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My wife, Connie Beadell, & I run commercial tag-a-long tours in what is known as the western deserts. This area comprises parts of South Australia, Northern Territory and a large chunk of Western Australia. We have been in business for 16 years and normally run 4-5 trips during the cooler months every year. The trips average about 3 weeks in length. The most famous of the tracks covered would be the Gunbarrel, Anne Beadell & Canning Stock Route. Below is a small map showing some of the roads we cover every year.
|We have had the same Land Rover Defender 130
for all of that time; 50+ trips.
|The "bomb road" network built by Len Beadell, the red line is the firing line for rockets from Woomera in S.A. This and more is our "office" & there are no bitumen roads.|
This is a brief report regarding the following subjects with our vehicle;
Our Land Rover was bought new in early 2005 and after a tray was built to suit our work the vehicle went on 3 tag-a-longs without vehicle suspension modification as it was thought that the standard suspension would handle the weight & conditions, we were wrong. (The vehicle was put over a weighbridge and was 3550 kgs when loaded at that time.)
The factory rear coil & helper coil could not handle the workload. Consequently the vehicle sagged in the rear and would hit the bump stops every so often. This result was a cracked chassis just behind the cab on both sides. The vehicle had less than 23,000kms on it at that time. Land Rover officially denied warranty on this problem, but privately admitted responsibility, wonderful.
Being an Aircraft Ground Engineer by trade and having a Boilermaker father I repaired the chassis with a weld repair, oversize 4mm doubler and a second smaller doubler I could see at a glance if anything was moving. This repair was done in early 2006 before our tag-a-long 2006 season began with 27,500 kms on the clock. Please see attached picture;
|Large 4mm doubler with another smaller doubler over the top, the white chalk mark is the location of the original crack. I have seen this same area crack on other Defenders.|
At the same time I fitted heavier rear coil springs hoping to stop the suspension bottoming on the bump stops. These heavier coils were a 50mm lift and the diameter of the "wire" was 21 mm. We have used the same coil size ever since with no ill effects. Please see the images below.
|Large thick aftermarket coil with standard inner helper.|
|Measured thickness of rear coil spring – these were fitted
new with the airbags in early 2009.
Before the 2009 tag-a-long season the rear coils were due for replacement due to sagging. I wanted to also replace the inside helper coil, but instead I opted for the airbag alternative. I just wanted to give them a go & hoped they would prolong the coil spring life & reduce some of the workload on the shock absorbers. The effects on the chassis & suspension mounts were unknown at the time of fitting. There are very few Defenders that have similar workloads to ours.
It is now mid-way through the 2021 season and the Defender has 493,500 kms on the clock. In engine hours it is the equivalent of over 1.5 Million kms with about 70% of that in the western deserts largely on un-maintained tracks bulldozed in the 1960s. There has been no cracking or breakage of the chassis or suspension mounts with the addition of the airbags in all that time. However I have replaced the rear springs themselves. Even with the airbags they do sag eventually and need renewing, but I can’t remember how many years it takes, quite a few.
|2005 @ 23,000 kms||None (standard suspension)||Chassis cracked|
|2006 @ 27,500 kms||Doublers over chassis crack||Still no movement @ 360,500 kms|
|2006 @ 28,000 kms||Heavy (50mm lift) coils fitted with standard inside helper coil||Good, main coils were replaced every couple of years as the sag was monitored|
|2009 @ 123,000 kms||Airbags fitted to rear coils||Good, no ill effects after 237,500 kms & the rear coils no longer sag|
I have had three Land Rover Defenders since 1995. My initial tray mounting included hard rubber washers between the vehicle mount & the tray. This was a complete disaster as working off-road while weight carrying I found the flexing allowed with "soft" mounting actually cracked the vehicle mounts on the 1993 Defender. Eventually after two lots of repair I hard mounted the tray and had no further trouble. Later model Defenders came out with stronger tray mounts and I have found these to be exceptional in all conditions as long as the tray is "hard" mounted. I have included images of our current tray mounting, this has been successful on two Defenders totalling more than 750,000 kms.
|Front tray mount utilising the mounting point
on the large cross member behind the cab.
|Rear tray mount utilising the heavier
stronger late model Defender mount.
I have had two trays on our current Beadell Tours Defender. The first was a pretty standard sized 6’x6’ tray which sat neatly on the 130 with only a small amount of overhang. Before the 2010 season I built a tray that was narrower and longer as I fabricated a bed in the roof of the canopy and so the tray had to be longer to fit my length of 6’. I made the tray a little lighter where I could but retained the same structural size & strength for the mounts & bearers. This new tray was fitted before the 2010 tag-a-long season at the odometer reading of 158,000 kms.
|Measuring tray overhang on the current gear.|
|The measurement read 1483mm approximately.|
Originally I was worried about the overhang causing structural problems, but with packing only lighter gear at the very rear most of the time in the last 11 years & 350,000 kms there has been no apparent effects because of the overhang.
In conclusion I would just like to say that our Land Rover Defender 130 works pretty hard for a living easily reaching its maximum GVM of 3500kgs. It works at this weight probably 70% of the time. My repairs & modifications may seem agricultural & minimal but I believe the saying "the proof is in the pudding" applies.
Copyright: June 2021
Mobile : 0408 841 447
Email : Beadell Tours
ABN : 40 947 959 130
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