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Body protection for overlanding



Jeremy wrote...
In reality a lot of vehicles that leave the UK,
bound for Africa, are over 'specced but most of that comes from a latent
British "Be Prepared" syndrome.
Quite right, and at the risk of boring everyone again. In the aid
'industry' all 4WD's whatever the make all seem to be delivered out of the
box. The extras usually being bull bar, roof rack with ladder rungs bolted
on the rear corner and tow hitch. Unless its a vehicle with a specific role
like field ambulance, we never even see a winch. We all seem to get about
in pretty rough country without all the bolt-ons that we see here when we
go to an 'offroad day', especially featuring the Land Rover crowd. Part of
the theory behind this - apart from the fact that the mods are not required
- could be that the more 'standard' a vehicle is, the easier it can be
repaired locally with a rudimentary supply of parts. Lifted chassis with
extra long springs and shocker piston rods etc. pose a problem when they
need replacements.
In 6 years in the Balkans I can say I have never been towed under any
conditions, yet I have towed others. So my wheels, tyres, suspension etc.
must be performing within design tolerance. And as Julian wrote, Mr Toy
makes them to take it without bolting more on.
When working as a technical advisor for the EC Embassy I was provided with
a Disco, and the greatest problem with that was overheating. It was made at
the Turkish Otokar plant where build quality is less than perfect - a
common thread with any LR from that plant. So I would say that origin of
manufacture is a significant factor. Maybe a Jap made Toy is better than a
Venezuelan one, I dunno.
Jon W's point on the rear light guards is pertinent too. Again not
something we see much outside UK for any make of 4WD. I guess the theory
there is that once a vehicle is passing by the brush it will just slide
along the paintwork and whip back once the light cluster (carefully moulded
to the contour of the bodywork) has passed.
Chris wrote...
but from a purely engineering point of view I would have thought that a lightweight bullbar + recovery points on the front would be plenty..........People like myself working in the field of vehicle safety
have come to regard the vehicle itself as expendable, its purpose being to protect the occupants in the event of a crash. Latterly attempting to protect pedestrians has also become important, with the consequence that the fronts of new vehicles have become softer.
Well, that is all I have Chris. The bull bar is not a heavyweight at all,
but has bounced a deer off. I don't have special recovery points. I just
bolted the standard Toy ones onto the bottom of the bull bar. I have towed
with them successfully, though not been towed myself. (Mostly snow recovery
where I kept the chained rear tyres on firm going). BUT let me tell you why
I went for a 4WD rather than a saloon car. The standard of driving in the
Balkans is horrific, the most common collision is a crushed offside wing
from very risky overtaking manoeuvres by others; though not always on
mountain hairpins, more often reasonably straight tarmac. It is more the
aggressive attitude of the Balkans temperament, that's why they go in for a
regular round of bloodletting every 50 years - seriously. They have no
patience towards other drivers.
The better tarmac roads are also so bad that I thought it best to have a
vehicle with large axles, wheel bearings, wheels and tyres to take the
hammer of the potholes. This is also a great problem with cars abruptly
stopping or, worse, veering when a track rod comes adrift or a suspension
balljoint collapses.
(Perhaps when in Russia Clive and others have seen cars at the roadside
with a front wheel almost lying flat on the road surface after such a
failure. In many countries they don't know what maintenance is, they only
know what it is to repair a vehicle when it breaks down. And vehicle safety
tests are a matter of either a bribe, or in Russia, a policeman armed with
a mirror on a stick who is more interested in VIN & engine numbers matching
the registration card. I have also run two projects in Russia with our own
vehicle fleets to maintain - legally).
When I meet one of these denting/collapsing/veering incidents I want that
big chassis and long engine to give me some security. The Golfs that I see
after these incidents don't look such a healthy place to have been when
compared to being in a chunky 4WD. (The Golf is the favoured people's car
locally and are made in Sarajevo). I am no expert on Africa of course, but
would suggest that the same goes in any of these third world countries. I
suggest that in these places NCAP ratings mean as much to the locals as
the US Open golf score.
In Sarajevo we have a local yokel who - like me - bought an ex UN 4Runner.
He put a bull bar on it which has the usual extra parallel tube on top in
the centre section. On top of that - probably having seen the first series
of Dukes of Hazzard - he fitted across the width of the car a large vehicle
leaf spring a' la Boss Hogg's bullhorns, with the addition of an
illuminated plastic ball on each end. I see him nearly every day. Where are
the NCAP ratings, the road safety officers, the traffic police, the vehicle
inspectors? If they exist at all they are bought off, but mostly they don't
care, cos miscreants like these keep a 9 shot automatic in the glovebox.
(You should hear the gunfire in the city most Saturday nights). This is the
real world outside the cosseted 'safe vehicle' world of the EU, it also
exists at the EU's eastern borders of Poland Slovakia and Hungary, and just
12 miles from the EU on the other side of the Med where Julian's
overlanding begins. It aint like hauling the ponies along the quiet lanes
of Devon consistent with showing respect to protecting the pedestrians and
occupants by having a car with a high safety rating and no potentially
hazardous bolt-ons.
(For my part I would welcome a pedestrian friendly pair of Daisy Duke's
shorts as a radiator muff though ;o)
Sorry to veer off-topic Julian. Your question was about overlanding in
out-of-the-way places was it not? Anyway, time I gave my brain a rest.
Grand Union Canal
'92 HZJ80 ex UN Surplus from Bosnia - welcome Rui, its time we had a
chapter in Portugal, there's quite a group of you now.