The Alps Trip Diary

Saturday 26 July (Day 1)

leaving homeHelena did the first day’s driving. We left Bedford at 0700, allowing an extra hour for the expected three hour drive to Dover, for the 1100 rendevous with the group. It didn’t take long for things to go awry, with a speeding caravanner loosing control and closing down the A1 near Hatfield for a significant time. We spent an hour stuck stationary between junctions. We arrived with only 15 minutes to spare, despite ditching the planned rest stop.

Once at the ferry terminal, we saw the others arrive within the following few minutes. Several of us were directed to the ferry company’s control building for vehicle height checks. The company wanted to charge an extra £75 for each vehicle over 2.4m, which constituted half the group. Luckily, only our filled roof bag stuck up above that level, and we were able to cram most of our kit from it into the back of the 109 for the sea crossing, with Pete taking our tent until we disembarked.

After disembarkation, we went as a convoy to the local supermarket to stock up on supplies and refuel. The off roading started early when trying to leave the car park – the turns were far too tight for any of us, so we had to drive over kerbs and verges directly on to the main road. At least it could be done safely, with light traffic on the straight road, but we got some pretty strange looks doing it.

After that, we headed down to the Chateau Ganspette camp site near St Omer. It’s a very good site with plenty of space, good ablutions, a couple of spotlessly clean pools and a decent restaurant. Apart from a group of young French and Dutch kids playing football and yelling until midnight, it was a pleasant first night.

Sunday 27 July (Day2)

This was the autoroute drive to Joinville, south east of Paris. I did the driving, which was broken up into three stages of about ninety minutes to two hours each. The first stop was for coffee, with the second for lunch, both at motorway services. It was during the second stage that the brake lights on my 109 failed. A quick check at the services showed that the wires were all in place, so later investigation would be required at the camp site.

The camp site was Forge St Marie, just to the east of Joinville. It’s a gorgeous site with its restaurant, bar, shop and heated pool set in antique rustic forge buildings. All the pitches have hedges around them to give plenty of privacy and prevent overcrowding. The kids had a second evening’s swim, after which I tended the 109.

The fault was very quickly found. It was simply a failed switch on the pedal box. Though I didn’t have any spares in my tool box, I had used brake light switches on the fuel tank selector valve cradles (to connect the selected tank to the quanitiy gauge) in place of the standard switches, partly for reasons of cost, and partly in case of this exact circumstance. I scavenged one of the four switches from the cradles, leaving the front right tank with no quantity indication, but quickly had the brake lights working properly again.

Monday 28 July (Day3)

Another three stage drive to Camping Col Porter at Bourg D”Oisans, near Grenoble. Initially just a simple motorway drive, the convoy got split in two due to extensive road works and heavy traffic during the second stage. Unfortunately, the later convoy half, including us, took a “wrong” turn at one junction and kept going towards Grenoble. It was only slightly longer than the planned route that the first half of the convoy were still on, but took no longer. After a lunch break in another service area, our four vehicles arrived at the camp site only five minutes after the other group.

This was another good camp site, though a bit busier than the others. We were able to relax a bit more, as were would be staying here for two nights, not just one.

I had a small job to do on the 109 here. While removing that switch from the fuel valve cradle, I had hit a fuel line union with the spanner and damaged it. This caused a small but steady leak through the return line of the front right tank as the fuel sloshed around inside. I ran a simple bypass to send all spill fuel to the rear (primary) tank. I was able to unload most of the vehicle’s contents into the tent for the next day’s off roading. At least I could take some comfort in not being the only driver with any vehicle issues – one of the others also had brake light trouble by now that would last for the rest of the trip, and they also ended up stripping one of their calipers to unsuccessfully cure a brake squeal.

Tuesday 29 July (Day 4)

A choice of rest day or off roading, the whole group chose to head into the mountains. Heading up to the track, we climbed well over a thousand feet up very steep, narrow and very winding tarmac roads, passing several villages on the way. It was passing through one such village that my next “moment” occured – the engine was running fairly warm, and all of a sudden I was in a thick, white, pungent, mobile cloud. By all accounts, it was fairly spectacular from outside. Thankfully, it happened no more than 50 feet from a junction where I’d be able to pull over and avoid blocking the road, and would be on level ground.

The fault was very simple. One of the plastic T-pieces in the coolant system, used to connect the vegoil heat exchanger to the heater matrix lines, had sheared in half. The repair was very quick – a bypass between the two engine pipes, eliminating the heat exchanger, heater matrix and Kenlowe Hotstart form the system. Unfortunatley, I aquired a couple of deep burns on my right forearm and hand whilst rigging the fix from firm contact with the very hot turbo charger elbow.

The 109 was repaired, refilled and running within ten minutes, with a little help from Paul and Carrick, and we continued the day’s driving. The first section of road nearly made my eyes pop out: we were to cross a ford, exiting a steep 15 foot shale and stone bank, to execute a full-lock right turn and continue up a ski piste at the Alp d’Huez resort. I reckon the piste must have averaged a 1:5 slope, with many steeper sections than that, with a lot of crossing ditches to boot.

We had lunch at the top, and I took the opportunity to get Helena to put a dressing on the burn on my arm. I now have a tan line form it! The descent was pretty steep too, with the engine racing in 1st low to keep the heat off my drum brakes. Then it was on to the next track.

This latter track wound up the side of a mountain and over the top, descending on the far side. If I recall correctly, we climbed to about 6,000 feet. It was a very hot day, and there had been no rain for a long time, so the dust was incredible – it was impossible to see the vehicle infront at times. The 109 was still running hot, though remaining stable below the red line. At a rest break near the top, while I had the bonnet open to help the engine cool a little, Carrick found a ridiculous problem – my fan was pushing air forward through the rad, not pulling backwards. The wires were connected black to earth and blue to the live feed, so an assembly fault was assumed, but later in the afternoon, I recalled how I’d had to remount the fan on its spindle when installed as the fan rotor was facing the wrong way. It transpires that while I had ordered a “puller” fan, and the fan I recieved had “puller” packaging and instructions, the fan was a “pusher” that had been mispackaged in the factory. A quick swap over on the fan’s electrical connections provided one hell of a draught in the engine bay and the end to all my temperature problems. One to look out for, for all those who are contemplating fitting electric fans to their vehicles.

The rest of the driving on that day went to plan, and the only other event was one of the other family’s having had a small tent fire while we were all up on the mountains. Thankfully, a lovely young Dutch couple camping opposite my tent (Harro and Crystel) had seen the initial smoke and dealt with it before any damage occurred.

Wednesday 30 July (Day 5)

Having packed up camp and loaded the vehicles, it was time to head to the camp site at Salbertrand, via the Sommellier galcier at an altitude of 10,500 feet.

got reverse back, but missed the coffeeOn the way to the glacier, shortly after leaving the camp site, I lost reverse gear. The exact symptoms made it clear that the fault was the stop bolt on the reverse inhibitor flap having moved out of adjustment, probably from the vibration during the previous day’s long engine-braking descents. A repair was conducted in the car park of a restaurant and cafe on the way, while the others stopped for coffee, by cutting the Wright Off Road footwell mat in two to remove it quickly, then removing the yellow gear stick knob and its plate on the side of the gear box tunnel. This gave access to the bolt and lock nut, and ten minutes later, we were ready to go again.

Going round a roundabout in Bardonecchia, just inside Italy, one of the Discovery IIs blew its rear air suspension. It let go with a bit of a bang and settled with its right rear bump stop pressed against the axle. We all stopped and had luch while arrangements were made for the required parts to be sent out to the Salbertrand camp site. The Land Rover dealers in the area were of absolutely no help at all, but Footloose 4×4 managed to get them on the way within hours, and they did arrive within the two days promised.

descending to the Italian borderclimbing to 10,500 feetat the topthe long way down again

The DII limped on to the campsite alone while the rest of us tackled the glacier. It was an amaing climb, with well over 60 hairpin bends to be negotiated, most requiring at least a three point turn. Some parts of the track towards the top were fairly narrow, with some occasional side slopes to boot. We stopped to let the kids play when we reached the snow line before continuing up. We spent about half an hour at the top to take in the view, get some photos and prepare for the descent. That was an even bigger challenge, as tackling the three (or seven) point turns with the bonnet pointing out into oblivion at that altitude can be unnerving, and combined with the tiredness from all the previous driving and mild hypoxia from the altitude, you know you have to be on your guard. It would have been a lot easier in a modern vehicle, but in a fully laden 109 with drum brakes and manual steering, it gave me a pretty good sense of achievement at the end.

We caught up with the lame Discovery at the camp site, where we set up for another two nights. This time, the only work I had to do was check the fluid levels, which were fine. The Corsa hire-car arrived to cover for the Discovery, and was duly adorned with one of James’ Land Rover Enthusiast stickers – the line at the bottom reads “Supporting Land Rover”, and seemed particlarly fitting.

Thursday 31 July (Day 6)

Another day of off roading, all bar one family (who needed a break for their kids) headed into the hills. We spent about seven hours driving, most of whish was on tracks and trails. One of the Defenders nearly had a roll while parking up for a break – they were turning tighlty on a slope and hit a small washout. Thankfully, they were fine.

Coming down the first mountain was rather interesting. There had been plenty of erosion damage, with washouts and land slips across the track, and the authorities were repairing some of the lower sections. Unfortunately, this left very little room between the sides of the track and the diggers, bulldozers and trucks. At one point, we were instructed that all passengers had to dismount and pass on foot, as there was just too much risk to let them stay in the vehicles as we edged past the obstructions. Crawling past with the diggers on the left, with only a couple of inches clearance, the tryes on the vehicles were only three or four inches from the cliff edge, with a drop of several hundered feet and then steep slopes continuing down for a couple of thousand feet. This was no place to get it wrong, and the washout in this section which cased the vehicles to lean out over the cliff didn’t inspire confidence. With some careful spotting and very cautious driving, we all got past without incident, but it did put us well behind schedule – we got back to the camp site at about 1900.

That was enough off roading for the day for most of us, especially as two of the Defenders had ended up with very hot brakes and one was suffering what appeared to be a hub oil seal failure. Thankfully, it was nothing more than the plastic hub cone having come off the drive flange, hidden by the alloy wheel – a common and simple problem on 300Tdi axles.

The Taylors and Furnells went out on the night drive, however, to have a look at Musollini’s sectret forts. They went with Peter and Carrick in their respective vehicles, and didn’t return until, 2300, very long overdue. They had gone up the mountain tracks and come across some land slides on a very narrow stretch. The track was so narrow that they had only two or three inches clearance over the width of the D3’s tyres, and trying to turn the vehicles around to return from the dead end took a great deal of time and effort, involving shunts that had the front wheels over the edge of the track. The whole group were clearly tired but riding an adrenaline high when they got back. The rest of us were just glad to have missed out on that particular adventure.

Around the midlle of the evening, Fraser arrived on his motorbike to video the rest of the trip. He’d just riden from Paris, so was glad for a break and a beer. He was equipped with a helmet mounted camera, with another aft pointing camera attched to the bike. We’re all looking forward to seeing the footage, especially of Hannibal’s trail and the Val D’Isere off road site.

Friday 1 August (Day 7)

on Hannibal\'s TrailWe left the Browns with their silver DII at the camp site to rendezvous at the next site in Bourg St Maurice (north of Val D’Isere) as they were still waiting for the delivery of their suspension parts and would not be able to do the Hannibal trail on the bump stops.

Hannibal\'s TrailWe climbed a thousand feet or so to the start of Hannibal’s trail, with all the vehicles fully loaded with all their camping kit. The trail was great – winding, with varied surfaces, overgrown in a few places – Peter had to do a spot of gardening to allow the vehicles to pass (he carries shears, branch croppers and a battery powered hedge trimmer in his Toyota). Some of the trail was very narrow; at one point we had to take a rock hit on one of the 109’s folding side steps beacause the right side of the body work was already only a couple of inches away from the trunks of some young trees growing out of the vertical face below the edge of the track. There were several eroded areas of the track, with rough gulleys and sloping land slides to cross. Some of those slips produced quite large side slopes, which can be a little exciting when fully loaded with a high centre of gravity, and a vertical drop of several hundred feet less than twelve inches away – the roof racks were very often overhanging the edges of the track in these instances.

Fraser had a bit of trouble going over some of the rougher spots on the bike, but apparently got some great video all the same. the vibration took it’s toll in his ignition system, though, and that took an hour over lunch for him and Carrick to fix.

Approaching Val D\'IsereAfter completing the trail, we headed over the Col De L’Isceran pass into France, and through Val D’Isere (stopping to book in for the off road site – you have to become a member of the Cub Des Aigles) and on to Bourg St Maurice.

After meeting up again with the limping DII and setting up camp, work got underway to repair the failed suspension. This had to be done on the boules pitch – the firmest and most level area on the site. It still wasn’t firm enough for the jacks or axle stands, which at least justified me bringing my new waffle boards and jack pad. Paul and Andy got stuck in, and there seemed to be an awful lot of “cooks in the kitchen”, so Helena and I headed into town for dinner (we can happily recommend La Chamarel).

The repairs were still under way when we returned, and night was falling, so we used the 109 with its head lights, roof lights and hand-held one-million candella lamp to provide sufficient illumination. The guys managed to complete the left side at about 2300, after a little more than three hours’ work. There had been several struggles, but the other side would be done in little more than half the time the following morning.

Saturday 2 August (Day 8 )

This was a well needed rest day, with activities pre-booked prior to the trip. There was a choice of white-water rafting in the morning (about half did this), horse riding in the afternoon (only our kids went) and paragliding in the evening (no-one took this one up). The kids enjoyed the riding, which was Rory’s first go and Thea’s third. I can’t say I was pleased with how the staff treated the horses (and with Maura having expressed similar concerns after taking Alice there a couple of days later, I think Peter will no longer be using that stable for organised events). The bar next door was real picture-postcard stuff, with 32 different types of hot chocolate!

Sunday 3 August (Day 9)

This was the off roading day at the Club Des Aigles venue. The climb up the track and dry ski pistes is a feat in itself, over two miles of sleep slopes covered in loose stone and shale. Once at the top, the off road site becomes visible. It’s a maze of tracks in a crucible on the top of the mountain, with numerous other mountains visible in the surrounding panorama, including Mont Blanc. I suppose it vaguely compares to Devil’s pit in Luton, but roughly ten times larger, at altitude, with a backdrop that looks like one from a Bond film.

On the way into the site, we had a go at the wooden see-saw. All of the vehicles were spinning their front wheels on the smooth, dusty wood beams, and some nearly slid off the side. The DII’s had the additional problem of their front spoilers. I was last to attempt it, and will smugly state that the 109 was the only vehicle that steadily chugged up on to the see-saw with no spins, slips or fuss what so ever, and nearly balanced the see-saw too, much to the surprise of everyone else. It was a very satifying moment, proving that this 36 year old was more capable in some areas than Solihull’s or Japan’s newest products.

a small part of the siteThen it was on to the tracks proper. It wasn’t long before my lack of training or off road experience, which had already been a big concern to me, showed up. Tackling a washout across a track, we ended up in an extreme lean, which Carrick later said he’d never seen a Land Rover reach without rolling over. Though I got it out alright, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and that I’d be pushing my luck if I continued driving the course. I tried to find the easiest route to the tent and barbeque area, driving out gently all the way.

After an excellent barbeque, salad and pasta lunch, Helen and I decided to head back to the camp site. We took the track back down the mountain, which was a little more nerve wracking than the climb, especially after our near-roll over. We were treated to an amazing sight of a light aircraft maneuvering tightly within the glacial cirque and landing on a very steep grass strip. There is no way I’d have ever imagined it possible to land anything other than a helicopter in there, but he did it twice. Incredible and mad, in equal measures. Having arrived back at the camp site in the late afternoon, we just took it easy until the others arrived back from their longer off roading foray. It transpired that I wasn’t the only one to have some interesting moments or close calls. Charity also had her first driving lesson on the site in Paul’s red 110, having turned 17 just before the trip.

Monday 4 August (Day 10)

Another rest day at Bour St Maurice. Having heard from Maura about the archery and other activities at Montalbert, just few miles to the north, we decided to spend the late morning and early afternoon there. We all had a go at the archery, and the kids went on the trampolines. Several others joined us by late morning, and we all had a big lunch in the sun. Apart from that, and helping Fraser fit the new rear indicator mounts to his bike (so that they would no longer be obscured by the paniers), ruining a brang new T shirt on its first use in the process, it was just a leisurely day of doing very little.

We all had a big barbeque and a great evening, made all the more fun for celebrating Bill’s twelfth birthday.

Tuesday 5 August (Day11)

We left Bourg St Maurice behind to head into Switzerland via the mountain passes and roads. We didn’t do any more off roading, but the Alpine roads were still challenging in the 109 with all the tight bends and steep slopes needing a lot of braking and steering effort, and causing a lot of body rolls around the bends. The others fared much better in their more modern vehicles, but we kept up.

BeaufortWe stopped for morning coffee and myrtle tarts at a road side cafe. I’ve never come across them before, but they lived up to Pete’s expansive adulation. We later stopped for lunch in Beaufort, which is a very picturesque town nestled into a tight valley. The third stretch was the final push into Geneva, which was an interesting drive through the busy streets of the city.

Thea and Lake LemanPutting the tent up again in the sweltering heat lead to a sense of humour failure, and Helena and I decided that we couldn’t face spending another hour setting up and another packing up in the morning for the remaining single-night stays on the way home; new tents were going to be needed. The camp site was pretty tightly packed, but was very clean and quiet. What was really amazing, though, is that it was right on the edge of the city and bordered Lake Leman – it even had its own slip way and pontoon. Most of the kids played in the lake or the outdoor pool for the afternoon. A couple of the older kids cut their feet quite nastily on the fixings of the pontoon, but were quickly patched up in time to appreciate the talents of the musical entertainer – he first murdered some German folk songs and pan-pipe music before mutilating The Beatles (I didn’t mind because I never liked the Beatles anyway). It was when he desecrated The Blues Brothers and The Rolling Stones that I stopped seeing the funny side…

Wednesday 6 August (Day 12)

This was just a sight seeing day. We caught the bus into Geneva and had a look around. The fountain is very impressive, and some of the piazzas with their open air restaurants and cafes are very pleasant, but the majority of the town, as cosmopolitan as it is, is just a collection of jewellers, designer label boutiques, chocolate shops and banks. It’s all very over-priced and a little dull. I suspect that the north side of the city, near the airport, is of more interest than the city centre.

We used the afternoon to head back into Annemasse, to the nearest Decathalon store, to buy a pair of Quecha pop-up tents. A horribly run down town with an even more confusing road system than Milton Keynes (and even harder to get out of), the job took a couple of hours more than it should have, but we got some good tents at a cheap price.

Thursday 7 August (Day 13)

After packing up, we headed up to Joinville in convoy to return to the site we’d used on the way down. It was a very uneventful drive except for the last few miles, where a sudden noise from the transmission made me suspect a UJ failure. With a quick conversation on the radios, we arranged to limp on at 50mph or less as this seemed to show no symptoms at all. Carrick stayed with us to keep an eye on things.

failed prop gaiterWe arrived only a few minutes after the rest of the group, and once we’d pitched the tents and the awning (which we had brought with us but not yet used) – a five minute rather than one hour job now (even in the rain that seemed to be a reliable fixture at this site) – I started to set about sorting out the 109. Carrick decided to have a quick look underneath while I removed the tool box, anticipating removing the front prop shaft and replacing the UJs. Carrick spotted the problem immediately – it was simply a shredded rubber gaiter over the long-travel slip joint of my custom QT Services front prop shaft. It needed to have a four inch slip joint because of the 1-Ton and parabolics suspension combination, and I’d used a ProComp damper gaiter to keep the slip joint clean. The gaiter had been pinched by the prop while off roading, and the high rpm on the autoroutes had caused it to desintegrate. The flailing shards had caused a little vibration, but once they were long enough to start flapping against the chassis, they had made a terrible noise. It was slit along the length of the two separated remaining sections and removed from the shaft, with no futher harm or symptoms.

The early finish on the vehicle allowed me to take the kids swimming after dinner, followed by a few drinks with Peter and Carrick.

Friday 8 August (Day 14)

This was a straigh trip to the St Omer camp site, and we were encouraged to make our own way if we wanted to do any shopping or deviations on the way. We were the second family to depart, though the rest went in convoy shortly after us.

To be honest, going alone on the autoroutes made things much easier and more relaxed – we were able to go at a steadier pace, instead of having to rush and overtake other traffic to maintain the convoy. The rest of the group kept catching us up at the rest stops; we had, purley by chance, stopped on both occasions where Peter had planned.

Despite having left about twenty minutes ahead of the others and not rushed any of the route, we arrived at the camp site about twenty minutes ahead too. It really was a much easier drive, though, and must have saved a lot of fuel buy having a steady 60mph plod instead of the speed surges of the convoy in heavy traffic and bad weather.

Once we were all there, Peter, Jo and Carrick had to say their goodbyes. Jo was making her way back home, while Peter and Carrick were off to Calais to meet the outbound Pyrenees tour group at the start of their trip. It was sickening to see Peter’s expedition preparation – he lifted his bonnet for the first time in the fortnight to check the fluid levels and filter… and that was it. Life must be very boring with a Toyota!

Our tents and awning were out even quicker this time – under three minutes – just before light rain started. Helena and I are really glad we took a punt on the Quecha tents; it makes a huge difference to the overall happiness of a trip if you’re not living in dread of pitching and packing up.

Rory finally got to use his cricket set, and Niel really did a great job of playing with Rory, despite his dislike of the sport. In spite the high spirits of the group, I don’t think I was the only one already feeling disappointed it was basically over.

Saturday 9 August (Day 15)

Well, this was it. The end of the trip. Paul and Amanda set off early to catch the 1000 crossing – they had a party to go to that evening, and had at least five hour’s driving after Dover. A couple of others were planning to catch the 1200 crossing, though we were all booked for the 1400.

Helena and I decided to make use of the morning by visiting one of the numerous WWII museums in the area. As well as the general ground and air war related history being particularly srong in the area, there is a lot of local historic involvement in the Resistance movements, concentration camp deportations, Operation Dynamo (the British Expeditionary Force evacuation from Dunkirk) and the V-weapons factories and launchers. The museums are excellent, with so much information and so many relics to draw upon. We visited La Coupoule (The Dome) museum near St Omer, and it’s well worth a visit – you could easily spend the whole whole day there, but we only had two hours. “The dome” is a concrete domed underground V2 factory, with supply, storage and barracks tunnels, and has a real V1 and V2 on display, along with many parts of downed RAF, USAAF and Luftwaffe aircraft, and fascinating exibits on local aspects of the war and the German concentration camp programme.

After leaving La Coupoule, we had to head straight for the ferry. The crossing was fairly smooth because of the boat’s stabilisers, but the kids loved the bow waves breaking over the bow. By the time we reached Dover, the weather had, naturally, dteriorated into fairly heavy rain. Pretty much a match for our feelings over the end of the trip.

The Aftermath

I have already managed to repair all the bits and pieces that failed or were damaged on the trip, except for the heater hoses that were bypassed, as I’m still waiting for the parts to arrive.

I’m considering the whole SVO venture a failure. Apart form the previous issues with engine coking and heavy breathing, the fuel and coolant systems have been made overly complicated and excessively vulnerable for an expedition vehicle, and though a saving of 50p per litre is not to be sniffed at, it’s not worth the cost of engine repairs in the UK and the increased chances of fuel or cooling system failure in the middle of nowhere. The tripple tank system is being kept, and the return line valves have been restored and tested, but the fuel heat exchanger will be removed shortly.

The engine and transmission ran well, though the engine did use about one pint of oil for every 500 miles (more when idling or on ver-run, less when under load). I think it’s the valve stemn seals, and have bought a full set of Gen Parts seals to replace the suspect ones.

A few realted issues that were a bit more prominent than expected were the steering, brakes and suspension. More specifically, the limited steering lock, steering kick form the UJs in 4wd, the worry about cooking the all-round drum brakes (didn’t happen, but I did tend to crawl down the mountains), and the amount of roll from the suspension going around fast corners fully laden.

The load weight will be a fair bit less next time, with the far lighter tents and knowing which bits of kit we didn’t need, helping with roll, but something needs to be done with that. CV joints in the front axle would stop the kick, and a CV jointed front axle would also have more steering lock.

I am considering fitting Defender axles towards the end of the trip, but while the rear axle would be a relatively simple fit, the front looks to be very difficult because of the different diff angle and the track rod location. It’s a shame, because they’d cure all the problems in one go (following a diff swap), and would allow the use of a rear anti-roll bar (with custom chassis brackets).

I’m also considering other options. Aftermarket disc brake conversions are not cheap, but compare favourably to sourcing, refurbishing and modifying scrap defender axles. Fitting SIIA Ambulance anti-roll bars would be expensive and difficult to source, and would require a lot of further work to move the radiator and accomodate the rear fuel tank, but the helper air spring kits from Matt Savage offer an alternative that would not only reduce roll, but also deal with load induced tail sagging, and would be adjustable according to load and road conditions by increasing or decreasing the air pressure. If I can find a Stage 1 V8 front axle, with its CV joints, then the whole package would be a simple and reliable solution…

Will we do more trips? Not next year, due to other priorities, but we have developped a taste for getting out there in the 109. We’re tentatively considering the Corsica trip in 2010…

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  1. Very envious of you Nick, the trip looked great. Cracking images too. Thanks for sharing it.


  2. Luke Vincent says:

    Excellant article Nick, very good read and makes me want to get out there.

    I had a prop gaitor split, and i can relate to the noise, sounds like transmission somewhere, mine caught hold of some wiring and promptly removed it for me..

    Glad it went well with only a few minior hick ups.

    Take Care

  3. Thought I’d better catch up with this after calling last night. In true Top Gear stylee, I was thinking “how hard could it be?”. Turns out, Very! Sounds like an epic trip, mate – cracking photos too.

    Oh, by the way, didn’t you once describe/berate the Discovery as not being a “proper Land Rover”? Just checking…? 😉

  4. A buddy encoraged me to look at this website, great post, fascinating read… keep up the nice work!

  5. Freddie Elwood says:

    I hardly ever comment on blogs. I did however really enjoy reading the main article. I will look over the rest of the this site. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for the comments.

    I did fit a 109 ambulance anti-roll bar to the back end, and it has improved things a great deal. I have also rebuilt and converted a 110 Salisbury axle, complete with disc brake conversion, and have a Discovery front axle awaiting conversion to sort out the steering lock and braking concerns. They’re all detailed on more recent posts.

    It’s funny reading through this diary again, reminding myself of some things that had been forgotten. It sounds like the 109 was a technical disaster area, but none of the faults were serious and were all quick fixes. The trip was a great shake-down. In fact, considering the whole vehicle and every mechanical assembly in it had been hand built and had been so extensively modified by an amateur, I think it held up extremely well.

    Unfortunately, we’re not doing the 2010 trip, though we did use the 109 for a camping holiday in France last year to great success and will be using it this year to take the kids and two new dogs to Wales. I still have plans for trips like Corsica, or maybe even Atlas’ Eastern Europe trip.

  7. i am really glad u rote this nick it really brings back memorys especially of the bbq on my birthday

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