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What follows is a list of thing that the more competitive amongst us do/have done to our motor's to give us the edge!. If you have something to add that I've missed then by all means send it in to and I'll post it up. Just do what you can afford and aspire to the rest!!


The bigger the better!!. If it's on top of it's job, you won't have to rev it as much and you're less likely to lose traction on hill climbs etc. Do bear in mind however that a 4.6 V8 will snap standard diff's and half shafts like they're tinsel if driven incautiously. (See Axles section for an expensive but effective solution). For us non-super rich types, try to plumb for a 3.9 or 4.2. You'll get a 3.5 for peanuts these days but it won't really be all that competitive against the big boys. Also fuel injection is best as old carburettor models can suffer fuel starvation on steep inclines and stall.

There is the odd trialler kicking about with a Discovery TD5 diesel in (with the injector pump wound right up) and they acquit themselves pretty well but ordinary diesels are to be avoided as they are too slow to pick up revs and the powers just not there when you need it.

Beef up your engine mountings by replacing them with modified rear tie rods cut down and bolted direct to the chassis at the eye end. If you use standard mountings and they're a bit old and weak, there's a real possibility that if you go down a steep precipice drop, your engine and gearbox will plough straight through the radiator and beat you to the bottom of the hill.

If you decide to rear mount your radiator to protect it, then make sure that its well boxed in and that the fans are running on it constantly. Also box in all pipe work where it passes through the cab (or better still run it under the floor). If anything ruptures you really don't want to be sprayed with boiling antifreeze (trust me, the red blotches and weeping blisters it leaves behind really aren't a look you want to explore).


For a standard affordable option your best bet is the Range Rover R380 although an LT77 is not bad. Your best getting one which has a viscous handbrake which allows you to lock the back wheels legally and then put full lock on and floor it to turn your motor on a hairpin for tight corners.

Its always worth considering pinning your centre diff selector permanently in the engaged position as well, regardless of which option you go for, so that it can't jump out and leave you in two wheel drive halfway round a section.

Put some brand new gear selector springs in as well to stop it jumping out of gear if you drop into a hole suddenly and jolt the motor (I've been here and it's very frustrating and annoying when it happens!).

Beef up your gearbox mountings by replacing them with polyurethane rear tie rod bushes bolted straight through for the same reason as the engine mountings above.

If you opt for an automatic gearbox to save all the hassle of worrying about what gear to be in then make sure you select an actual gear when on section, NOT Drive, or when you take you foot off going down hill it'll just change up and run away with you as there's no engine braking effect.


If you've got pots of cash to spare then give this site a look. . They sell seriously beefed up diffs and halfshafts (for serious money!) which will allow you to really get your horns out without snapping anything and putting yourself out of the running. The cost looks brutal but by the time you've bought and replaced ten second hand diffs you could have paid for it and wouldn't have lost any points either. Failing that, a good compromise is four pin diffs. They'll still set you back, but by a lot less and are generally (but not always) robust enough so it's the half shaft that eventually snaps instead.

Also get diff nosecone protectors, particularly for the front, as this is the axle casings weakest point and will jam your diff if you stuff it into a rock and crush it in.

Snorkel axle breathers are a good idea, bordering on essential, as they keep the breathing end well up out of the mud and water and therefore the mud and water out of your axle casing. (water isn't a particularly good lubricator and mud/silt is little better than grinding paste when applied to diffs and cv joints).

Also give serious consideration to moving the front brake hose mounting on the chassis from in front of the spring tower to around the back. There are two distinct benefits. Firstly the odds of ripping them out on a rock or tree are greatly reduced. Secondly, if you've got long travelling springs and shockers, they're closer to the brake caliper and will go further down before stretching/snapping. (stainless steel braided hoses are advisable in any event for sheer strength)

Change the gear oil in your axles reasonably regularly. Even with the above precautions, its amazing what gets in there and you don't want to knacker your transmission for the sake of a bit of clean oil, especially if you've invested in Ashcroft's.


If at all possible, make sure your motor has full power steering. You can then turn much faster on section (a button handle on the steering wheel is best so you can steer one handed). Never, under any circumstances, steer your motor with your thumbs through the inner holes in the steering wheel. If you hit something a bit crossways, such as a fallen tree, your wheel can whip round with brutal speed and your precious thumbs will snap like twigs, forcing you to stay at home in the day and watch Loose Women and  Jeremy Kyle on the telly (I know!, frightening thought isn't it! You can't even change channel 'cos your hands are bollocksed).

If you've got a bit of money going begging, then a good investment is a high ratio steering box so that you can go lock to lock with less turns of the wheel and therefore turn faster in a tight spot (watch for over-steer until you get used to it though). failing that a high capacity power steering pump will make your steering a good deal lighter than the standard Solihull offering from a Rangey or Disco.

Another way of gaining a bit of extra articulation is to remove the chrome swivel housings and grind them out on the inside in just the right place in order to allow that little bit of extra travel for the CV joint.

You can couple this with re-drilling the axle mating end of the chrome hub and twisting the whole hub assembly around by half a hole-width towards the rear (anticlockwise on the offside and clockwise on the near side). This means that the wheels articulate at an angle instead of vertically meaning that they turn earlier as the articulating face of the tyre is further forward and nearer the front of the vehicle

Also would suggest that you get some extra thick steel tube and sleeve the steering rods that pass in front of the axle casing as they are very susceptible to boulders etc and if you do catch them hard enough to bend them, a bit of steel steam pipe will ensure they bend a good deal less which may be the difference between carrying on and a retirement/hasty replacement with the resulting penalty points you get from missing a section or two.

Definitely weld on a protector bar under the front cross-member of the chassis. Suggest full width between the chassis rails and at least as deep as the bottom arm on the steering box as this ball joint and arm are extremely vulnerable as well. Angle it slightly backwards as well so that you slide over things instead of just nutting them head on and stopping.


Progressive springs are the ideal, with extended lift shock absorbers (you do run the risk of pulling out a prop shaft if you do due the sheer amount of extra travel it gives though). You can extend the internal shank of the prop shaft at its base to stop this happening if your a good welder but don't go too long with the extension piece you weld in or it will either smash the top universal joint on full compression or at least jam it and stop you moving, costing you marks. (always make sure that prop splines and UJ's are well greased and serviced regularly as a semi seized prop will seriously impede articulation of the axle it's attached to and they have a nasty habit of accumulating mud in the splines, which doesn't compress particularly well. If your someone with cash to spare then you can now actually buy twin yoke propshafts to effectively double the extended length without cutting and welding anything.

Also you might want to consider multiple shockers on the front so that the wheels don't bounce when you really put the power down and you retain traction, particularly on hill climbs. Shock absorber orientation is completely free and some angle them towards the centre of the motor rather than straight up so they don't restrict axle travel on full articulation. Many people also opt for cantilevers shock absorber seats rather than the standard fixed variety at the axle end so that bush compression doesn't restrict movement.

You can try used (not new as they're too hard) diesel heavy duty springs with 2 or 4 inch lift shockers which will give you improved clearance and travel at a much cheaper price. You can buy extended lift springs as well if your feeling flush (if you don't you'll need to add spring locators sleeves at the turret tops to stop the springs dislocating on full extension and not reseating themselves properly when they come back down).

You can also consider "cranked" front tie rods. This involves getting the rods chopped and an indent welded into it to improve your turning circle without the tyres fouling on them. (You can actually buy these ready made now. I've seen them on Paddock Motor Spares website)

Avoid polyurethane bushes. On the face of it they'll last much longer but, they're so hard they impair free axle travel and transmit all the hard bangs straight through to your chassis. Opt instead for the ordinary black rubber ones as they're much more flexible and will give a much broader range of axle articulation.


Shorten the body as much as possible at the front and rear of the vehicle so the at the wheels are practically at the ends. In this way, once the wheel is through, so is the motor instead of the extra length clipping a stick. (if left un-shortened, It also lengthens your turning circle on sharp corners which can never be good)

Trim back the wheel arches and rivet on some homemade mud spats (fork truck curtain plastic is good). This will allow suspension to compress freely without wheels fouling on the wings. Similarly trim the front wings away diagonally at the front of the vehicle to minimise risk of them catching on canes / trees etc when making tight turns.

It's not a bad idea to build an internal rollcage extension for the front end (or at least the engine bay) in case of rollovers to protect the engine bay and minimise the risk of an enforced retirement. This can have the wings incorporated into it which, if built right, will be able to be lifted clean away for ease of engine maintenance. Make sure you mount it on thick welded soleplates on the chassis and bulkhead though so it won't tear or buckle anything on impact (because, believe me, at some point, sooner or later, you ARE going to see the world the way the Aussies see it!).

Don't bother with a front bumper. It just gets in the way and hits things or the end gets bent back and jams on a tyre. Just weld a piece of "C" section girder to the front dumb irons and mount your towing point on this.

Fuel Tank

Mount your fuel tank somewhere in the back body of the vehicle above the maximum travel of the axle, rather than in the traditional under seat position where it is extremely vulnerable to rocks and general punctures all round. (If the battery is also rear mounted, make sure there's a metal bulkhead between them for safety purposes)

Ensure that the filler cap is of a type that won't leak if the vehicle should happen to find itself upside down as you don't want to find yourself sprayed with or lying in a puddle of high octane firewater (It only takes a spark!. In any case fuels damned expensive, why waste it on the ground!)

Make sure that the fuel lines travel down the upper or inner side of one of the main chassis rails, (well away from exhaust components) where they are offered maximum protection from pretty much everything. Running them through the cab is a definite no-no in case of a line rupture. (You could box it in but it's safer underneath the motor, where you aren't!).

Roll Cage

Design is mostly standard and laid down in MSA regulations although there are a number of acceptable geometry options. However, when welding in the cross braces between the front and back hoops above the cab, try to keep them as close to the outside as possible so they act as sliders when cornering hard around trees and rocks. If you put them too far in you can find yourself catching the hoop bend on trees etc and being brought to an abrupt halt unnecessarily. Also make sure you weld good thick sole plates (at least 5mm thick) to the top and sides of the chassis wherever the cage meets it and ideally make them at least a foot long to spread the load/impact. It you weld it straight to the chassis and it gets a bit thin later, it'll rip clean off when you roll it and, after all, it's there to protect your soft bits so it wants to be good and solid.

Wheels and Tyres

750' x 16" rims, preferably with offset centres are best (Discovery steel rims are good or you can by a variety of modular rims that are already offset). Turn the front ones inside out as the offset will make the wheels stand off the vehicle and give you a better turning circle. Don't go any bigger than this with your rims as the extra ground clearance will just cost you your turning circle and therefore your manoeuvrability. (Not to mention raising the centre of gravity making you more susceptible to rolling over)

Best tyres are Grizzly Claw, Firestone SAT or Malatesta Kobra (although some use the Insa Turbo Special Trak as well). You basically need a tyre with good really deep grooves and a reasonably small block tread pattern so that they "self clean" in between mud sections and are gruesome enough to really bite in when you put your foot down. A hard rubber compound is best so they maintain the sharp cutting edges on the blocks for as long as possible or you'll spend half your life using the tread cutter to put them back again.

MSA and ARC club members are welcome to come along and join our events. Phone Mark on 07866 506521 / 01282 703718



Pennine Land Rover Club, Pennine LRC