Sunday, November 29, 2009

RTT & your dog

From the Expedition Portal Forum website...
RTT & your dog:
"I have thought of taking my Lab camping with me and letting her sleep in the RTT with me. If she was as smart as this dog I wouldn't have to lift her in & out of the tent.

Land Rover Discovery - A reliable Overland Vehicle?

Is the Land Rover Discovery a capable trans-continental overland vehicle?
Throughout decades of overland travel the Land Rover Series and Defender have been successfully crossing continents. In this post, I provide examples of the Land Rover Discovery and its role in Trans-Africa overland trips. I focused specifically on independent overland websites which opted to use a Land Rover Discovery as the preferred vehicle.

  Wikipedia describes the vehicle as:

The Land Rover Discovery is a mid-size SUV, with off-road capabilities, from the British car maker Land Rover; a subsidiary of Tata Motors. There have been three generations of the vehicle, which was first introduced in 1989.

Key Points
In my opinion, gone are the days where the dominant 4x4 vehicle was the Land Rover Series or Defender model, as a result there are a number of key points on why the Discovery is becoming more popular with the independent overlander.   The Discovery offers the following:
  • Superior comfort compared to the Land Rover Defender.  Majority of Discovery's include sunroofs and air conditioning.
  • Similar size to the Defender (physically less rear load space but extra width is beneficial)
  • A raft of overland equipment - roofracks, fuel tanks, bullbars and every other possible modification available
  • In the UK, the Discovery is very affordable compared to the Defender. 
In each of the examples below, the Overlanders have opted for various modifications -  from the standard roofrack and tent, to a fully plumbed in fresh water tanks and long range fuel tanks.  

First introduced in 1989, the Land Rover Discovery launched in a market that was ready for a medium size 4x4. Similar to the Defender, this vehicle offers excellent offroad capability plus the interior offered comfort and airconditioning.

My first Discovery, as pictured below, was a 200tdi (2.5 Turbo Diesel), five door model.  The vehicle had a five speed gearbox, with a central locking diff in either high or low range.  

Here are a few overland prepared examples:

In April 1999, Scott and Renee headed South from Spain en route to South Africa.  The Discovery chosen for the trip was the 200tdi, 3-door edition.  

The additional benefit over the LR Defender was the wide rear door which enabled easy access to rear of the vehicle as seen in this photo.

Prepared to the n'th degree, Andrew and Jacqui spent plenty of time and effort in kitting the perfect vehicle.  The Discovery had access to the rooftop tent (via the front sunroof).  The rear seats were removed and cupboards fitted to contain all the travel equipment.  A long range fuel tank, and two water tanks were fitted.

Additional photos from an afternoon spent at the UK Land Rover Billing show:

Land Rover Discovery 300tdi
Launched in 1994, this Discovery had the new 300tdi engine (2.5L TD), facelift headlights and interior.  Additional changes included a new gearbox and a few extra chassis modifications.

A few examples of trips...

Taniya and Clive are currently heading South from the UK and have a good website with excellent photos and videos.  

A short YouTube video clip shows the vehicle:

Peter Strong bought a fully kitted Camel Trophy Discovery and headed South and eventually North again.
Peter journals:
The Camel. 300TDi Discovery (P244 KAC) that was factory built for the Mongolia Camel Trophy Competition in 1997. I found the Camel in the care of Simon Pitchford in Gibraltar. Simon was gutted to lose one of his favourite toys - I was delighted to find a vehicle that was capable of taking the journey on.

Colin and team headed South from the UK in a Discovery.

Wayne and Tracy write the following about their Discovery 300tdi:
We decided on a Land Rover for our trip and bought a 1998 Land Rover Discovery 300TDi in early 2008.  The Landy was partly modified from a previous trip but we felt that it was not adequately prepared for our needs and still needed a lot of work and TLC to get it ready for our trip.

Launched in 1998, the Discovery II was the first vehicle to use the new 5-cylinder diesel engine (TD5) plus the new 'fly-by-wire' electronics which controlled fuel injection, traction control, and Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) which prevented body roll. 

Paul and Jacinda headed North in their TD5 - their website offers an excellent vehicle prep page, including updates on equipment used.  

Quote from the website:
The most important accessory in my opinion for a diesel 4wd is a snorkel. Get water in a diesel and given the high compression ratio you can say goodbye to your engine. Apart from keeping water out they do a reasonable job of keeping the dust out and suck cooler air to boot. Combined with a K&N air filter, Truckasaurus breathes at its best.
This Discovery launched with a totally new design, including the innovative Terrain Response system and 6-speed gearbox.

The World Off Road
Akis and Vula have a superbly modified Discovery 3.  They are yet to reach Africa (Nov 09) however as they are currently travelling, I will include them.  As stated above, the criteria to be included is an independent website detailing their Trans-Africa overland trip.

Big Adventure
Jen & Noam are heading around the world in their overland prepared Discovery 3 (2.7 diesel)

Land Rover Discovery 4
Launched in September 2009, this Discovery introduced a new 3.0l twin turbo diesel engine, smoother body lines and new interior trim levels (to match the Range Rover).  This Discovery is still relatively new and attracts a price point that most independent overlanders tend to avoid.

In summary, the first Discovery offers a fantastic overland vehicle - engine reliability, ability to easily modify and the 'Good Look' feel about it.  The benefit this vehicle has is the 2nd hand price point, the expedition kit availability and the lack of electronics.
Moving to the TD5 version introduces the electronics - however, with the right computer, diagnostics will be a breeze.  Additional spares will also need to be carried in advance of any breakdowns as remote areas will probably not have the latest diagnostic equipment.

As time moves on and we look back in ten years, I expect to see more electronics in vehicles and easier diagnostics which should make the newer Disco 3 & 4 available as an overlander.

Additional Reading:

10 Reasons why the Discovery makes a good overlander

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Overland Trips...

A few trips added today...

Bike Africa 2009
Four Irish lads head South on bicycles -

First Overland - retracing the steps of the 'First Overland' Cambridge & Oxford Overland Trip.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Camel Trophy - Screensaver

After trawling through my archives, I found this old screensaver dating back to 1999.

Click here to download the MS Windows version - CT96 and CT98

Here are a few photos from the file plus a link to the remainder:

Link to Album:

Camel Trophy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Video clip memories from Mali

I have just finished catching up on the latest YouTube videos which have been posted on Overland Live.  CaT's Itchy Feet are currently in Mali and have posted this video clip:

Mali is a wonderful country and watching the above video clip brought back many memories.
Here are a few photos from the Mali diary pages of BigSky Adventures:

The photo below was taken after we spent an evening in a remote village on the banks of Senegal river.  We wrote the following after the event:

The next morning 'Ne Ne' served us more porridge and invited Debbie & Sameena to join her at the river to see how she washed the maize. This was a daily social gathering of women - first they washed their clothes, then dishes, then the maize, then themselves ... all in the same river. It was lovely to experience their way of life and see how content they are with life.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Desert Taxi - 1953

Adventure fascinates many;a few succumb to her call.There is a magic in the distance where the sky-line meets the earth

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Expedition Land Rovers through the Generations

What is it about the image of a dusty Land Rover parked on the rolling savanna of Africa?  Is it the thought of exploration, freedom, and adventure?
In this blog, I link to a few Land Rover expeditions that have been used through the generations.

Since the very first Land Rover rolled off the production line, these vehicles have been used on expeditions across the world.  Here's a quick reference of overland trips which have used the Land Rover as the vehicle of choice throughout the Land Rover Generations.  I have not included any of the new generation Land Rovers, namely, the Range Rover, Discovery and Freelander.  This blog focuses on the original design and the various modifications that have enabled the vehicle to be the perfect choice for a vehicle based expedition.

Land Rover Series I - 1948 to 1957

George Adamson drove from the UK back to Kenya as part of his honeymoon with Joy. His book, Bwana Game, tells the short story of his trip in his Series I Land Rover. The following photos are scans from his book. Apologies for the binding getting scanned in!

The Great 1953 Trek - a family of four drive from Bath, UK to Salisbury, Rhodesia (as it was known then).

Additional scanned photos from the various books I have sourced the information from.  See the list at the end of the blog.

Wandering Star
I spotted a number of articles written about this Series I, however, I have never been able to track down the owner.  Here is one of the articles, including a number of scanned photos.

Land Rover Series II - 1958 to 1970
Series IIa - the primary difference between this model and the previous was the introduction of the diesel engine and eventually the headlights moved to the fenders.

My first Land Rover was a 1968 Series II.  It was fully kitted for overland travel - this included a rooftop tent, fridge, 2nd battery, two diesel fuel tanks, an overdrive and a noisy 2.286L diesel engine. Fully loaded, the vehicle could cruise at 50mph but lacked power to even attempt a normal incline.  Engaging low range, via the red knob lever, was the only way the vehicle could tackle any obstacle.

Land Rover Series III - 1975 to 1985
A few additional modifications took place however the base chassis and body shell remained unchanged to the average person.   The model varied from a three door, to five door 109" chassis or the alternative short wheel base 88".
In recent years, overlanders have purposively chosen the Series III based on its rugged ability to endure all types of terrain, along with the basic mechanical knowledge required to keep the vehicle mobile.

A few websites are listed on The Africa Overland Network.

Under African Skies by Derek Lean

African Snail - Murray & Moira head South from the UK to South Africa via West Africa.  Their vehicle had already completed a full Trans-Africa trip prior to them starting their expedition.

 A few more photos from the Archives:

Series III Lightweight
I can't seem to find any trips across Africa which have used the Series III Lightweight (which was effectively the UK military version of the Series III 88").  The one trip, Dollars and Chocolate, used a lightweight from the UK to Nepal.

Land Rover 110 - 2.5 (non Turbo)
The first version of the iconic Land Rover Defender shape.
In and Out of Africa - Derek Tearne (Flickr Photos)

Land Rover 200 Tdi
With the development of fuel injection and the stability of turbos integrated into diesel engines, Land Rover
released the 110 Defender fitted with the 200Tdi engine.  The base engine was a 2.5l turbo diesel.
I choose this vehicle for my most recent Trans-Africa trip based on the reliability, and maintainability of the engine.  This vehicle, like its 110 predecessor was permanent  four wheel drive.  A centre diff was available to lock the diagonal wheels should the need be required.

BigSky Adventures
My first complete Trans-Africa trip was undertaken in this vehicle.  My trip was the fourth Trans-Africa that this Defender had done.  I, inturn, sold it to another overlander who completed an additional trip.  I believe the vehicle is being sold and is ready for its next trip through Africa.

Land Rover 300 Tdi
Increased power, modified turbo were the upgrades to take place ont this Defender.  An immaculate example of this vehicle is the website below.

Africa Wanderer

Land Rover TD5
Firstly, let me be honest here - I am battling to find anyone who has a Trans-Africa overland website based on the Defender TD5.  I got close when Charlie Mouse Adventures wrote the following but later changed their minds and sold the TD5 for a fully prepared 300Tdi.

With this in mind, we purchased a 1999 Land Rover Defender Td5 which we lovingly called “Bertie” the blue Land Rover (can you seem a theme developing here??) and immediately got to work researching what would need to be done to transform Bertie from a rather “pimped”  Land Rover from Eastborne into an overland vehicle that would get us safely across Africa over the course of 11 months. Unfortunately, we were not wise in our initial choice – the newer Land Rover Td5 engines have an electrical control unit (ECU) the complexity of which, for most mechanics in Walthamstow, never mind sub-sahara Africa, would cause a sharp intake of breath. Still – having learnt this rather vital bit of info a bit too late, we thought we would persist with Bertie – although it would be a nightmare if anything did go wrong (requiring diagnostic computers not available in much of Africa), the Td5 engine is generally considered more reliable therefore less likely to go wrong … we would pray our way across Africa!

So, my hunt for a fully Trans-Africa website using a TD5 continues...  If you know of a website, please let me know.

Land Rover Defender 2007 (Puma)
Introducing the latest edition to the Defender family was the 2007 model, named the Puma by LR enthusiasts.

The website Gapyear4x4, are currently travelling in a fully modified Puma. Click here for a video clip of the vehicle

Gap Year 4x4

I liked this page from the Gap Year 4x4 website - Boys side vs Girls Side

Land Rover 127 & 130
The vehicle was aptly named after the wheel base was stretched from 110" to 130".  
Les 4 O

Land Rover Ambulance
Although not a new design, the Ambulance body has been fitted to a number of Land Rovers over the years.  As early as the Series II, various Ambulance rear bodies were built to provide support to the British Army.
The benefit of these vehicles is the benefit to modify the interior as a camper.
Here are a few sites that have used a Land Rover Ambulance:

Crossing Africa 
Crossing Africa

Land Rover Forward Control - the Land Rover Forward Control only lasted a few years in production. It offered easy camper conversions with plenty of space as described in this photo:
In recent years, David Visagie, drove from South Africa to Germany via East Africa.  He added the following comment to an earlier blog (overland with kids) entry:

Not sure if the registration is the same in the Uk but in SA the Forward control is registered as a vehicle not a truck, we had to argue the point at most border crossings but always won in the end as it states this in the vehicle documents and carnet, the difference in taxes and "insurance" is huge. I fitted a 300tdi motor and did a few upgrades, true to Landrover nature the forward control is so universal, the size of the ambulance is perfect, not to big and not to small, you can fit everything you need inside the vehicle even a shower and toilet (important for the little one) and still have enough space to move around. Park and go the next morning without having to get out of the vehicle is a big big advantage.

Land Rover 101 Forward Control - 1972 to 1978
Once again, Land Rover produced a vehicle for the British Army that had limited success.  Fitted with a petrol V8 engine, the 101 was noisy and heavy on fuel.
Overland trips in a Land Rover 101 are very rare - this could be due to a number of factors - limited numbers for sale, the perceived expensive of a V8 vs diesel and the age of the vehicle.  In the last decade, only two Trans-Africa trips have used 101s and recorded their trip via a website.
Enable Africa

Africa Total

In summary, the versatility that Land Rover brings to overlanding has enabled it be widely used throughout the generations.  Its simplicity, functionality and ruggedness allow the driver to have confidence that the vehicle will cope and the expedition will reach its goal.

Endless debates can be heard around campfires ranging from reliability, bolt-on bits and if the vehicle is the 'Best4x4xfar'.  I will end with this one thought:  Land Rover has enabled thousands of individuals to enjoy the concept of overlanding and will continue to do so.

Comments always welcome.

Books Referenced:
Bwana Game - George Adamson
Trans-Africa Motoring - Colin McElduff
Overland - Peter Fraenkel