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Landrover series 3 off road potential?


JB90
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Hi,

I am currently restoring a petrol 1983 landrover series 3 and am looking at purchasing another series 3 but diesel to go off roading in i am going to uni next year and am studying off road vehicle design and am looking for a cheap, capable off roader to drive. Restoring the current series has given me a vast knowledge on the running of the series vehicle and am wondering what the series is like off road.

I have looked at parts for them to try and better the performance off road and have also looked at disc brake conversions. I am looking for some help on how well they perform off road compared to say a defender? as there is no centre diff lock does this put series at a great disadvantage to defenders having only driven defenders off road so far i cannot compare as my current series as it is still in pieces.

Any comments will be a great help.

Cheers

Jack

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You don't say if it's a 109 or 88". I've owned 2 x 109's and used them both off road. Originally the only modification I did was bigger tyres (235/85/16). Later I fitted a winch, snorkel, parabolics, electric fan, spot lights, and changed the engine for a 2.5N/A Sherpa one, which didn't last very long smile.gif

Apart from the better engine of the later models, better suspension, and comfort - I would say that there's not all that much difference between the two.

Bits are sure cheaper for a series smile.gif

Les.

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.......... I am looking for some help on how well they perform off road compared to say a defender? as there is no centre diff lock does this put series at a great disadvantage to defenders having only driven defenders off road so far i cannot compare as my current series as it is still in pieces.

Any comments will be a great help.

Cheers

Jack

It doesn't need a difflock in the same way as a defender as when it is in 4WD it is the same as having the centre diff locked on the later permenant 4WD models. All Selectable 4WD type motors (Hilux, Suzuki, L200 etc all work in the same way as the series. I would be tempted to say that in many peoples hands it will perform better than a defender since many people I have been out with think of the difflock as somehing special to get you out of trouble and only use it when its already too late. This won't ever happen with a series truck. Stick an ARB difflock in the rear axle of the series to counter the limited articulation and it will be unstopable.

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Not sure if I am misunderstanding you, apologies if I am.

Series land rovers don't have a centre diff lock (they don't have a centre diff at all..which is why they have to be driven in 2WD on road) but they do have a transfer box lock which forces the front wheels and back wheels to turn at the same speed (which will do the same as a diff lock)

See this video from about 55 seconds on...

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A Series is about the same as a Defender all told, the Defender has longer travel suspension, disc brakes, PAS and a more powerful engine as standard. However, all of these things and more can be applied to a Series so it's all much of a muchness.

Ultimately the Defender was an update of the Series, so there's very little you can do with one that can't be done with the other.

My 109 does pretty well as an all-rounder, which is why I built it.

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i started with a S3 with a TD fitted was fine but after making a bit of a mess hitting a tree i went for a S3 2 1/4 petrol so much better off road as the power was there a lot quicker all i did was fit 235/85/16's and a bit of plastic behind the fan to stop it throwing water over the distributer and leads(worked well)

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Ok,

So a series looks like a good idea, will parabolics with new shock absorbers be alot better than standard suspension set up. And will the standard series petrol engine be as good as the series diesel engine off road, dealing with water and mud etc.

My current series is a 88" and so will the next one.

Jack

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I'm undecided on parabolic springs for generic use - springs have been a big problem for Series motors in the past few years. The availability of decent new springs dried up to the point of people recommending to re-use old original springs as they were still better than the new poor quality ones. :blink: Fortunately it looks like this is starting to change (at last).

My understanding is that parabolics can improve articulation as there is less metal to twist and rub compared to the design of a standard leaf spring. I think the best setup for ultimate leaf-sprung articulation is parabolics with revolver shackles.

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So,

Some research to do with people at work with parabolics and the one person with standard springs.

What can be done for extra lift as there dont seem to be any leafs offering a great amount of lift. Possibly lift the suspension mounts? with spacers maybe.

Also with the disc brake conversion would just front conversion be sufficient or both front and rear? and also any kit suggestion i have found one and am finding out prices.

Jack

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Parabolics often give a mild lift. Further to this the military 109 chassis have extended spring hangers and shackles (as do One Ton examples). For a big lift, you could consider putting the springs over the axle rather than them remaining underneath.

The problem with any lift however, is that it affects your centre of gravity. I would suggest you seriously consider whether or not it is worth the extra time and expense to go beyond the parabolic "lift".

As for disc brakes. I don't know much about these conversion kits. From what little I've gathered from people I know who have looked into it, it is very very expensive. It's something I've never felt would be a problem - but I tend not to have my 88 axle deep in mud or silt.

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An 88" is generally a very capable offroader in my experience. It has four major advantages over any defender: 1. being the weight, it's about 500 kilo's lighter which is a lot. 2. Being it's narrow axle width, though sometimes being a disadvantage, often it gives you better traction as you drive on the "edges" of the ruts that all the coilers make. 3. being a shorter and narrower body than, say a ninety, gives you more room in the ditches and especially in the woods. And the 4. being a lower centre of gravity due to the low mounted engine/trans.

Add a mild lift, some 900x16 tires, two lockers, some sort of PAS and some anti-wrap bars and you got yourself one h*** of an offroader!

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Jack,

This is all stuff that's been covered numerous times before - in the last month people have asked more than once about PAS and disc brakes and been pointed to good threads about fitting both as DIY projects.

I have to say, the best cheap & cheerful off-roader available currently is either Range Rover or Disco V8 because they are so common and so cheap (no-one wants the fuel bill). They have a good wheelbase, flexy suspension, PAS, discs, a powerful engine with a decent gearbox, comfy seats, working heater, etc.

However, they hit their limits faster as they have more bodywork to damage, weigh more, have a big arse, and have limited space for bigger tyres as standard. All can be overcome though, it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.

If you look at how people's trucks evolve - people either buy a RR/Disco and gradually make it more like a buggy, or buy a Series/Defender and try to add features from the RR/Disco such as a V8, PAS, discs, creature comforts, etc. so whichever end you come from, you end up in a very similar place.

All of this depends very much on what you want - do you want the character of a Series, a disposable mud-plugger, or the best offroader you can build for a given budget?

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I have looked through other threads that cover disc conversions and PAS systems, and they have been of help to help my decision. With fitting parts from other vehicles to a series chassis, what if any differentials will fit onto a series chassis to allow a diff to be fitted that already has disc's installed, and would just the swivel housing and disc brake mountings fit onto the standard series diff?

Jack

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I have looked through other threads that cover disc conversions and PAS systems, and they have been of help to help my decision. With fitting parts from other vehicles to a series chassis, what if any differentials will fit onto a series chassis to allow a diff to be fitted that already has disc's installed, and would just the swivel housing and disc brake mountings fit onto the standard series diff?

Jack

Jack,

You have much to learn :P

You mean axles, not differentials. Diffs are the middle bit that change the direction of drive and let you go round corners, axles are the whole assembly with a wheel on each end, etc. Just to confuse things, the Americans call the halfshafts "axles".

Axle swaps are a subject of great debate, anything can be made to fit but it's a question of time, money, and effort. Coiler axles (that is, Defender, Discovery, Range Rover) are close, and many have fitted them, but they bring a few issues - you need to either put leaf-spring mounts on them, or convert the Series to coil-springs (at which point you may as well have started with a Defender). The steering rods are in a different place, and the diffs are higher ratio. Anything can be changed, but again - time, money, effort.

Axles such as Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol are a good option - they are much stronger than Rover, usually have disc brakes, sometimes have locking diffs, and are not necessarily any harder to adapt to a vehicle than land Rover coiler axles. Ratios vary but are often more favourable such as 4.11:1.

A step further you have portal axles - Volvo C303 & Unimog being the popular choices. I run Volvo C303 axles with a disc brake conversion and frankly they're awesome. You gain ~5" ground clearance, difflocks in both axles, the gearing is dropped which helps keep good gear ratios on big tyres, and they're massively strong. 40" tyres are no problem. Volvos are not a lot heavier than normal Land Rover axles. Unimog axles are more easily & cheaply found but weigh as much as the moon and are trickier to fit.

As a comparison:

Left: Standard 110 on 7.50R16 (31") tyres (~30cm ground clearance under diff)

Middle: My 109 on 37" tyres & portals (~50cm ground clearance under diff)

Right: Unimog on ~44" tyres (Probably knocking on 70cm ground clearance!)

JU_not_so_big_now.jpg

Anyway, this subject could go on forever so if you have a target in mind (be it budgetary, capability, or whatever) then perhaps you could tell us so we can offer some more targeted advice.

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Well as i am a student budget will be the biggest limiting factor time i have plenty of during my 3 month holiday before uni, and not really limited by equipment with my dad owning a tube bending and welding company.

The series has about 20cm of clearance at the moment and i have looked at taller tyres so that will lift it a bit. Im not looking for a top end off roader just one that i can tackle off roading in. Would putting the leaf springs ontop of the axels help at all or just knock the centre of gravity out giving an unstable ride?

One other question what width tyres will i be able to turn without power steering?

Jack

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One other question what width tyres will i be able to turn without power steering?

Depends how strong you are and how much you're willing to risk the steering box going bang if you heave the wheel at standstill. Choice of tyres entirely depends on the terrain you're likely to encounter. I favour narrow skinny tyres, others like to go as monster-truck sized as possible.

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Well as i am a student budget will be the biggest limiting factor

OK, can you give a rough idea of your budget?

Im not looking for a top end off roader just one that i can tackle off roading in.

You can tackle off-roading very well in a bog standard Series, or Freelander, or anything else for that matter. A set of mud tyres will make the single biggest difference, 235/85R16 or similar is about as big as you want to go on a stock Series to avoid breakages and other issues.

Would putting the leaf springs ontop of the axels help at all or just knock the centre of gravity out giving an unstable ride?

This is called spring-over-axle (SOA) and is common in the states. It does bring other issues with it - propshaft lengths/angles, centre of gravity, spring wrap, steering joint angles, etc. and

One other question what width tyres will i be able to turn without power steering?

That very much depends - the size I quoted (235/85R16) you should be able to heft about without too much aggro, I ran my 109 on that size for a few years. I've driven a few thousand miles on 36-37" tyres (9.00R16 and 255/100R16) with no PAS and that certainly built the arm muscles up.

To be honest, if you're looking at PAS and disc brakes then you may just as well start off with a cheap Defender or Range Rover/Disco, if you old man can bend tube then you're probably better off taking a RR, ditching the bodywork and doing something like Nick's Rogue Vogue than you are trying to alter the oily bits of a Series.

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I think the biggest mistake that people new to off roading and landrovers make is to strap as many extras to their vehicles as they can.

Really, replacing axles/diffs etc won't make a whole load of difference to a vehicle that was designed to be driven off road in the first place. It is quite staggering what a simple 4wd system will tackle with no modification.

My advice would be to get a series, do nothing to it, and take it for a drive off road. Once you have an idea of what it is capable of in standard form, you can start changing bits to make the vehicle do what you want it to.

Too many people go strapping on big suspension/big tyres - ultimately because it is fashionable in the off roading world. Gentle off roading/green laning does not require this. Certainly I've been down green lanes in the landy I could have driven in my Volvo saloon.

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I have a 'stock' S3 Diesel 2.25 and the only upgrades it has are 7.50x16 tyres and its perfectly capable off road.

I'm currently changing the engine to a 200TDi only because the old lump is shot and I wanted something a little more modern - initially its going to be a 200Di, so power won't be up a huge amount on stock either.

So far ( :ph34r: ) I've never managed to get badly stuck when offroad. A couple of weeks ago I was down at Rockingham with the Cobley brothers playing in a D4 and Luke did say my S3 would manage their course with proper handling.

9 times out of 10, its the driver that makes the error and its not vehicle capability you should just consider ! You only need to look on Youtube to see what happens when a perfectly capable vehicle is driven by someone less capable....

Cheers

Pete

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Amen to James & Peter.

A friend once told me "You will never have more fun than your first off-roader, because the more you modify the less you have to think" and it's quite true. I took the Freelander marshalling and it was a hoot trying to get it round the site with skinny road tyres, no ground clearance and only front-wheel drive. Everything was a challenge, everything required more thought & skill to get through and you had to read the ground with a microscope.

Being stupid enough to have modified my 109 I find that, although the performance now is awesome (it's a far better truck than I am driver), everyone expects it to be awesome so you get people following you round hoping you'll get stuck so they can have a laugh. No-one is impressed by anything you do in it, because they (probably rightly) expect that it should be able to drive anything and it's just the idiot behind the wheel holding it back :unsure:

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Amen to James & Peter.

A friend once told me "You will never have more fun than your first off-roader, because the more you modify the less you have to think" and it's quite true.

by heck that is soooooo true,

You just need to look at some people who've never offroaded before and thrown a fist full of cash at some all singing all dancing flappy suspension 90 with lockers and cages etc and start entering challenge comps. My 3 year old can drive better than some of them. 'oh, theres a lump and some mud, pull the winch out!" :ph34r:

I bet if alot of those people were put into a standard leafer or 90 and told to drive an RTV they;d rack up a right cricket score!

There is (IMHO) no better way to learn to drive offroad than to start off with a standard motor and actually LEARN the skills of reading the ground and understanding the limits of the vehicle and the tricks to get past those. Then decide what you like and dont like and modify the vehicle to keep up with your own improving skills - not the other way round.

edited to add:- i started offroading in a standard long wheel base series 2a - i even trialled it for 2 years! :P certainly taught me a few things (like i needed strong arms!)

Edited by nicks90
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