1989 Range Rover Classic for Maroc Challenge

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Paul Misencik

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As I previously threatened, I am starting a build thread for my 1989 Range Rover that I am preparing for the 2015 "Maroc Challenge," a 3000km adventure rally across Morocco.

I should state at the outset that I have no real idea what the hell I am doing, so you won't offend me if you chime in and tell me what a fool I am. I know surfing and rally racing and vintage cars, but you guys have forgotten more than I will probably ever know about overlanding, so don't hold back.

I have attached some photos of the vehicle as it sits right now. It is a 1989 Range Rover "Classic," 2-door model with the old Buick-derived 3.5L gasoline V8 and a five-speed manual gearbox. These trucks have a two-speed transfer case but no locking differentials. This one is well and truly battered on the outside, but entirely rust free and has been carefully maintained by one owner until I bought it about five months ago. I have been using it ever since as my surfwagon and "take the kids up the side of a mountain" truck ever since, and it has never let me down or given me any pause. It is in mechanically good shape (barring a couple things I will mention later) and has about 100,000 original miles. It runs and drives beautifully, and even the A/C blows ice cold. Best of all, this is a "base model" Range Rover. No frills. It has power windows, but everything else is manual, with cloth seats and steel wheels and no luxury stuff at all. It doesn't even have a glove box for crying out loud.

GOALS:
The goals for this build are threefold. First, I need the vehicle to be suitable for a relatively high speed, competitive crossing of Morocco, with the best possible chances of completing the event trouble free and returning here to Spain under its own power. Second, I need the vehicle to remain highway legal in the European Union (a goal which is almost entirely incompatible with the first goal, mind you) and finally, I need to maintain the sort of... "vintage appropriate" look, because I am in the business of selling collector cars, and this one (after a thorough restoration) will likely some day be exported to the USA for resale.

MOROCCO PREP:
As a preface, I confess that I harbor little hope of actually winning the Maroc Challenge. I have entered for the experience, and although my co-driver (an American friend of mine named John, who is flying over from New Orleans to accompany me) and I will take a crack at it and give it our best shot, where we finish is less important than having the best possible time (and not being beheaded by ISIS.)

If you're like me, when you think Morocco, you probably thing two things, "sand" and "heat." That can be true, but Morocco is a rather large and varied nation with tons of different terrain. We will be in sand at times, definitely, but a very large percentage of the event will take place on rocky tracks, and another big section on packed dirt. We will also have almost 1000km of tarmac during transition stages, including a big stretch of modern highway driving to get from the start in Spain down to the ferry crossing into Morocco. So the terrain won't be just sand, or even mostly sand. It will be a lot of everything.

Temperatures in Morocco in December average around the 60-70 degree range (Fahrenheit) during the days, but in low areas of desert they can soar to the high 80's, and higher areas can get down to more like 50 degrees. We cross the Atlas Mountains at one point, and temperatures up there can be well below freezing.

So this Range Rover has to be kind of a "do anything, go anywhere" kind of truck, that remains legal and comfortable on the highway and functional in a lot of different types of terrain, and prepared for lots of different types of weather. Which, I suppose, is kind of what the Range Rover was designed to do from the outset.

Also, it should be noted that people (admittedly rather crazy people) enter the Moroc Challenge in old Renault 4's and BMW 325i's and such. According to the organizers, "those people suffer," but most of them finish, so I don't think the terrain will be TOO difficult. I think mostly it is technical and requires patience and thought, and a huge helping of navigational prowess to make sure you hit the waypoints on time.

So there you have it.

I am finishing the evaluation of the condition of the vehicle now, and will post soon some of the things it needs and some of the plans I have for prep and build. I have three months until the start of the event, so the clock is ticking.

Thanks for following along.

start_3.jpg start_2.jpg start_4.jpg start_1.jpg
 

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@Paul Misencik Nice rig! Can't wait to see the progress.

What tires do you plan on using? And, will you be planning on changing tire pressure frequently for different terrain?
 

Paul Misencik

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Ah. Tricky question. I know opinions on tires are like opinions on... music or something. Everyone has their own taste and their own gut reactions. I have always liked BFGoodrich light truck tires, because I think they're tough, but it's not based on a ton of experience. (I think their passenger car tires stink, incidentally, and I have no patience for their DOT-legal racing tires that I have used, which are terrible, but I have had good luck with all the BFG's I have put on light trucks.)

One of the problems is that the original tire size for this RRC is 205/R-16, or perhaps 205/80R-16, and technically, I am supposed to keep that size or risk illegality.

Actually, a word on European road legality is probably in order here. You can change things. It's not like you can't change anything on a car or truck. But if you change things, they have to be approved and documented on your registration. So if you get stopped by the police and you have driving lights on the front and a light bar on the roof and aftermarket wheels and a snorkel, those are obvious modifications, and the police are going to check to see if those items are documented on your registration. If they aren't, the minimum you'll get is a fine and the maximum is that they could prevent you from traveling any further in the vehicle. And when you go in for your annual safety inspection, they check VERY closely to make sure springs, dampers, wheels, brakes, etc. all are OE or OE equivalent. If they aren't, you fail. So when you change things, you have to change them smart. You either need to hide the fact that they are modified parts, or you need to work with your local government to get them approved and documented.

Not many tires are available in 205/80R-16, and none that I can find that seem to be worth a damn. Right now it has Falken Wildpeaks on it, and they are quite new. They were on the truck when I got it. I have driven in some pretty rough, rocky terrain on them, and they've been okay, but they are essentially passenger truck tires, like the equivalent of a "P-rated" tires in the USA. I don't think they are going to cut it in Morocco, day after day after day.

EDIT UPDATE: I found a set of Michelin 4x4 OR XZL's. They are fairly aggressive and in the right size, and have a chunky open block design and are rated for sand as well as mud. I think I'll be fitting these. Four on the truck plus two spares.

Anyone have any other suggestions?

As for tire pressures, yes, I think we'll be changing them pretty frequently. Unfortunately, cost dictates that we do it old school, with a portable compressor. No exotic on-board, remote systems will fit into my subatomic budget. :)
 
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Paul Misencik

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Okay, quick update:

I'm still very much in the planning stages, but I have taken stock of what I have, what I think I need, and started getting the parts ordered to get the truck ready for December.

First off, I had the technicians who check and repair all my work cars pour over this one, stem to stern. The only thing unexpected they turned up was signs of rather substantial wear in the transfer case. Not entirely unusual in an old Range Rover, so I ordered a complete overhaul kit from Paddock Spares in England and since that's a bit out of my comfort zone, I'll have the techs rebuild it.

At the same time, I ordered a set of TerraFirma dampers and "Police Package" springs. These springs were factory specification coils and were fitted to police Range Rovers, rescue vehicles, and other special application Range Rovers. They are stiffer, but maintain factory ride height, which is critical for me to maintain road legality. (Plus, since all old Range Rovers start to sag a bit over time, new springs of any kind, much less stiffer ones, always raise the ride height a bit anyway.) I also ordered all new uprated bushings and some other minor parts that need changing. (Washer fluid reservoir and such.) Oh, and a couple steel jerry cans and mounting brackets for them. All that stuff should be here in Spain in a couple weeks.

I purchased a set of recovery tracks. They look like "MaxTrax," but they are cheapie knockoffs and I can already tell they are nowhere near as good. I don't think there is any way they are tough enough to use as impromptu ramps or bridges or anything like that, but my budget is seriously tight and they should be fine for getting the truck out of sand and mud.

I got a "cool box." I would have loved a compressor fridge, but again, budget concerns trumped performance. It isn't going to cut it during a Spanish summer, but this trip is in December, and temperatures in December are cool. I think it will be fine for most of my uses. It's a 35L Waeco, and I'll post photos of all this stuff as soon as I start fitting it.

I also bought an additional wheel, so I'll have two spares. The factory spare is mounted in the rear compartment, vertically. (See photo, below.) I think I am going to mount the second spare on the roof. Any ideas on the best way to do that? At the moment all I have are two cross bars. They are steel and pretty stout, but any suggestions on the best way to mount the spare up there?

I'm going to get started on fitting the auxiliary lighting over the next couple of weeks. This will consist of a light bar above the windshield with four Hella 500's on it, routed to a factory fog lamp switch in the dashboard, and two Hella 700's mounted on the grille and routed to another factory fog lamp switch. At the same time I am going to be installing the additional power ports I need. I have two currently and I'm going to install two more.

I also sketched out a set of dividers for the rear of the truck, which will house homemade bins for tools, spares, etc. I'm going to make it myself out of plywood and then carpet it to match the interior. More on that as I get started on it, including photos.

Finally, I took stock of everything I have so far for the trip, and which I need to pack into the bins. This includes:

- Tent, sleeping bags and basic camping gear
- Two heavy pairs of work gloves
- A fairly complete set of tools
- Zip ties, racers tape and mechanics wire
- Twine, cord and utility rope
- Bungee nets and bungee cords
- Tow straps and snatch straps
- Four heavy duty ratchet straps
- Multimeter, power inverter and portable air compressor
- Fire extinguisher
- Two folding shovels and an exhaust jack
- Spare fluids, WD40, etc.
- Two solar battery backups
- Various flashlights and magnetic work lights
- 2015 Michelin maps of Morocco
- A first aid kit I put together myself, but more on that later.

So not too much actual work so far, but it's going to start soon, and I'll start to photograph and document the process just as soon as the process actually starts. lol


IMG_3252.JPG IMG_3254.JPG
 
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Lifestyle Overland

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@Paul Misencik Sounds like you're well on your way to being race prepped. Planning the work, then working the plan; I love it.

As to your spare tire roof mount, I would consider using the existing cross bars to mount a basket rack which would give you more tie-down options. If it's not in the budget, then you could easily fabricate a basic flat frame out of 3/4" tube steel. I would put a grid pattern with about 8 to 10 spacing.

Also, a folding shovel is ok in a pinch, but since this is a race I would ditch them for full size shovels you could mount on the roof rack with the spare tire.

Two more items I didn't see listed (but are probably on your list already) are JB weld, and spare belts.

Keep it up! I'm enjoying the build!
 
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roamingtimber

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This race sounds really cool and I love your old Rover. I tried to sell the wife on one but it was a no go. As far as your roof mounted tire goes, Rhino Racks out of Australia makes a kit for mounting a spare to just the crossbars. Worth a look for inspiration alone. Good luck in your rally!
 
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Paul Misencik

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@Paul Misencik Two more items I didn't see listed (but are probably on your list already) are JB weld, and spare belts.
JB Weld! That actually WASN'T on my list, but it is now! Thank you! I totally forgot about that...

As for spares, I didn't list them, but I'm bringing belts, hoses, filters, ignition components, one front and one rear wheel bearing, tie rod ends, and all fluids. I figure if anything more difficult than those go, I'm done anyway.

Thanks to you and @roamingtimber for the ideas on the tire mount. I'll get back to you shortly.

Best,
 

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Okay, quick update:

Over the last few days we have been overhauling the suspension. The springs and TerraFirma dampers are in, plus new ball joints and steering drag link. All new bushings... it's getting pretty ship shape underneath. All the brakes are getting replaced, and then my trusted tech Gavin will get to work on rebuilding the transfer case.

So far, the truck looks really good underneath. Nothing was seized, no bolts broke off. Everything appeared to be healthy and straight and (knock wood) it seems to be a very good example of a Range Rover Classic.

Next up, the light bar and additional power ports and some of the fun stuff. The site doesn't appear to be letting me upload images at the moment, but as soon as I figure out how to make that happen, I'll upload as many as I can.
 
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Overland-Indiana

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Looking forward to some photos! I am like a toddler that only reads the books for the pictures ;)
 
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Michael

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Okay, quick update:

Over the last few days we have been overhauling the suspension. The springs and TerraFirma dampers are in, plus new ball joints and steering drag link. All new bushings... it's getting pretty ship shape underneath. All the brakes are getting replaced, and then my trusted tech Gavin will get to work on rebuilding the transfer case.

So far, the truck looks really good underneath. Nothing was seized, no bolts broke off. Everything appeared to be healthy and straight and (knock wood) it seems to be a very good example of a Range Rover Classic.

Next up, the light bar and additional power ports and some of the fun stuff. The site doesn't appear to be letting me upload images at the moment, but as soon as I figure out how to make that happen, I'll upload as many as I can.
Hi @Paul Misencik I updated some configuration files and you should be able to upload images now! I'd love to see the progress!

M
 
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pl626

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Not sure if you're aware, the CT RRCs ran 215x85x16s. Cooper Discoverer STT Pros might be worth considering unless your committed to your Michelins. Also, you may want to add fuel pump & filter to your spares list.


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