding days of the Camel Trophy to mind.