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the Axle Run!

Out & About - February 2006 - Chester / North Wales

Well, this is a heart warming little tale for you. And it starts out, as most things do with a problem. In fact, a number of problems.

I was in the midsts of stripping Wheezil and trying to hawk of her vitals to fund fixing up Jaquie, and I spotted a 'Want' Ad on the Going Spares forum of LROi, from a chap who wanted a 'Salisbury' Axle.

Well, as you do, I thought 'I got one-a-dem. Wonder if he wants it?'. So I sent him a private message, and thought not a lot more about it.

Day or so later, he got back to me to say he was interested, but he was 100miles away in Chester, and didn't have the time to come so far to look at at, but if he had no joy more locally, he'd get back to me.

Any way, I had just done my first 'long' run in Jaqui, and been mightily impressed with the miles per £ she returned on LPG, and was still brimming with this when the chap's message came in. And so, again, my mind pondered, and I thought, well, I have all the time in the world, and a four litre Range Rover, that does 200miles to £40 worth of LPG, that is, for the most part sat on the drive, whilst I'm sat at the PC, with nothing better to do.

So, I sent him another message, suggesting, that if it was any help to him, time, for me, was not a problem, and if he'd be prepared to pay my fuel, I'd be happy to bring the axle up to him, as I had little better to do with my time, and again, thought not a lot more of it.

Any how, about three or four days later, he messaged me back.

Mike,

Regarding the time crunch, this project is a little out of the ordinary.

One of my directors at work fell in love with the idea of having a "proper" Land Rover. Heís American, and wants something he can take back to the US with him. Import rule pretty much limit him to a Series III or earlier. However, after driving an S-III, he decided he wants it to be as much like a modern 4x4/SUV as money and import regulations will allow. Heís even less mechanically inclined than me, but since I drive an S-III, he figured I must be qualified to rebuild one for him.

So for the last four months, he has been throwing money at this thing (parabolics, power steering, disk brakes, 2.8l motor, etc). Only problem is, weíre not done and heís being transferred back to the US. He wants to drive it at least once with all the mechanicals (even if the cosmetics arenít done). We need the Salisbury because the 2.8l motor is going to tear the Landy rear diff apart. If we can get the axle within the next week, we can get her ready for the test drive, they I can do the rest of the stuff later and ship it when itís done. So thatís the background story.

He REALLY didn't want to put me out, but if I was prepared to deliver, he'd be delighted to pay my 'gas money'.

And, so it began.

So, there I was, Friday afternoon, pondering where I was going to have to go the following day, and planning my route.

The first thing that struck me was how close Chester is to Corwen, which set my mind racing wondering whether to e-mail Boaty or Milemaster and see if either of them were up for a spot of 'laning while I was in the neighbourhood.

So I checked the NW 4x4 forum, to find out it has been closed down again, which put paid to that one.

Well, I suppose I could have tracked either of them down on LROi; but before I did, I went to make myself a coffee, discovered I didn't have any milk, so walked up to the paper shop.

Coming back, I popped in on my neighbours Debbie & Andy, and Debbie made me a coffee instead.

In the midst of general chit chat, or discussion of my family court proceedings and the play-ground gossip - Debbie keeps me abreast of it all, you see, I asked, how she fancied taking her two boys to the sea-side for the day, tomorrow!

She thought I was joking.

No, I told her I was seriouse, and explained that Rob wanted this axle, and how he was paying my gas money to get up there, so if she fancied it and the kids would enjoy it, no problem her hitching a ride up and having a day out while I was about it, provided they were OK with me having to drop the axle off first, since I had to get it to Rob's mechanic before he shut up shop at lunch-time.

She called the boys down from thier play station, and asked them if they'd like to go.

Did she REALLY need to ask?

To be honest, I'm not sure who was more exited, Debbie or the boys!

So, that was that. Andy helped me lift the axle onto the motorbike rack on Jaqui's tow hitch, and strap it tightly down, and that was that.

Bright and early the next morning we set off. Andy in the co-pilots chair, Debbie and the boys in the back, and Jessie the Dawg in the boot!

The drive up was pretty uneventful, a clear motorway cruise, in Range Rover refinement, which Andy and Debbie kept commenting on!

Debbie found that there was a cigarette lighter socket for the back seats! "Ooh! Int that posh" she said!

Andy just kept looking out of the window and shaking his head, grinning that we were doing 70mph and you couldn't hear the engine! But the most 'wowing' part of the journey was stopping at the M6 services for gas.

Andy was agog at how this LPG stuff worked and got out to watch me fill up.

But it was the fact that on filling the tank to brim-ful the pump was only reading £22 that he REALLY couldn't get over. Still cant, actually, a month later!

So, onward to 'Rolands Workshop', who I was told was Rob's mechanic and had fitted the 2.8 engine and the power steering.

Now I SHOULD have put two and two together; Power Plus; Roland, Land Rover, ACR, the web-site he gave me with a location map of his 'mechanic's workshop..........

I'd bought a copy of LRW, a little while earlier in the month; mainly to try and find a decent insurance deal......

Any way, I called Rob while we were on the motorway to let him know we were about 20 minutes from Rolands, but even though we got a bit lost arrived about ten fifteen minutes before him.

Roland greeted me, and showed me rob's boss's Landy, and let me have a look round his shop.

THIS, was sitting in the loading bay.

And the first thing I notices was the lack of a floor in the back, and the HUGE coil over shock absorbers, bolted up neatly in the fully welded roll cage!

They looked like giant motorbike shocks, in blue annodised aluminioum, that sort of gave lie to the notion that this was just a tidy Series Landy!

Hmmmmm.

Bowler chassis? I asked, looking at the fully stressed and chassis welded cage.

Err, no, says Roland; Series 2, and FIA spec stressed frame cage.

Aha! Right. This looks seriouse.

Z-linked Disco back axle, and, jup, its not exactly a Series 2. Its more, well..... to call it a 'Hybrid' would make most 'hybrids' no more than re-bodied Range Rovers, but Hybrid it is.

Built to ARC modified regulations, MOST of this thing is actually from the Rover parts catalogue; but it takes a LOT of interpretation to get there!

Lets have a look at the engine for example. Class regs call for a 2.5l engine. Well, Series Landies had a 2.25, and they can be taken out or retro fitted with the later 2.5l lump, cant they?

So, this has a 2.5l engine. But not from a Series or Defender, OH NO!

It has a V6! Well, they fitted it to the FreeLander you see, so its IS a Land Rover engine. Only this one isn't. It came out of a Rover Sterling!

As did the gearbox. Which is the REAL bit of marvel in this motor.

You see the FreeLander has the V6 mounted transversely in the front like a family hatch back, and works like a normal two front wheel drive hatch back, until the rear wheels start going particularly slower then the fronts, when the torque sensing viscouse coupling hooks up and shoves drive to the rear wheels.

As a bit of consumer engineering designed for people used to conventional cars, who will probably use it like a conventional car 99% of the time, its a pretty good system. BUT, its not very effective for 'seriouse' use, where the four wheel drive is wanted almost permenantly.

Rolands solution?

Well, I suspected he was going to tell me he had ditched the Freelander transmission and bolted the V6 to a conventional LT77 box and LT230 transfer, like every-one else does with V8's.

I mean, this thing makes about the same power as a v8; its just only 2.5l, so can compete against the four pots for class awards as well as the v8's for an overall event award.

No, Roland had other ideas.

In Hill Rally, one of the most critical things to get right is the gearing. the reason being that these things are designed to go very fast over rough ground. Faster than most people would try to go in low range on the rough, but not QUITE as fast as most people would go in high range on tarmac.....

Err..... actually, that's not QUITE true! They do!

Typically they want them to go about 80-90mph on the rough, but they need the low gears for the steep climbs, so getting the right range is quite important, and with the available options its not easy to get right.

Commonly, you get V8's on Series gearboxes running 3.5:1 diffs, running in low range, or LT77 gearboxes and 4.7:1 diffs in high range. Both give reduction in the right sort of ballpark, but the LT & 4.7's in 'Hi' tends to have the legs on the straights, where the Series on 3.5's tends to have the acceleration out of the corners and on hills, and neither is ideal.

Hill Rally folk spend a LOT of time and money on thier transmissions, and finding rare alternative differentials.

Roland, however struck on a novel idea. His Rover Sterling engine, had come with a six speed automatic gearbox, controlled by an electronic brain. Pretty cool kit.

Only thing is, it had two drive shafts poking out either side, intended to drive directly the two 14" front wheels of the Rover saloon.

Roland pondered this, and had the notion that mounting the engine longditudinally, he could use each drive shaft to power each of the series Landies axles.

Neat, but how would the gearing work out, and what about the loss of the transfer box?

Well, to start with that six speed auto, has quite a few cogs in it, as many infact as are provided by a 3-speed auto and transfer - so its not THAT big a handicap.

Next, the wheel on a Landy are 16" with 85% section tyres giving a rolling diameter of something like 35".

The Rover saloon, has 14" wheels with low profile tyres giving a rolling diameter of something like 19".

AND the Rover is geared for a top speed at the red line of about 180mph, though it probably wouldn't pull it that fast.

SO, bolting the shafts to the Landy axles and giving another three and a half times reduction, would theoretically drop the top gear speed down to about 60mph, BUT, the wheels on those axles are about 50-60% bigger, so would bring the gearing back up, and offer a theoretical top speed of about 110!

Aha - THAT is certainly in the right ball park for a hill rally special, isn't it? And that motor revs to over six thousand RPM, 20% higher than a tweeked V8!

Any way, that was Rolands Master stroke; except that he still had to play around with it and get the ratios inside the box he wanted, while ditching the gearbox's electronic bran for a confection of his own devising, that was semi-automatic sequential shifting using solenoids and industrial control buttons!

Most impressibe thing about it all though is that without a bulky transfer box, the motor is just so compact, it sits almost entirely under the bulkhead giving a really well centred mid-engined possition, and its LIGHT.

This thing FLIES!

There you go. I KNEW I'd seen this thing somewhere before.

It was in that copy of LRW I was reading!

National Hill Rally contender it is!

And Roland himself, was giving ME a guided tour!

Even Andy was getting exited by now, looking at the Dakar spec Disco outside.

Place was an aladdin's caves, bedecked with V8s and go faster goodies.

We were like kids in a sweetshop........ K-I-D's!

Had forgotten about them! they were going whampy cooped up in the Rangie wondering when we were going to go to the beach!

In fact, it was no more than quarter of an hour, and as we emerged into daylight, Rob had arrived and introduced himself to Debbie, had a look at the axle on the tow hitch and given the chimps, sorry children a bannana!

After introductions, we looked at and unloaded the Salisbury, which Rob was quite content to have if Roland was happy with it, and Roland was happy enough with it as he intended to overhaul it before use any way.

So a few beer tokens exchanged hands and, every-one was pretty happy, and we could of whiled away the afternoon swapping stories and talking Land Rovers and oggling all of Rolands toys, but the kids were waiting and the best was still to come.

A quick trip out of the industrial estate, and we found a chip shop. Its february, its lunch time, and THAT sounds like areally good idea.

The kitty was raided and we sat and ate steaming chips soaked in vinigar in Jaqui's opulant splendour!

Debbie dished out some drinks, and we headed to the beach, with Andy navigating, the rest of the day, being thiers.

"Ok, so where's the beach? "

"Err. somewhere over there!" Says Andy, pointing to out right, "We just have to find a way down to it!"

Which was easier said than done. Especially with Andy navigating.

First we ended up in a docks.......

Then a dead end.....

Then a caravan park.......

But eventually we ended up at something that looked like a beach. Well it was wet, and it had sand dunes, and after we'd parked up, there was a light house and a ship!

Its a BEACH!

The Dawg tore off to investigate, and was like a cat with two tails, ??1#@? Is that an expression? who cares, it is now!

The kids grabbed ball and bucket and spades and were of exploring not knowing what to do first; run about chasing the dawg, dig holes in the sand, make sand castles, play football, hunt for shells or try paddling.

Now, I WOULD have had some 'photos.........

But I handed Andy the camera, and his photography is a bit like his navigating!

But, who cares, they have something for the family album, and that's what matters.

So, we walked along the beach, and I watched as Andy played with the boys and Debbie collected shells, and they basically had a great family day out.

So what's so marvelouse about that?

Well, first of all, Debbie is a wonder-woman. No she doesn't wear red spandex hot pands and a cape.... well not in MY company any way!

but she does do that wirl-wind impression and spend her whole life tearing around after people being helpful.

Some-times TOO helpful. Girl doesn't know how to relax.

You can understand it though when I tell you about her boys. both of them are deaf. The elder boy, is completely deaf, and has only in the last twelve months been able to hear anything at all, thanks to an electonic implant in his head!

YUK! He showed me his 'photo-album' once. X-raxys of this spider like thing burrowed into his bwain - it was DISCGUSTING! But he showed it me with the sort of glee only a seven year old can.

And its been amazing watching, and listening to him actually learn to talk over the last year or so.

He used to call me 'Mice', becouse that was the closest sound he could get to 'Mike', but he's getting better almost every day, and was telling me all about starting at his new school today; you really wouldn't believe he was the same child if you hadn't seen him since last year, but, any way.

As you can immagine, with both of them having dissabilities, Debbie has spent most of her time running around taking them to specialists and experts and clinnics and the like.

In fact, one of the things that has taken huge chunks of thier time and resources has been taking the lad to Nottingham sixty miles away each month to have his hearing module adjusted for him; not easy when neither of them have a car or drive.

So, in all, day trips or holidays have not featured largely in thier calendar.

And, I was first perplexted, when the lad walked up to the sea and asked his mum, "Wazzat?"

It was the first time he had ever heard the ocean......

Debbie was fussing. andy was playing, the boys were dancing around lapping up every moment.

So I sent Debbie and Andy off to find a cafe and get a cup of tea, and told them I'd watch the boys.

Andy dragged her off.

The girl REALLY needed to learn to relax, and making her was HARD work!

I'd better tell you a bit more about Debbie; She and Andy have been together for about five years, but he only moved in with her about six or seven months ago.

Up 'till then, Debbie was bringing up two dissabled children on her own, not an easy task in itself, but not made any the easier by Debbies first partner, the least said about the better.

BUT on top of that, Debbie's elder sister is blind, and so is her husband.

So Debbie, on top of looking after her own dissabled children spends a large part of her time, supporting her sister and brother in law, as well.

Now can you see why I said she needed to learn to relax?

Any way, the boys and I sat on the beach and built sand castles and got soaking wet!

Debbie and Andy wandered off and found a cafe, and came back three quarters of an hour later; FINALLY Debbie had got into the mode and was starting to relax.

Now she didn't want to go home.

We dusted the kids down and wandered back to the car, got them dreied off and warmed up inside, then went off to explore, and find another beach.

With Andy Navigating...........

We found some interesting waterfalls!

So we stopped and went for a walk round; the kids in and out of everything leaping on rocks and exploring nooks and crannies looking for caves.

Debbie was really starting to get into the swing of things, and for the boys EVERYTHING was new and novel.

End of the path, we wanderdd back to the Rangie, and headed off to see if we could find the beach before it got dark.

With Andy navigating.

After twenty minutes we appeared to be back where we started.......

NOT that we knew where that was....

But it all looked rasther TOO familiar!

Debbie yelled, 'Look that says Promanade - must be the sea, take the next right!"

I did.

It was a one way street.

I was NOT going the right way!

I took the next one, and then, infront of us, with the last vestiges of the sun lingering over the western horizon, was the sea.

We clambered out of the car, and the kids tore off to explore this new sandy beach, deturmined to find fome crabs.

They didn't.

Thankfully!

But they had great fun trying!

And we grown ups watched them, and watched the sun, dip behind the briney, and wallowed in the melocholy of a wonderful and moving experience.

The journery home was unremarkeable.

Debbie dished out sandwhiches and crisps in the back seat. andy marvelled again at another £20 fill up on LPG, and they all dozed as I charted our course home in the dark, stopping at McDonnalds not far from home to get the kids a burger before bed.

And THIS is what Landying is all about. Its something indefineable; something magic; something; I dont know.

But, in a world driven by commerce and time tables, and where there is always a cost for everything; everything is regulated, planned, organised, governed and controlled, I dont know......

Something can lift you out of the mundanity of every day life, the reprtativeness of routine, order, and living by 'convention'.

I suppose, its the spirit of adventure; the Land Rover sprit, perhaps

A way of life, or a state of mind?

I dont think you get it from your Landie, I think its the other way around, but its definitely there.

I mean; I had never met Rob. I had never even spoken to him, and his post total on the forum was something like seven; so he was hardly a known forum regular.

I had absolutely no idea whether the chap was going to be a regular guy, or a nightmare. He could have had me chasing around in circles all day, then fobbed me off that the axle wasn't up to par and tried haggling me down on the price or the gas money. He could EVEN have been one of these scam artists that uses the internet to get people to come out to do a deal, then robs them, and takes off. Likewise he knew litte about me; either.

But he wasn't. He was a really nice, generouse considerate bloke. As most people are. And unless you get out there and take these sort of risks, you'll never know, you'll never experience it.

For me, its an attitude I had almost completely forgotten, lost since I got married, and had to think about and worry about my 'responsibilities' - I mean, once upon a time, mate says 'hey, lets go to India!' and I got up and went!

And had an adventure; no planning, no hotels, staying each evening wherever we found ourselves; changing currency on the black market; dossing in Sihk refuges; yes, THAT sort of an adventure!

This might not have been in the same legue, but its in the same spirit.

And THAT I think is the point; incredibly since my 'take off' days, the places that I used to go to, the 'adventure spots' have been marketed, and homogonised and packaged, which I think takes away most of what that's all about.

Christ! My fifty five year old mother, recouperating from a tripple by-pass opperation last year, told me she was going on a bottanical expadition up the amazon this year, a month or two back.

Now, I wouldn't put it past her to do something that daft, I mean, her ambition has always been to tour the world on a Harley, aged eighty!

And she's a horticulturalist lecturer, so I presumed that it was some expedition bing run by one of the universities she works for to discover and preserve unrecorded species of flaura before the loggers move in or something.

"No!" she says, "Booked it over the internet yesterday!"

So, I guess, the point is, you dont NEED to go to Bonga-Bonga to have an adventure;

and going to Bonga-Bonga, these days probably isn't that much more adventurouse than going to Deippe or the Costa Del Sol,

becouse its not in the destination, its in the spirit with which you get there,

and it doesn't need to be a million miles away, it can be right on your doorstep.

And, end of the day, well?

All it cost me was a little time, and I sold an axle that had been littering my drive, which gave me a few quid to throw into the pot towards bringing Jaqui up to scratch.

Rob, well, he got the axle he needed for his boss's landy, and bits off that to barter with for the bits he needed for his own project.

Rob's boss, got the axle he needed.

Debbie, got to learn how to relax.

The boys got to hear the sea,

And Andy, well........ Andy got to practice his navigating............. :-)

So, at the end of it all, EVERYONE got something out of it; EVERYONE was happy, and NOBODY lost out or paid the price!

AND THAT is not something you can say very often.

But, for me, I shall ALWAYS cherish the moment, that circumstances lead to a spontaneous day trip, and one little boy, who called me 'Mice' hearing the ocean for the VERY first time!

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