Vehicle Modifications

Once we had made the decision that we were going to “do Africa”, as far as we were concerned, there was only one vehicle to do it in – Landrover Defender 110. The next decision was the model: 300TDi for rugged simplicity, TD5 for immediate availability or wait for Sept 07 for the release of the much awaited Puma model (We started our research Mar 07).  After reading a few press releases we decided that the Puma was the one to go for. One of the deciding factors was the much improved air-con (now called our 3rd fridge!).

After a bit of “should we do this thing?” we decided to take the step that would be a point of no return, we bought Sully in March 08. From this point on, the TRIP now started taking over our lives. We now had the beast in showroom condition and we needed to turn her into a vehicle that would take us on our adventure and provide us with a home in all sorts of conditions and terrains. Next began the delicate balance of working as many hours as we could to get enough money together while doing research on the internet and in books and visiting as many Off-road shows as we could. After about 6 months of this, we had a good idea of what we wanted. The next stage was to find a company that could convert our ideas into reality. After touring the country visiting various overland preparation companies, we eventually settled on Footloose 4x4 in Peterborough. (Trek Overland was a very close 2ND).

After many trips down to Peterborough and late night meetings with Paul (apologies to Nikki for keeping him at work so late) we had our “final” design and were ready to hand Sully over so Paul could transform her and what a job he did!

Here is a list of the modifications done:

 

Internal fit-out

This was the largest and most time consuming part of the work (and therefore also the most expensive).

The entire interior was stripped out right down to the metal. The factory fitted carpets were removed and acoustic matting was fitted through-out the front. The carpets were then refitted.

We had decided to replace the two front seats with Schielmann seats but when these arrived, they were not suitable so we reverted back to the original seats.

The rear seats and rear carpets were removed completely and a rear bulkhead installed, as far forward as possible. The frame was built out of steel box tubing to provide an internal roll bar. The frame was covered with sheet aluminium with carpet glued on the cab side.

A shelf was fitted where the rear seats were. This was to allow for the National Lunar fridge to slide out of the back passenger door on the girls side. This provided adequate space underneath for the 2nd battery to be installed. A 3 drawer clothes locker was installed on the other end of this shelf, accessible from the passenger door on the boys side. This can be removed easily with 4 bolts and stored on the roof rack to provide a jump seat with seat belt for use when travelling in countries requiring a compulsory guides ie China, Libya and some of the “stan” states (Uzbekistan, Kurdistan etc.).

The space between the fridge and the clothes locker is the right size for some Gomo boxes.

This shelf also provided the ideal location for the Hi-Lift jack and it’s accessories in what was the foot well of the rear seats.

clip_image002Fig 1.View of the 2 fridges without the front seats

clip_image002[4]Fig 2. Clothes drawers

Another inspired idea of Jan’s was to replace the useless grab handle fitted in the front dash with a storage area for the laptop. Paul did a fantastic job on this by cutting away some of the dash and fitting an aluminium padded box into which the laptop slips perfectly. He reused the top part of the dash as the lid so it looks like it was supposed to be there.

clip_image002[6]clip_image004Fig 3. Before and after - Laptop compartment

A final (and late addition) addition was to install a shelf above the front windscreen. This necessitated the removal of the roof lining and replacing it with some carpeting glued to the roof ( a real headache for Paul breathing in the fumes!) but this provided the perfect spot for the installation of the 2 Garmin GPSs (a Nuvi 760 and a Nuvi 370), the rear view camera screen and the dual battery monitor.

I should also mention at this stage that we insisted upon an EGR temperature sensor as we had recently blown the turbo on our other car and did not want the same to happen on Sully. The temperature gauge was also fitted on this self

 

Load Bay fit-out

The rear compartment was now changed beyond recognition. The two rear load compartment windows were removed and replaced with upward opening doors. On the girls side, this became the kitchen compartment and was closed off from the rest of the load bay by some more aluminium sheeting. See Kitchen Enclosure later for more detail.

A sliding rear drawer system was fitted in the back and covered with more aluminium sheeting. There was a small space left to the side of the drawer to allow for the back door hinge. A small door flap was put over this to provide storage space for spare fan belts.

The space above the drawer provided a sizable storage area into which we fitted 12 low lid Wolf boxes. Two webbing straps keep all these boxes firmly in place.

There is additional storage space accessible from the locker door on the boys side. This space is filled with 6 Gomo boxes. The “unusable” space above the wheel arch has provided the perfect spot for the storage of the vehicle fluids (gear and diff oil, steering and clutch fluids etc.)

clip_image002[8]Fig 4. Rear load-bay layout

The rear door also didn’t escape the ministering of Footloose. At our request, this was covered with marine rubber bonded onto aluminium sheeting. Fitted onto are two aluminium pockets, one for the table/stove and one for some braai (barbeque) grids. This also provided an ideal mounting spot for my Axe.

 

Protection & Recovery

Heavy duty front winch bumper with bull bar and Hi-Lift jack points

Superwich EP9.0 winch with plasma rope

Bonnet catches to stop the bonnet flying up on rough roads

clip_image002[10]Fig 5. Bonnet catch

Marine rubber on Aluminium plates on fender tops

Air Horn (much used on this trip already!)

Raised air intake (Safari Snorkle)

Old Man Emu steering damper

Southdown rock sliders with Hi-Lift jack points

Front and rear diff guard

Under body steering and sump guard

Koni heavy duty shocks and upgraded springs

Upgraded roll damper bar

Dual wheel carrier on the rear. This was manufactured by Footloose 4x4 as no suitable aftermarket carriers are available.

At the same time, they also manufactured the two gas bottle holders to fit above the spare wheels.

Rear recovery point added to back bumper.

The 2 small and 1 large rear windows were all replaced with bonded Aluminium plates.

clip_image002[12]Fig 6. Dual wheel carriers and gas bottle holders

New side steps customised by Footloose4x4 to fit around sill tanks at drivers and front passenger doors

clip_image002[14]Fig 7. Customised side steps

 

Fuel and Water

The existing 70l fuel tank was replaced with a 125l fuel tank.

Under chassis 56l fuel tank on driver’s side and 56l water tank on passenger side (Only able to fill these tanks to capacity when the front of the car is down at a steep angle, otherwise we only get 45l into each)

Separate filler installed in front of rear wheel for under chassis fuel tank. An electric fuel pump was fitted to transfer fuel into main tank

45l Fender fuel tank installed in drivers side wheel well. This is inserted between main filler and 125l tank so acts as a header tank for the main.

35l Fender water tank installed in passenger wheel well. This has its own filler in place of the rear quarter window. This drains into the under chassis tank via a stop cock (and gravity)

clip_image002[16]Fig 8. Tank locations

 

provides drinking water via a Nature Pure filter. The other is a direct feed from the tank. Both have Hozelock spray guns with multiple spray settings.

Any water of any quality that we put into the tanks is treated with Katadyn powder.

In addition, we have a 100l sailing bladder and a 25l plastic “Jerry Can”. For transferring water from these containers we have a 3rd portable in-line pump.

 

Electrical - External

1000W Light Force Driving lights (linked to high beam)

Rear brake lights and indicators have been raised as the wheel carriers cover the existing lights.

New reverse light and Fog light added below the wheel carriers.

New number plate installed at high level also due to dual wheel carriers.

Dual rear worklights (Installed in a bad position. To be moved)

2 x External DIN sockets fitted to provide 12v to the rooftent.

32A commando socket fitted to rear for connecting to mains power (when available)

External GPS and Sat-Phone aerials.

Rear view camera system (wireless and infra-red) installed to assist with reversing.

 

Electrical – Internal

In order to provide additional battery power, a 2nd battery installed – 110A/hr gel leisure battery. This is fitted under the “fridge shelf”

National lunar split charge system and battery monitor installed to prevent us draining both batteries.

220v consumer unit installed for when we are linked to mains.

A 220v Ctek battery charger

500W Sine wave inverter to provide AC when we are in the middle of no-where

Numerous DIN and cigarette lighter sockets installed throughout the vehicle including one in the engine bay.

4 way UK spec multi-plug for AC devices fed from both mains and inverter (manual change-over) behind the front passenger seat.

National Luna Weekender fridge/freezer

We also went for a 27l Engel fridge instead of the usual cubby box between the front seats. This has turned out to be an inspired decision as we can have ice cold drinks while driving. At this stage I must also mention the cup holders we fitted in front of the central (frogs eyes) aircon vents. Any drinks left in these while driving are chilled very nicely by the aircon (our 3rd fridge as mentioned earlier).

The two fridges also have a mains connection from the consumer unit to allow them to utilise 220v when we are linked up (but not the inverter).

 

Roofrack and Camping

After looking at various options for roofracks, we eventually decided on Patriot as they were local and able to make adjustments and modifications for us. One of the options we went for was to go for the raised legs to allow for an aluminium table to be fitted under it. This table has been indispensable.

Double size shower rail installed on Patriot roof rack on Boys side

At the front of the roofrack, we fitted an aluminium roofbox manufactured by Footloose4x4 for all the light bulky items (sleeping bags, pillows, spare hoses etc)

In the middle, we have a pair of sand ladders on top of which rests a 2nd Eezi-Awn ladder. As we have the dual wheel carrier and gas bottles on the back, we could not have a conventional rear ladder so we have this 2nd ladder which attached on the boys side between the roof box and tent.

For sleeping, we have a 1.4m Eezi-awn T-Top rooftent that opens out over the rear. This has 4 sides but we have yet to use the 4th. We also asked Eezi-awn to provide the 3rd side (boys side) with a door instead of the conventional window only.

For the awning, we went with Howling moon 3m Safari awning with 3 sides. Despite what others have said to us about never using their side, we have used them extensively. They provide great additional shade merely by attaching guy lines to them and pegging them out at and angle, allowing a cooling breeze to come in under them. Or with the addition of some collapsible tent poles, they can double the size of the awning.

 

Kitchen Enclosure (and cooking)

The kitchen enclosure is Jan’s pride and joy. She put a lot of thought into its layout and what was to be stored there. Suffice to say that all the usable space is used. By using standard sized bottles, shelves could be fitted at specific heights to provide a snug fit for condiment bottles. Cargo netting installed over some of the shelves provides secure storage for non-standard items.

Clever use of storage bags from Bags 4 Anything further increases the storage capacity. This includes storage bags for the “nestled” pots and pans.

For cooking, we have a gas stove that is mounted onto a table that clips onto outside of girls side below kitchen enclosure and attached to gas bottle on same side when in use. This is stored in the aluminium pocket on the inside of the back door

All the gas pipes have quick release connectors to allow us to use various gas bottles and connectors without having to remove and refit regulators.

For night use, we have a very bright LED strip light installed on the enclosure door.

 

Additional items fitted

Superglass protective film fitted to the side windows with limo tint on rear windows (smash n grab protection)

3 x dry powder fire extinguishers (1kg installed between cubby fridge and gear sticks, 1kg above National Luna fridge for Kitchen, 2kg installed in boys Side enclosure)

Escape hammer installed on cubby fridge above fire extinguisher

Cargo net above fridge to use roof space

Melville and Moon seat covers

Standard radio replaced with a MP3 compatible radio with auxiliary input

Storage pockets on chair backs

Hanging storage pockets installed against bulkhead next to National Luna fridge

Strip of solar film 10cm across the top of the front window

 

 

Other extras carried

Comprehensive toolkit

Books and maps for each country on our trip

Recovery kit (strops and shackles etc)

Puncture repair kit

5 Ton bottle jack

Various rolls of Duck tape and insulation tape

Cable ties of various lengths (great for attaching Egyptian number plates)

Kelly Kettle

5l Hozelock pressure shower (weed killer spray bottle)

Zodi – used once!

Sputnik washing machine

Folding chairs and foot stools

Brazilian hammocks

2 x high viz jackets, 2 x warning triangles and spare bulb kits

External key safe with spare key

Outside toilet seat

Recovery spade

Axe/spade/stabbing thing

Tons of Land Rover spares

Baseball bat steering lock doubles as a great defending weapon

Vi-air Compressor

A 5m x 3m piece of blue tarp

Shower mats

Loads of cord, guy ropes and tent pegs

3 x collapsible tent poles

Seed nets

Rechargable hair clippers

5m electiric extension cable with 4-way universal plug outlets

5m commando socket cable for electric hook-up

Fly swatter (essential)

250ml spray bottle (for hot, hot days in the desert - a single spray keeps you cool)

Tabbard/Peaceful Sleep or any insect spray with 50% DEET or more

#1 Leslie Andres Widderson on 10.11.2009 at 2:29 PM

Hello from Argentina, I am a "angloargentine" (UK father , local mother) and a farmer . I have a new Puma and have taken many ideas from your gear to enhance my LR. Thank you for sharing all your preparations, I am following your trip and it makes an excelent read!, so much so that your web site is on my favourites list!

Kind regards,

Leslie.

****

Hi Leslie

I'm glad you're enjoying the blog and the info we're providing.  It's been great being able to share.  Are you planning a trip of your own?  We are so loving the trip and our travel and having a great time doing new things and meeting new people.

Cheers, Jan