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1981 Range Rover - Monsoon Challenge 1996.

[picture of 1981 Range Rover 4x4 before, jpg] Encouraged by the second place achieved by Mike Smith and Chris Hummer's Range Rover in the 1995 TransPen, fellow Australians Roger Smith and Jim Patterson prepared this 1981 Range Rover (right) to join them in the 1996 event, now known as the Kuamtang Adventure Monsoon Challenge 1996.

In its previous life, Roger and Jim's vehicle was a bog standard 1981 Range Rover but then much money, care and attention was lavished on it (below left).

[and after the transformation [picture of Range Rover 4x4 jpeg]

[picture of Range Rover interior] First, the Range Rover was stripped in preparation for a comprehensive rebuild. The interior (left) showed the scars, but at least they could hose the Malaysian mud out easily enough. Mind you, the instrumentation was not neglected - a full set of gauges, trip computer, and two battery isolation switches, the latter mounted on the passenger's dash-board.

Perhaps this truck is close to the essence of Range Rover as originally conceived in 1970, a capable off roader, before it gained automatic transmission, air conditioning and power this, that and the other.

The rules of the Challenge allow for tyres up to 35" diameter and for body lifts of up to 40mm. The body lift was achieved with nylon discs (above right) inserted at the ten body attachment points and with square section steel tube added at other body support points.

[McNamara diff lock] Stronger (1987+) Range Rover axles went off to Jack McNamara's workshop to be fitted with his heavy duty hypoid differentials (right). The late axles have a flat base to the differential housings which gives a little extra ground clearance and the steering swivels are also stronger.

The hypoid differentials have a lower pinion line than standard but the castings come with an indentation to accommodate the track-rod, the single most vulnerable part of the Range Rover steering system when off road. Both differentials have McNamara's new vacuum-activated diff' locks installed. The actuator is built into the diff' housing, so that the axle casing does not need modification, and the whole unit is very neat and compact. The Smith / Patterson Range Rover cracked the alloy housing on the front diff' during the event; it was then sealed with silicone (!) and held together but maybe the castings need strengthening. [Later castings are of iron.]

Land Rover's 4-speed LT95 full-time four wheel drive transmission is generally reckoned to be the strongest ever fitted to the Range Rover line; it doubled up on the Land Rover FC101 4x4 truck after all. Roger and Jim had one of these units rebuilt at Ritter Automotive. The transfer case intermediate shaft had a taper roller bearing kit fitted in place of the standard needle roller bearings, and the hi-ratio gears were lowered to 1.336:1, as used on the Land Rover Series-III Stage-1 V8. The differential ratios are left at the standard 3.54:1. The International Jungle Challenge's route involves mainly mud and very little rock, and this combination of dropping the hi-ratio, but not the lo-ratio, gearing was felt to be the most suitable for the expected conditions.

Stronger coil springs are fitted fore and aft. The later and stronger radius arms are used at the front, and the later and stronger A-frame ball joint at the rear.

The trusty Range Rover V8 also got "the works". It was stroked to 4.3L with a Stroker Enterprises and Precision Engineering Parts kit. This gives plenty of low down torque for maximum flexibility. The cylinder heads received bigger valves and HM headers to remove the noxious fumes. The block is one of the later castings which have thicker ribs in the valley between the cylinder banks and its extra rigidity should handle the increased loads comfortably.

The engine grumbles and splutters like a grumpy old man when cold but soon warms up to deliver the characteristic V8 rumble and then some.

How did they go in the challenge? They came a very respectable [third] in 1996, [second] in 1997, and 1st in 1998! - congratulations!


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