Monthly Archives: June 2014

BobCookeBob Cooke – contributor

Jeep CherokeeThere are places I wouldn’t take my Cherokee, and that includes some of the holes at John Morgan’s Slindon off-road site. I go there quite often because it’s not that far – I reckon just over half a tank’s drive there and back, and but for the price of petrol I’d go more often – and there’s such a good variety of off-road terrain that anything from standard 4x4s to heavily modified specials can find terrain that’s challenging enough to excite without damaging the vehicle. Of course if you don’t mind a bit of damage there’s plenty of suitable terrain for that as well, such as when a couple of over-excited lads sent their Discovery sideways down a serious slope or when an overconfident chap drove his Range Rover into a puddle without thinking to check how soft the bottom was…

Nigel FryattNigel Fryatt – editor


Suzuki Grand Vitara SZ4When you get quizzed by those ‘other’ motorists who don’t just ‘get’ why we own 4x4s, one word usually ends the argument. Even for those who don’t want to go off-road, or don’t have the ability to understand how good a 4×4 is during inclement weather conditions, one thing they can never argue against is – versatility. If you own a 4×4, then you have the ability to do just about anything.

Our little three door Grand Vitara is a perfect example of this. Provided you are happy to use just a little more fuel than absolutely necessary, then the thing is like a hot hatch and can be hustled about with aplomb. Great fun, and it does surprise people at times with its ability to launch itself down the road. When off-road, we have found that once ground clearance and that vulnerable-looking (and massive) rear exhaust silencer box are accounted for, the little truck’s ability to be slotted into Low range does make it a surprisingly competent mud-plugger. The light steering and a good all round visibility helps here as well, but it performs better than many think.

julystaffhilsphotoHils Everitt – Editor at Large

Subaru Forester XD Premium

Long journeys in pursuit of features was never a problem in the good old days when fuel cost a few pence per gallon. We didn’t bat an eyelid at driving big old petrol 4.0-litre engines for several hundred miles in more traditional 4x4s that ate up the miles and, therefore, the gallons. Returning less than 20mpg, and in some cases 10-15mpg didn’t really figure on the radar.

Oh how times have changed. Now, we hardly ever drive big petrol engines. ‘Big’ diesels, like in Discovery 4s and its rivals, now return over 30-plus and we are pleased with that. The big luxury 4×4 manufacturers still strive to bring those figures into the more palatable zone towards the 40mpg mark, but it is in the mid-sized SUV market where you’ll find the most impressive mileage returns for your hard-earned cash.

Expanded Ranger truck top choiceThe supply issues on the new Ford Ranger pick-up seem to be easing and you certainly see more of them on the roads these days, This means the demands for truck tops will increase. Auto Styling Truckman has recently expanded its range of British-built hardtops to include an Aerotop RS for the Ford Ranger Mk5 Super Cab. Super Cab versions of the Aerotop RS, Classic and Utility Top are now all available for this vehicle. Auto Styling Truckman also manufactures Double Cab and Single Cab hardtops for the Ford Ranger. All Aerotop Truckman units have solid sides, gel white interior, chrome push button lock, tinted and toughened rear glass and have an integral spoiler with a high level brake light. To find out more, check out the advertisement in this very magazine, call 01384 485405 or go direct to the website.

Website: www.autostylinguk.com 

Cover up, stay safeIt amazes us sometimes when you see a highly modded off-roader with an expensive winch fitted to the front, exposed to the elements. Winches are expensive bits of kit and although they might not be used that often, when you need them, they have to work. It would seem highly logical to us to have a serious cover to protect it, not just when off-roading but when enjoying the vagueries of the British weather! WARN has a great new range of neoprene covers for its range of winches including ZEON, Tabor, M8, 9.5XP, VR, Series and Utility models. The elastic covers stretch over the winch and provide a snug fit to prevent flapping, eliminating the need for cords and straps. You also get a bottle of UV Protective Spray that ensures your cover retains maximum UV protection. The prices of these covers start at £31.

And while we are protecting covers, how about fingers? It makes you wince when you see anyone using a winch without protective gloves. Madness. As you would expect WARN have a great range of gloves, that look the business and are made of synthetic leather with Kevlar reinforced material, yet remain breathable. The gloves are available in both large and XXL sizes, and have an added ID tag, which means no one else can claim your gloves! The RRP for these gloves starts at £20, which seems very little to keep all your fingers. Both these items are available at WARN stockists or can be purchased direct from the team at Arbil 4×4.

Land Rover bush changesIf you have a Land Rover Discovery 3 or 4, or the Range Rover Sport (2005 – 2013) and are experiencing vague steering and uneven tyre wear, it could be a problem with the oil filled front lower arm bushes. Powerflex now has a new front arm rear bush, which offers a solution to this. The polyurethane bush can actually be chosen to suit the driver’s requirements; whether you use the vehicle specifically for on-road, off-road or just want it to be as comfortable as possible. Certainly worth talking to the Powerflex guys to get exactly the driving feel you want. The bushes retail at £119.88 (inc VAT) per set. Check out more on the website.

Website: www.powerflex.co.uk 

RHINO CHARGE ROCKS!It’s not part of any recognised international Challenge Championship, there are limited technical regulations or rules, and team members come from all walks of life, not necessarily dedicated off-roaders. It is also one of the toughest off-road driving events you could imagine, yet it is perhaps less well known than it ought to be. Oh yes, and it also raises significant revenues for African wildlife!

We have always been great fans of the Rhino Charge and so were pleased to hear from stalwart supporter and competitor John Bowden of Gumtree4x4 about this year’s event; and this despite John’s Land Rover coming to an ignominious end on its side this year!

It had to be a real adventure, and so there had to only be one route, traversing the continent of Africa, from north to south. The choice of off-roader was perhaps a little more surprising, as the journey was completed by Nissan Patrol 

Words and photography: Rene Bauer

AFRICA BY NISSANHaving previously criss-crossed Australia in a Nissan Patrol, I had always had this dream about a ‘real’ expedition – to have to dig myself out of mud, to be dirty, camp in the bush and maybe also feel fear of fierce locals or wild animals. Itches like this need to be scratched and so a plan was made; my partner, Andrea, and I would cross Africa, from north to south.

The first question, however, was what vehicle to use; Land Rover, Land Cruiser or stick with the Nissan Patrol that we knew so well? After looking at prices, we quickly realised that it had to be a Nissan Patrol, so we bought a black SWB Nissan Patrol 2.8-litre TD.

We spent the following 15 months building, repairing, and welding. First, out with the back seats and in with a bespoke drawer system. The production bumpers went, as well as the side steps and we started planning the replacement parts. As my brother-in-law is a fabulous welder, he offered to manufacture reinforced bumpers, roof rack, swing-away doors for jerry cans and a spare wheel. Happily we agreed… what we didn’t know was that he is a pedantic, precise welder who took six months to make all those parts.

If you’re not one for following the crowd and are keen on customising and upgrading your trusty 4×4 then read on. We talk to some of the best-known bespoke specialists in the UK for inspiration… 

Words: Sarah Harrington-James

SPECIAL FORCESNot everyone who buys a 4×4 wants to keep it looking like any other that rolls off the production line, similarly not every 4×4 turns a wheel in anger off-road. These days it’s just as common to see a suited-and-booted city gent behind the wheel of a Defender, as it is a tweed-obsessed farmer tending to his sheep. Indeed, the respected utilitarian Land Rover has turned into a must-have for a whole range of enthusiasts, who don’t mind an automatic boost to their street cred, too.  

Unsurprisingly this latest craze hasn’t gone unnoticed by the independent bespoke specialists which have been quick off the mark to cater for the more discerning customer; in particular those who want to individualise their 4×4 a lot further than just ticking boxes on the manufacturer’s extras list. Some specialise in offering bespoke exterior/interior styling, but others have made a name for themselves creating one-off, individual vehicles with the wow factor. If money is no object then you can literally have anything you want when it comes to customising; chrome-plating, carbon fibre, Bentley Nappa leather, power-boosted engine conversions… and of course you’ll order two identical versions and give one away as a gift.

After 35 years of hand-built production, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class remains an iconic off-roader. We get our hands on the 2014 G 350 BlueTEC both, on and off the road

Words: Nigel Fryatt and Bob Cooke     Photography: Nigel Fryatt

MERCEDES-BENZ G-CLASSIf you visit the Natural History Museum this summer, there’s an exhibition called Mammoths, and the promotional poster shows a small inquisitive child standing before the massive, imperious beast, wide-eyed in wonder, but with just a touch of cautious apprehension. Standing on my drive beside our test Mercedes-Benz G 350 BlueTEC, I too felt that child-like awe. It’s hard to really understand quite why this thing isn’t extinct. And with an on the road price of a staggering £106,150 for a vehicle we intended taking off the road, there was a cautious nature to control my natural enthusiasm as well.

The first G model rolled off the production line in Graz, Austria back in 1979. That first model was effectively hand-built, and despite all the high tech production developments that have hit the motor industry over the past 35 years, that remains the case. Equally surprising is the fact that more G-Class models were hand built in 2013 than ever before, with a total of 10,000 being registered. Only 160 were sold in the UK, but the machine is a global icon, with the US its biggest market. At present, some 60 are produced daily in Austria. Here, the base model starts at £83,830, but there is also a more powerful AMG 5.5-litre V8 engined version, which has a starting on the road price of £124,000. So, taking our test vehicle as an average price, multiply that by 10,000 models sold and this venerable off-roader is still worth well over £1m in sales to Mercedes-Benz each year. Extinction is not likely any time soon, especially as the company has announced a significantly revised model will be launched in 2017 (see News, July 2014).