Our Reggie, Status as of August 2018
As an Overlander, one of the first questions we hear when we run into someone else in the Overlanding Community is, “How do you like your overland vehicle?” In this article we will delve into this question in detail. To begin with, we are driving a 1995 Range Rover Classic LWB named Reggie. After a pretty extensive rebuild it’s kind of hard to bash anything that was, well, rebuilt. Before we set out to overland full-time we replaced the petrol 4.6 engine to a diesel 2.8 liter 300 tdi, which turned out to be a brilliant decision. Gone are the sad days of 11 miles per gallon (mpg), and we are now averaging ~23.4 mpg, and that fully loaded with a hard-shell rooftop tent, 85 Liters of water, and all of our overlanding gear plus food. This outstanding mpg was calculated over the last 20,000 miles of driving, roughly 12,000 of which has been on dirt or gravel roads - pretty hard to complain about that! Maintenance on the new engine, which we ordered from Great Britain, has consisted of just oil and filter changes, which we confess we perform at shorter than normal intervals.
Performance-wise we don’t really see too much difference between the two engines, but our confidence in the 300 tdi’s reliability is much higher. Zero electronics and only one wire to keep it running means less worrying about engine troubles - gone are the distributor and ECU days! The diesel engine has a nice turbo whine from the new VNT turbocharger, and the exhaust is a well-made and larger stainless steel setup. We also chose to add on an Alisport radiator and dual-core intercooler, knowing we were going to be traveling in some very hot locations. Unfortunately, after 25,000 miles the radiator developed leaks and had to be replaced. We decided to replace it with a heavy duty four core traditional copper and brass unit, as the aluminum setup wasn’t quite “tough” enough for our travels, so that is what we have now.
At the same time the diesel engine was installed we put in a rebuilt Ashcroft transmission. We selected a transmission with the optional build of a larger ZF hp24 front end, and an oversized torque converter with its larger clutches and stronger bits, which has worked out very well so far - hopefully it will continue working reliably for many years. We noticed, however, that if the temp is over 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) and the RPM’s are low, usually below 1500, the transmission does tend to heat up a bit. It pays to scan the gauges often, and if the transmission temp starts rising, drop a gear to bring up the revs, which will then cool the transmission down. This excess heat may occur because the transmission pump just doesn’t push enough oil unless the RPM’s are up a bit, we’re not quite sure. We tend to keep Reggie’s gauges on the cooler side, and find that if we’re cruising the highway at 60mph on a 90-degree (F) day, the transmission temperature sits around 140 which is actually pretty low. The highest transmission temp we’ve seen on this particular trip was 190, and admittedly that did freak us out a bit, but after letting Reggie rest in the shade for about 30mins, and dumping water all over the front-end trans cooler, the temp lowered to what we consider normal.
Ashcroft also rebuilt the transfer case that we are currently using. Before installation this newly-purchased transfer case received all-new bearings and a hardened four-pin cross shaft, and it was sleeved to hold leaks at bay. The engine, transmission, and transfer case are all connected with dual-carbon drive shafts that use a more universal Spicer 1310 U-Joint instead of the customary Land Rover joints. The Spicer 1310 is one of the most commonly used U-Joints in a variety of vehicles, and can also be found pretty much anywhere in the world if one ever needs to be replaced on the rig.
About a year before converting to a diesel engine we completely rebuilt the front and rear axles, installing a Detroit Tru-Track in the front and an ARB air locker in the rear. Both have served us well, with the only complaint so far being that the rear pinion does seep a drop of oil occasionally, and even though the seals have been replaced the drip lingers. We may try replacing the seal again soon, just in case the second time’s the charm. At the same time as the axles were rebuilt, heavy-duty OME coils and shocks were installed and we found them to be very, very good for their stated purpose, before we began overlanding full-time. Now, however, we travel at our vehicle’s max load and find that the rear OME sport shocks just can’t cut it - they are just too soft for such a heavy load and we probably need to do something about it, but haven’t decided what to go with. We also have experience with Bilstiens that were specifically valved for the vehicle, but weren’t super-thrilled with those either, so we may end up installing dual shocks on the rear. As far as the front end goes, the OME 60070L shocks designed for the Toyota land cruiser are a perfect match, so we are very happy there.
Let’s move on to tires and rims, with which we have had incredible luck over the years! Once we decided to Overland full-time we decided to ditch the aluminum wheels and install steel wheels instead. My son, who has the cool factor, suggested Wolf, but the price seemed a bit steep, and they are fairly heavy as well. After extensive research on other steel wheels, it turned out that Wolf wheels are the perfect size and backspace for Reggie, and we couldn’t match that in any other steel wheel, so Wolf turned out to be our final choice. Moving on to the actual tires, we do have a soft spot for Cooper, as we drove all the way to the Arctic Ocean twice on them without having any tire issues, which is almost unheard of. I’ve run many different tires on different vehicles, from Goodyear and Pro Comp, to Michelin and BFG, and have found that they will all technically do the job, but we believe that tires “match” with a vehicle. For the Range Rover we decided on the 235/85R-16 Cooper ST Maxx - we are now on the second set and have never had a tire failure! These Cooper tires, mounted on the Wolf steel wheels, make Reggie ride like a dream, and our only wish would be to get a bit more mileage out them. We’ll only be able to compare them to another brand once we need to replace them and are in a country that doesn’t stock Coopers - and we aren’t looking forward to that time, suffice it to say.
Braking has been a challenge in the past when under heavy load, and Range Rovers are inherently heavy, even when not loaded down with a bunch of overlanding gear. At the beginning of 2017 it was decided that Reggie needed new brakes, so we changed it all up. On went rebuilt calipers and EBC slotted rotors, EBC 6000 pads and new braided brake lines, along with new Timken wheel bearings and seals all around. This setup has been going well, insofar as we’ve always been able to stop the vehicle when needed, although we have noticed the rear pads wearing slightly faster than the front - we’ll see how much life we get out of them and where we go from there once they need replacing. Before we left the US we thought about doing one big switch-over of the entire braking system, but decided to hold out to see what would happen under non-stop traveling, as Range Rovers of our year have a very unique brake system and traction control setup that was way ahead of its time. It uses an electric air compressor to charge the system and a series of sensors, valves and its own ECU that applies brake pressure to whatever wheel is slipping, thus sending more power to a wheel with better traction. This system worked better than any traction control system at the time, and is up to par even by today’s standards. The issue that we eventually ran into arose from the age of the system sensors, which stopped working correctly, so we bypassed the original system with lockers and a limited slip, and we now run standard brake usage. If our Wabco air pump setup fails, as they are wont to do, it will be a chore to get the braking system sorted, although it’s working fine for now.
Now let’s discuss the outside parts and pieces - which ones have been successful, and which have failed. Starting at the rear of the vehicle we have the bumper and tire carrier, which are definitely both failures - we’re just waiting for the day that the tire carrier falls off completely. The setup worked great for the last three years, but the constant corrugations and daily hard usage in Australia has loosened it terribly. The tire carrier attachment has already had to be repaired, as metal fatigue tore the steel, and we came close to losing the spare tire altogether. We are not sure yet how it can be fixed, or if it should be replaced entirely. The functionality and look of the setup is great, but the build itself is just not up to daily expedition use.
Continuing with the troublesome rear end we have the rear window latch - total fail. While on the dirt road to Mitchell Falls, which has corrugations the height of a camel’s hump, the rear hatch started to open randomly. The latch system itself worked, but the bouncing and repeated flexing would work the whole thing loose, and when it popped open choking clouds of dust would be sucked in! Two manual latches were temporarily affixed to the outside, which helped a lot, but once we settled for a month in Melbourne we replaced the entire rear upper tail gate with a solid piece of aluminum that matches the custom side panel hatches. This turned out to be an amazing change, especially since it was relatively inexpensive to implement. The rear gate is now more secure, has solid manual latches which seal perfectly, weighs a lot less, and has the added benefit that it will never rust as original tailgates usually do.
When it comes to the front end of the vehicle we are pretty happy, but do have a couple of replacements that will be needed. The front bumper is a SmittyBuilt unit originally designed for a Jeep Cherokee, which is the same width as Reggie, surprisingly, and was way less expensive. After we found the bumper for a great price we then fabricated and changed the mount with which to bolt it on, and it fit perfectly. The winch is another SmittyBuilt product and has saved us a couple of times, but does leave a bit to be desired, as a few heavy uses left the fair lead cracked, unfortunately. Someday it will have to be replaced with a higher-quality unit, and we will definitely need to replace the cable sooner rather than later. The one item we just recently installed that really stands out in a good way is our new LightForce Venom LED lights. We really didn’t have any auxiliary lights that were any good, so these LightForce units are amazing, as they are built extremely well, have very good light output. Most importantly, they didn’t cost us anything - we have a friend who “had some lying around” and they were donated to Reggie after we did a big project for the owner. Come on - LightForce lights! It totally felt like Christmas morning when we installed them, and they look awesome!
As a recap, our 1995 Range Rover has turned out to be a very reliable and sturdy overlanding vehicle, and we really couldn’t see ourselves in anything else right now. Admittedly it has been extensively rebuilt to combat its age and shortcomings inherent in that model of vehicle, but that should be part of any prep when you are going to turn your vehicle into a 24x7 “house on wheels” that travels overland. All modifications to the vehicle were done in anticipation of overland life, or in response to living out of the vehicle for the past year or so, and really do help us enjoy this new life. We tend to be minimalist with ourselves and our gear, but do put in the money and effort into Reggie to make sure that he will be reliable and fit. In short, Reggie is a member of our family, with a key role in our Overlander lifestyle, and we are very happy that we’ve stuck by him, even as shiny new vehicles with shiny expensive accoutrements roar past us as we are chugging slowly up a steep hill 😍.