Words by Matthew Scott
Images by Clark White
Trail driving in a Series Land Rover is an interesting experience to say the least...especially when you're out there with modern vehicles. The more "heritage" models require a bit of an oddball personality, and a significant amount of effort to keep up with the things newer models do with ease. Forget the plush luxury ride and wonderful air-conditioning the newer models offer, we're talking about simple things here, like not causing muscle aches, or allowing metric-tons of dust into the cabin. It's all part of the experience though, and a nice day out on the trail with some new friends during the 2012 Arizona Land Rover Rally made it all worth it.
Each day, there's several different trail options for the participants, from mild to wild, locked to stock, everyone is going to walk away happy. Each trail run is lead by one of the excellent trail leaders that the Arizona Land Rover Club trains and equips for the event—huge thanks to all of them. Considering that my 109 isn't meant to be extremely capable, and I was looking for a relaxing morning, we chose a short "easy" trail—though neither Clark or myself knew it would end up taking nearly all day...a day on the trail beats a day in the office, wait, this is my office!
Val, our trail leader, started the morning by going over some ground rules, she explained the imporance of convoy rules, where we'd be going, and what we could expect.
After the "drivers meeting" was over, we headed out on the road to get to the trail head. Don't you just love my organization?
Val and Mateo's 2004 Land Rover Discovery lead the way for the entire trail.
Val and Mateo instructed everyone on the benefits of lowering their tire pressures for a better ride off-highway.
Lowering your pressures helps your tire be more flexible, and provides additional "cushion" for rocks.
This is the first problem with a trail run in a Series, with no air-conditioning, you're forced to open all the vents and windows. After a while you can start to taste the difference in different dusts, this tasted "earthy."
A good portion of the trail travelled across wide open plains with volcanic soil,
Dust Update: Here the dust tasted like iron.
Here's my Series (affectionately named Ralph, he has his own facebook [link]) and it's actually ahead of people, which means either I was going fast, or they were being nice...
We'd stop occasionally to take a bathroom or snack break, occasionally we'd take a bathroom and snack break—those were the best!
The dust continues to assemble!
Dust Update: This dust tasted slightly more volcanic, rather than earthy.
A little under half way through the trail run, we began to have problems seeing out of the back—so much for those photos of Rover's behind me...
Then disaster struck, we started noticing a thump coming from the rear suspension, we signaled the group to pull over, a quick lesson I learned early on, if you think you have a problem, STOP! Always be sure to check out a problem befure it becomes an even larger issue. It turned out a suspension bushing had failed from the rough roads.
After a drink of water, I decided to play Nascar pitcrew. The shock was removed and the group was on their way...sorry for the incredibly white legs, I'm usually a jean enthusiast.
Dust Update: Getting close to the ground, I thought I would have been able to provide an accurate dust update, unfortunately, the gear oil smell underneath the car tainted my palatte.
After my Ralph's little fit, we encountered the first small obstacle of the event, Chris' LR3 had no issues what-so-ever.
While it wasn't difficult, I'm sure I had more fun in my Series than anyone else.
A P38 Range Rover joined us, it's great to see these out on the trail, I think they're great looking.
Needless to say, a modified 2004 Discovery had no issues.
We continued on, and I was determined to find some more difficult terrain—so much for that easy trail right?
This little optional challenge on the trail proves that the 109 will flex...kinda...
I almost became stuck, a quick repositioning of the tires and I was fine.
Chris, with his fancy electronics and air-conditioning had no problems, as usual. (Sarcasm)
Ralph heard the song "Shoulder Lean" and decided he wanted to get extreme.
Then his brakes boiled over, and built up pressure, we had to let some fluid out (which we properly cleaned up.)
Since the brakes had built up pressure, they were constantly engaged, low range made it difficult to tell the difference, so we cooled them off with a bit of water so we didn't hold up the group.
Someone had the lovely thought to nail an elk carcass to a tree! It made for a nice stop before the trail departed!
Finally hitting pavement after 6-7 hours on the trail, the group convoyed back to the Cottonwood Rally HQ.
I may have made a detour from the group. After a day spent on the trail with no power steering, no power brakes, one rear shock, and a lack of air conditioning, a cold beer was well deserved.
I find this image particularly attractive, nothing like a dirty vintage Land Rover!
There was dust, and some more dust, but it was attractive dust and complimented the paint well.