With only a short time frame in which to build it, we had completed Pangaea Expeditions new flagship vehicle. The truck performed admirably on the expedition to La Ruta Maya. In all, the truck carried four people and all of their gear, plus a full set of spares, tools and an Engel fridge full of margaritas from Colorado to Belize and back with a broken antennae as the only casualty of the trip.
Upon returning home to Colorado, we barely had time to unpack Camel before it was time to head out for another adventure, a trip to Ouray, CO for the Land Rover National Rally.
Once back in Denver, we began a new round of modifications to Camel. The focus of this second round of modifications was to protect the vehicle in the rugged off-road conditions that it would regularly encounter in the high mountain trails of Colorado and slickrock trails around Moab, Utah. A set of Desert Rovers (a now defunct off-road accessory company) rock sliders were installed to protect the vulnerable doors. Safari Gard diff guards were installed on both the front and rear axles to protect the thin metal differential housings found on Land Rovers. The fragile stock tie rod was replaced with a Rover Tracks heavy duty tie rod, while the steering damper was relocated from its vulnerable stock position to a more protected position via a Rover Tracks steering damper relocation kit. In addition, Rock Ware heavy duty trailing arms were installed, while a set of stainless steel extended brake lines and extended breather tubes were fitted to the vehicle to help cope with grueling trail conditions.
A number of comfort items were added to the vehicle for long expeditions. Discovery Series I cup holders are woefully inadequate. A set of Disco II cup holders were installed, allowing real-world size beverages and water bottles to be stored in the vehicle without blocking controls to the air conditioning and the radio.
During a fall outing in Moab, one of the alloy rims was bent beyond repair, so the decision was made to change the wheels over to steel wheels. We chose 16×5.5 Genuine Land Rover steel wheels to keep the tires tucked in the wheel wells.
Around this time, the ZF auto box was beginning to cause problems, so it was replaced with a new transmission. For extended expedition and camping use, a Hannibal 1.2 meter roof top tent was mounted on the Safety Devices roof rack.
With a roof top tent in place, the vehicle maintained its configuration with only minor tweaks until the winter of 2004/05, when it was taken back into the shop for another extensive round of refinements.
In this last, most extensive set of changes, it was decided that keeping true to the Camel Trophy replica concept was no longer a priority. Since the vehicle was a working expedition truck, all future modification decisions would be made with functionality and reliability in mind. The underpowered factory 3.9L V8 was getting long in the tooth. It was replaced with a tuned 4.6L V8 engine pulled out of a low mileage Disco II. Since both engines share the same basic short block design, the 3.9L front cover was retained allowing the vehicle to keep the 1995 distributor ignition. We favored this set up over the later distributorless ignition and electrical systems for its simplicity and ease of field repair. To further boost performance, the 4.6 block had a high performance cam installed. Exhaust duties were handled via a stainless steel NRP exhaust y-pipe mated to a custom high performance exhaust system. The ECU was also given a new computer chip for a further horsepower boost.
The 4.6 engine swap was a very worthwhile modification and with it in place, the truck drove the amount of horsepower that it SHOULD have come with from the factory. With the new engine installed, the truck was capable of maintaining 70 mph on highway while going over even the steepest mountain passes, where the old 3.9 would struggle to maintain 50 mph at high altitude.
When four wheeling, there is a frequent need for on-board air for tasks such as airing up tires. Instead of a barely adequate air compressor, we installed a PowerTank CO2 compressed air system. This system has the advantage of not only being able to quickly air up all four tires, but it can also run pneumatic tools with ease on the trail… a huge advantage for quick on-trail repairs.
Prior to this, airing down the tires had always been done with an old fashioned air gauge. While not a bad way to air down, it is limiting. You can only air down one tire at a time, and you must keep checking the tires for equal pressure. We decided to pick up a set of Staun tire deflators. These deflators are calibrated to a certain tire pressure. Once set, they stop deflating when the tire reaches the correct pressure, every time. We also added a set of no-loss tire caps as well, to further add convenience.
With the additional weight that we added to the vehicle through a roof rack and roof top tent, we decided to upgrade the suspension system to a more heavy duty set up. In the front, the 751 springs were ditched in favor of the heavy duty diesel springs OME 767s. These springs have a much higher compression rate than 751s, but also lifted the front end of the truck an additional 1.25 inches, giving the truck almost a 3″ lift overall. In the rear, we installed OME 763 heavy duty constant load springs, but put an additional 1″ spacer underneath them. The net result of this new suspension was a much firmer ride that was better equipped to handle heavy expedition loads, while also providing additional ground clearance off road. During the installation, the shocks were also refreshed, with new N44s and N115s installed at all four corners. In order to prevent drive line vibrations with the new lift, a set of custom CV driveshafts were fabricated and installed.
Although we absolutely loved sleeping in a roof top tent, I wasn’t wild about the way that the tent was mounted to the roof rack of the vehicle. So as not to damage or cut up the rare and valuable Safety Devices Expedition rack, we had mounted the tent across the top roof rails, causing the tent to sit almost a foot higher than it might have. To rectify this, we removed the Expedition rack and replaced it with a custom fabricted roof rack. This new rack had similar aesthetics to the Safety Devices rack (round tube, matched the body lines, 4 light housings up front), but it had a number of features integrated that we considered improvements. The first was that the rack was widened to accommodate the mounting of a roof top tent on the floor of the rack. Second, the back railing of the rack was left open, to allow the roof top tent to fold open. The third improvement was that we changed the mounting system from a series of feet, to a full length rain gutter mount. This design, borrowed in concept from the Hannibal roof racks, allows for a more even weight distribution across the full length of the roof rails and their corresponding chassis pillars, adding greater rack support.
With the new rack installed, we also upgraded the roof tent. Prior to this, the truck had an early prototype Hannibal roof top tent. We replaced it with a brand new Eezi-Awn Series 2 1200 roof top tent, considered by many to be the creme de la creme of roof top tent brands.
For additional functionality, we also added a shower curtain to the roof top tent. This useful addition served as a private shower room, changing room, or simply a place to do some modest cooking in bad weather.
For further camping convenience, we mounted a Hannibal 5′ awning to the side of the roof rack. We firmly believe this awning is the best awning currently commercially available for off road vehicle applications. It’s unique self supporting arms allow for a quick set up without the need for poles or tension wires.This design allows it to be set up quickly and easily, making it an ideal shelter during lunch stops as well as at evening campsites.
On the front of the roof rack, we mounted a set of 4 Hella 300FF cat’s eye lights. These elliptical lights feature Hella’s new FF technology, a new light reflection pattern that allows for cleaner more accurate light projection with less stray light scatter. The cats eye patterns also allow the light to be projected over a wider pattern, providing improved side illumination during nighttime driving conditions.
During the same time as all of these other modifications, we also revisited the front winch bumper system. While the ARB Bumper was a more than adequate bumper for the task at hand, we wanted to have a front bumper system that shared some of the styling cues of the original Camel Trophy Discovery bumpers. Unfortunately, the original manufacturers of these bumpers, Mantec UK, no longer made them, so we went down the custom route. With the help of Keith at Rover Tracks, we fabricated a custom bumper with all of the functionality and protection of a modern winch bumper, but with some of the aesthetics of the Camel Trophy bumper. Pieces for the new bumper were painstakingly hand cut and the tube was all hand bent for exact dimensions. We also added tabs to the brush guard for limb risers (corresponding tabs were added to the roof rack also). A set of Dixon Bates towing jaws were mounted to the bumper for front recovery points.
To help illuminate the road during nighttime driving, light tabs were added which allowed space to mount a pair of Hella 4000FFs. We installed a pair of eurobeam pattern lights, which project light a considerable distance ahead, adding to driving safety after dusk.
We then added a new organizational system to the back of the truck based around the African Outback Roller Drawer system. This high-quality unit features a pair of lockable stainless steel roller drawers, along with side storage areas for organizing gear in the back of the truck.At this time, we also moved the location of the Engel fridge from the rear cargo area to directly behind the drivers seat. This required removing the smaller section of the 60/40 rear seat split, but the fit was uncanny. The area was a perfect fit for the fridge, with just enough room in front of the fridge for a 20L Scepter Military Water Can. Now, all of the cooking and cleaning could be done at the campsite under the shelter of an awning, with food and water just an arms reach away.
The factory trim was removed from the rear door and replaced with a plate of 5-bar diamond plating with a black finish. In addition to giving the cargo area a more custom look, it also allowed for the removal of the rear door tray and door-mounted sub woofer, allowing for more storage in the back of the truck.
After a few years of heavy use, the hood blackout sticker was beginning to show some signs of wear. It had begun to crack, dry out, and chip off along the edges. Instead of replacing it with another sticker, we pulled the old one off and decided to paint it instead. After some extensive prep work, we masked and painted it using high temperature ultra flat black paint.
Our last modification in this extensive round was to install a laptop mounting system. After years of taking a laptop along with us, but running it out of a Pelican case, we found a better solution. We installed a Jotto Desk articulating laptop mounting system, which allows an easy, convenient way to mount a laptop that is accessible to the driver.
With this final set of modifications complete we were finally ready tosit back and enjoy the truck. The vehicle had been accessorized with a combination of off-the-shelf parts and custom fabricated equipment to address the admittedly few shortcomings of the Discovery I platform.
The truck was finally an eye catching, world-class expedition vehicle capable of exploring the far corners of the world in comfort and style.