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Driving Land Rover Forward Control Off Road

Off Road Advantages and Disadvantages

Driving Forward Control

Back in 1995 I was given a Land Rover Forward Control to drive as part of my job escorting and supporting trucks taking food relief into Southern Sudan. The roads and conditions were extremely poor to say the least. The trucks, although 6x6 ex military AEC, were having a problem off road getting through especially in the rainy season.

The Land Rover was a Series II Forward Control immediately christened Katie after the ambulance in ďIce Cold in AlexĒ.  She had started life as a fire tender, then went on to towing steam engines. When we got hold of Katie the back was just a normal pick up with a frame and tilt, which suited our needs. She was still fire engine red so a paint job was in order. After painting to the fleet colours, which was cream with zebra striped bumpers, she and I were put to work.

Although I had been driving Land Cruisers for the last 4 years I hadnít fully understood the importance of engaging and driving in 4wd. This was soon to change for, as anybody who has driven a series II Land Rover knows the half shafts are extremely delicate. 

After having broken two half shafts and having to repair them in remote areas I started to think about driving Katie in a way to avoid any further damage. It was also amazing that I could find half shafts, for I was carrying no spares at the time. I realised that you could find just about any second hand spare for series Land Rovers just about any where. On one occasion when I broke a half shaft we approached a trader who was using his Land Rover for transporting anything and everything to and from Uganda to what was then Zaire. After some negotiation he took out his half shaft. Yes, thatís right he took it off his vehicle and sold it to us. When asked what he would do in the event of getting stuck, for he was now traveling on the front axle only, he replied that his next cargo was human so that they could get out and push if required!! On seeing him about two months later I asked him how he had got on. He replied that he got to where he was going and that he found another shaft there.

By this time I had gotten used to Katie and had discovered the full potential of 4L the hard way.  I had slightly over loaded her on one occasion. I had a 15kva generator, a motorbike, 200lts of engine oil, 80lts of gearbox oil and other servicing materials for servicing the trucks in the field.  The route I was taking took us up quite steep hills and low range was definitely needed as I found out after burning the clutch out. Again changing a clutch in a forward control is not very easy when you are stuck in the bush! Lesson learnt. Katie had a 2.25 petrol engine fitted. Not the greatest for engine braking!! Coming down a steep hill in 1st H isnít very effective with such a load. So as the brakes started to fade I stopped and engaged L4 number one and low and behold came down a lot slower without having to use the brakes so much. Lesson learnt and without any remote bush repairs.

Another lesson learnt the hard way takes us back to half shafts. The ability to read the road or no road in some cases.  Looking ahead and planning the route over particularly uneven terrain enabled Katie and myself to keep the axles as level as possible, therefore, trying to eliminate the possibility of one or more wheels leaving the ground. By doing this combined with L4 made it possible to crawl slowly and in our case eliminate the risk of breaking more half shafts and springs.

Katie and I traveled together for about one year and it was from her that my love for Land Rovers and their abilities, when used correctly began.

One of our last jobs together was transporting some people from Northern Uganda to Southern Sudan. The organisation we were working for had to use Ssan Yyong Korandos as a stipulation for getting the funding. Unfortunately, these vehicles, which are a poor imitation of the Willyís Jeep, could not handle some of the roads. So Katieís and my services were called upon.

We found ourselves traveling through some very bad roads and fording rivers. Now, Katie was just plain standard and I was amazed and so were our passengers just at how much water we could go through. Being an electrician by trade I was already aware that electrics and water do not mix. I was already in the habit of carrying a tin of wd40 around from my days of driving Minis on a motorway in a rainstorm in the UK!  So armed with that, some silicon sealer and a tub of grease proceeded to waterproof the electrics BEFORE entering the water. Also checking the depth, which on one particular instance was just above the tyres. By taking it slowly in L4 and creating a slight bow wave we were able to keep the water around the vehicle at an acceptable limit. I had already seen the effects of water entering into the engine through the air filter on one of another organisation's trucks. Very expensive it was too!!

Katie was built in 1960, the same year that I was born and to my knowledge is still working at the same job in Northern Uganda /Southern Sudan. One day I should try and get her back to put her to more gentler work helping me teach others to correctly use their 4X4s.  

by Mick

 

Forward Control Off Road

Forward Control Land Rovers are very capable off road and ideal vehicles for overlanding. They have larger wheels 900x16 than a normal Landrover so their off road ability has some advantages but there are also a few disadvantages. For specification details of the vehicles have a look at Forward Control specs

Forward control off road in Malawi

Forward control off road in Namibia

The interior is very spacious and lends itself to fitting out with all the home comforts of beds, stove cupboards, fridge, toilet and shower. Tackleing the steep mountain passes here in Lesotho, this vehicle coped very well. The only downside being the hairpin bends that required a few multi point turns.

Forward Control interior

The wading depth of an FC is much greater than that of a standard vehicle. The bigger wheels and the higher mounting of the engine and body give a comfortable wading depth of more than a metre of water. Pictured here wading in the Okavango where deep water is often encountered. On the sand the FC also fares well due to the larger standard 900 x 16 tyres. Climbing dunes can however be very hair raising if tackled at any angle other than perpendicular. Pictured here leaving a beach campsite in the Transkei.

Forward control wading water Land Rover FC on sand

Getting stuck in a FC is not that common but when it happens you'd better have a lot of spare time or a lot of help or both. Stuck here in a marsh in the Transkei, it took a few hours of high lift jack work to get back on the road. Leaving the sand track in Botswana ended in a few hours of digging to get this one out.

Land Rover Forward Control stuck in mud

The height of the FC can be a problem when traveling on small forest tracks normally reserved for regular sized vehicles. This incident occurred on the Mapelane road on the Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast.

Land Rover Forward Control Specs
Overlander Forward Control

 

Accommodation

Overland Africa Camping Accommodation
Find and book here

 
Off Road Overland Bookshop

Overland Travel Books and Maps
...order online... 

 


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