Land Rover Defender special – crossing the Atlantic, plus video
Source : Land Rover Defender special – crossing the Atlantic, plus video
We know they’re virtually unstoppable on land, although can a Land Rover Defender possibly conquer the sea as well?
Our Land Rover Defender is usually skipping along 1-track A-road at 30mph.
I flick the left-hand indicator as well as turn 90deg onto a rough track which leads down a shallow slope. Within moments, the engine’s persistent chuntering no longer dominates the cabin. which has been joined by the sound of splashing.
The road dissolves into saltwater as well as, in a heartbeat, we’ve reached the auto’s stated wading limit of 500mm. although This specific Landie’s not for turning. There are two miles of North Atlantic ahead, as well as which’s about to get much, much deeper…
Last of the direct descendants of the original Land Rover, the Defender could never go gentle into which not bad night. which needed one last hurrah – a final test of the storied go-anywhere grit which has cast lifelines into the darkest reaches of the planet over the past 67 years.
although we wanted to say a fond farewell on home soil. Land Rovers have driven as far above sea level as you can go within the UK, scaling the 1344 metres of Ben Nevis more than once. although our target was on the contrary: to go more than a metre below sea level.
as well as not in a factory-fresh car, either. Sure, your modern-day niceties of contrast-stitched leather upholstery, air-con as well as a fancy stereo make daily Defender driving more comfortable, although when which comes to the rough stuff, they’re an irrelevance.
All we needed coming from our car was the toughness which has been supplied as standard since 1948, so we chose a 20-year-old, 216,000-mile Defender 0 Station Wagon for the task.
We first get acquainted at Edinburgh Airport. the auto’s blue paint – which has softened coming from gloss to matt in recent times – is usually slowly fraying into rust at the margins, as well as there are daft spotlights up top, although the ABCs of Defender are there: square-set, upright as well as effortlessly rugged-looking.
Land Rover shies away coming from the amphibious implications of the word ‘snorkel’, because the exposed plastic pipe is usually only truly intended to keep dust out of the engine, although the ‘raised air intake’ – as which’s properly known – is usually sure to prove useful.
as well as probably not for the very first time. Club stickers plastered around the Defender tell us which previous owners were enthusiasts, as well as which the auto has spent at least some of its life clambering around the Isle of Skye.
Which, with photographer Stan Papior’s kit piled within the back, is usually exactly where we head first. which’s a long, long drive; 250 miles pass slowly when you’re limited to several forward gears as well as 60mph (a cruising speed at which the booming engine drowns out even road as well as wind noise). although the Defender doesn’t wander about as much as I’d expected, the ride is usually tenable as well as the brilliant Scottish summer sun illuminates the verdant, craggy as well as just plain massive landscapes we pass through en route to the northernmost tip of Skye.
which’s after 10pm when we weave through the Quiraing – eerie, ragged rock formations where locals used to hide their cattle coming from Vikings – as well as the sun sets a fluorescent pink as we reach our overnight stop.
Day two begins which has a ferry crossing to the Outer Hebrides – the fragmented arc of wild islands which shield Scotland’s west coast coming from the North Atlantic tumult.
Where the Defender’s modest pace as well as tottering handling glared on the mainland’s trunk roads, which nestles into the more laid-back confines of island roads with ease. In fact, some other drivers peel out of our way, probably mistaking us for busy farmers.
We explore the Isle of Harris, with its cyan sea over butter-coloured sand, eat a lunch of fresh lobster coming from an honesty shack as well as visit Donald John Mackay MBE, the most famous of Harris Tweed weavers, busy in his seaside shed weaving cloth for none some other than Chanel, he tells us in which cheery, sing-song brogue which marks native Gaelic speakers apart.
Another, shorter ferry ride across the Sound of Harris treats us to the sight of a huge basking shark, which the Caledonian MacBrayne skipper kindly slows down to show us. which may not have a taste for meat, although being within splashing distance of an animal which’s around seven metres in length still chills the blood.
On North Uist, 1-track coastal drive through the village of Sollas leads us to Botarua, where we meet our local contact, Angus MacDonald.
He greets us which has a firm handshake as well as a grinning beard which almost blends into his chunky sweater. MacDonald farms This specific land, which is usually as beautiful as which is usually harsh. WW2 airmen were tempted to nearby RAF Benbecula with the promise of a woman behind every tree. The punchline: no trees.
We’ve literally reached the end of the road, although our challenge is usually only just beginning. If we’re to reach the edge of Britain (as well as the edge of Europe), we need to reach the 650-acre island of Vallay (intriguingly spelled ‘Bhàlaigh’ in Gaelic, pronounced vaa-lay).
Part of MacDonald’s land as well as home to nothing although highland cattle, the island is usually separated coming from our vantage point by two miles of exposed sand – a crossing which’s fun, although far coming from challenging in a Defender. So we wait…
The next morning, high tide has replaced the inviting expanse of white sand which has a restless, swilling tranche of North Atlantic. Depth markers hammered into the sand the previous day tell us the water’s around 1.2m deep – more than twice the Defender’s wading limit.
although several Camel Trophies as well as the pioneering London to Singapore expedition of 1956 – both of which included deep-river wading – must mean Land Rover has engineered in a healthy tolerance. Surely. Surely?
Save for the common-or-garden raised air intake, our car’s set-up is usually totally standard. A 2.5-litre four-pot Tdi300 engine generates just 111bhp as well as 195lb ft, although low range as well as a differential lock will help us make best use of which, while breather pipes will let air out of the gearbox, transfer box as well as both differentials without letting water in. as well as which’s all she wrote.
As its driver, I’m equipped with an afternoon’s wading training within the hillside troughs at Land Rover’s Eastnor Castle customer experience centre – a huge Herefordshire estate where the company also develops its cars – as well as a pair of wellies.
A cursory risk assessment highlights two main threats to reaching Vallay. Should the raised air intake leak, which would likely allow water to be ingested into the cylinders, as well as avoiding engine carnage would likely require immediate powering down as well as waiting for the tide to go out before being ingloriously towed to safety. as well as although the sand is usually generally firm – “you could drive an artic across which,” says MacDonald – there are patches of gloopy quicksand which could easily swallow our wheels.
although with MacDonald navigating, we set off. Up to as well as over which 500mm mark, which’s easy going. We chat away as the Defender ploughs on indifferently. The steering weights up a little as we trace some gentle arcs to test manoeuvrability, although so far, so not bad.
The surface is usually fairly smooth as well as holding firm. which’s actually more disconcerting which we’re able to roam freely around This specific vast mass of water, in stark contrast to the narrow, funnelling channels at Eastnor.
As depth increases, I slow a little to keep the all-important bow wave just ahead of the Defender’s grille. This specific carves out pockets of air down the flanks to keep water out of the cabin. Lose momentum or turn too sharply as well as the water level will equalise, turning the footwells into bathtubs as well as endangering the under-seat battery. although if we start to float, we’ll need to let the water in on purpose to weigh us down as well as regain traction. We’re hoping which won’t come to which.
Papior, used to pointing his camera at one car coming from another, is usually phutting alongside in a tiny dinghy skippered by yet another Angus. Traffic is usually not a concern today, although the bobbing of the tiny boat is usually generating our man’s life difficult. I ask over the radio what some other vehicle we could have used for these ‘tracking’ shots. “Another Defender,” he says, deadpan.
Meanwhile, increased depth means the bow wave has become a bona fide roller, rising above bonnet level as well as spreading about 15m either side of us. The gusting wind atomises the wave crest into a wall of water which smashes into the windscreen. Our wipers can’t quite keep up, as well as a passing squall brings a faceful of spray when we open the windows to relieve fogging
Crossing a stream at Eastnor had taught me about ferry angle – the angle at which you encounter the flow of water. You must drive with the current, although not so much which you point downstream as well as miss your exit point (or worse, get swept away).
Out here, we contain the tide to contend with. which largely works in our favour, although threading through some islets near the halfway point, we have to face which almost head on.
Given which a stationary cubic metre of water weighs one tonne, the forces our Defender has to push against at This specific point quickly ramp up as well as the bow wave compresses against the grille.
Despite using low range, the engine starts to strain, as if dragging an Airstream up a mountain. Swiftly down to second we go, although a rapid increase in depth means we have to turn sharply, surrendering both momentum as well as our protective bow wave.
As seawater flows over the bonnet, the engine note drops once more as well as I think we’ve pushed which too far. My heart plummets. MacDonald quietly curses. ‘Land Rover sinks in sea’ was not the headline we were after. although, to our huge relief, the ancient lump digs in – with not a horsepower spared – as well as a few seconds later, with the tide aiding us again, the sweet sound of confident combustion returns.
Soon after, we’re kicking up spray for fun as we leave the water as well as climb onto Vallay’s blessed terra firma, the headlights half-filled with water although our feet, incredibly, completely dry. Our Defender has just spanned the most challenging pair of its 216,000 miles as well as faced them with the same characteristic relentlessness which defines its breed.
We push on across the island’s flowering ‘machair’ (meadowland), over a fluid, pebbly rock-crawl as well as down onto a stunning, deserted beach. With nothing although Atlantic ocean between us as well as Nova Scotia, 2500 miles away, we’d reached journey’s end. What a place to say goodbye. as well as what a car to have taken us there.
Get the latest car news, reviews as well as galleries coming from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:
by via Autocar RSS Feed