Land Rover Defender special – crossing the Atlantic
Source : Land Rover Defender special – crossing the Atlantic
We know they’re virtually unstoppable on land, however can a Land Rover Defender possibly conquer the sea as well?
The 2-millionth Land Rover Defender has been sold at auction for £400,000, as part of a celebration of the auto’s 67-year history. As we remember the Defender, here’s the time we took one used example further than the item was ever designed to go…
Crossing the Atlantic ocean (sort of) in a Defender
Our Land Rover Defender is usually skipping along 1-track A-road at 30mph.
I flick the left-hand indicator in addition to turn 90deg onto a rough track of which leads down a shallow slope. Within moments, the engine’s persistent chuntering no longer dominates the cabin. the item has been joined by the sound of splashing.
The road dissolves into saltwater in addition to, in a heartbeat, we’ve reached the auto’s stated wading limit of 500mm. however of which Landie’s not for turning. There are two miles of North Atlantic ahead, in addition to the item’s about to get much, much deeper…
Last of the direct descendants of the original Land Rover, the Defender could never go gentle into of which Great night. the item needed one last hurrah – a final test of the storied go-anywhere grit of which has cast lifelines into the darkest reaches of the planet over the past 67 years.
however we wanted to say a fond farewell on home soil. Land Rovers have driven as far above sea level as you can go inside UK, scaling the 1344 metres of Ben Nevis more than once. however our target was on the contrary: to go more than a metre below sea level.
in addition to not in a factory-fresh car, either. Sure, your modern-day niceties of contrast-stitched leather upholstery, air-con in addition to a fancy stereo make daily Defender driving more comfortable, however when the item comes to the rough stuff, they’re an irrelevance.
All we needed coming from our car was the toughness of 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 the past – is usually slowly fraying into rust at the margins, in addition to there are daft spotlights up top, however the ABCs of Defender are there: square-set, upright in addition to effortlessly rugged-looking.
Land Rover shies away coming from the amphibious implications of the word ‘snorkel’, because the exposed plastic pipe is usually only genuinely intended to keep dust out of the engine, however the ‘raised air intake’ – as the item’s properly known – is usually sure to prove useful.
in addition to probably not for the 1st time. Club stickers plastered around the Defender tell us of which previous owners were enthusiasts, in addition to of 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 inside back, is usually exactly where we head first. the item’s a long, long drive; 250 miles pass slowly when you’re limited to several forward gears in addition to 60mph (a cruising speed at which the booming engine drowns out even road in addition to wind noise). however the Defender doesn’t wander about as much as I’d expected, the ride is usually tenable in addition to the brilliant Scottish summer sun illuminates the verdant, craggy in addition to just plain massive landscapes we pass through en route to the northernmost tip of Skye.
the item’s after 10pm when we weave through the Quiraing – eerie, ragged rock formations where locals used to hide their cattle coming from Vikings – in addition to the sun sets a fluorescent pink as we reach our overnight stop.
Day two begins having a ferry crossing to the Outer Hebrides – the fragmented arc of wild islands of which shield Scotland’s west coast coming from the North Atlantic tumult.
Where the Defender’s modest pace in addition to tottering handling glared on the mainland’s trunk roads, the item nestles into the more laid-back confines of island roads with ease. In fact, various 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 in addition to visit Donald John Mackay MBE, the most famous of Harris Tweed weavers, busy in his seaside shed weaving cloth for none various other than Chanel, he tells us in of which cheery, sing-song brogue of 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. the item may not have a taste for meat, however being within splashing distance of an animal of 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 having a firm handshake in addition to a grinning beard of which almost blends into his chunky sweater. MacDonald farms of which land, which is usually as beautiful as the item 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, however our challenge is usually only just beginning. If we’re to reach the edge of Britain (in addition to 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 in addition to home to nothing however highland cattle, the island is usually separated coming from our vantage point by two miles of exposed sand – a crossing of which’s fun, however far coming from challenging in a Defender. So we wait…
The next morning, high tide has replaced the inviting expanse of white sand having 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.
however several Camel Trophies in addition to 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 in addition to 195lb ft, however low range in addition to a differential lock will help us make best use of the item, while breather pipes will let air out of the gearbox, transfer box in addition to both differentials without letting water in. in addition to of which’s all she wrote.
As its driver, I’m equipped with an afternoon’s wading training inside hillside troughs at Land Rover’s Eastnor Castle customer experience centre – a huge Herefordshire estate where the company also develops its cars – in addition to a pair of wellies.
A cursory risk assessment highlights two main threats to reaching Vallay. Should the raised air intake leak, the item could allow water to be ingested into the cylinders, in addition to avoiding engine carnage could require immediate powering down in addition to waiting for the tide to go out before being ingloriously towed to safety. in addition to although the sand is usually generally firm – “you could drive an artic across the item,” says MacDonald – there are patches of gloopy quicksand of which could easily swallow our wheels.
however with MacDonald navigating, we set off. Up to in addition to over of which 500mm mark, the item’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, however so far, so Great.
The surface is usually fairly smooth in addition to holding firm. the item’s actually more disconcerting of which we’re able to roam freely around of which 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. of which carves out pockets of air down the flanks to keep water out of the cabin. Lose momentum or turn too sharply in addition to the water level will equalise, turning the footwells into bathtubs in addition to endangering the under-seat battery. however if we start to float, we’ll need to let the water in on purpose to weigh us down in addition to regain traction. We’re hoping the item won’t come to of 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, however the bobbing of the tiny boat is usually generating our man’s life difficult. I ask over the radio what various 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 in addition to spreading about 15m either side of us. The gusting wind atomises the wave crest into a wall of water of which smashes into the windscreen. Our wipers can’t quite keep up, in addition to 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, however not so much of which you point downstream in addition to miss your exit point (or worse, get swept away).
Out here, we contain the tide to contend with. the item largely works in our favour, however threading through some islets near the halfway point, we have to face the item almost head on.
Given of which a stationary cubic metre of water weighs one tonne, the forces our Defender has to push against at of which point quickly ramp up in addition to 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, however a rapid increase in depth means we have to turn sharply, surrendering both momentum in addition to our protective bow wave.
As seawater flows over the bonnet, the engine note drops once more in addition to I think we’ve pushed the item too far. My heart plummets. MacDonald quietly curses. ‘Land Rover sinks in sea’ was not the headline we were after. however, to our huge relief, the ancient lump digs in – with not a horsepower spared – in addition to 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 in addition to climb onto Vallay’s blessed terra firma, the headlights half-filled with water however our feet, incredibly, completely dry. Our Defender has just spanned the most challenging pair of its 216,000 miles in addition to faced them with the same characteristic relentlessness of which defines its breed.
We push on across the island’s flowering ‘machair’ (meadowland), over a fluid, pebbly rock-crawl in addition to down onto a stunning, deserted beach. With nothing however Atlantic ocean between us in addition to Nova Scotia, 2500 miles away, we’d reached journey’s end. What a place to say goodbye. in addition to what a car to have taken us there.
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