Given our intentions,the length of the trip, plus the Nyika element we opted for a Defender 130, this gives cab seating for 5 plus a pickup back the same size as a 110 Hi-Cap so plenty of load space. The car was bought privately, the previous owner having installed several useful bits of kit which we have modified further and added too. Having read up as best we could (See appendix/useful info page for details etc) This seemed the best solution, the engine is a 300TDI simple in comparison with more modern vehicles and reputedly readily repairable. The only other choice would have been a landcruiser, ruled out because of an illogical liking for defenders, and the fact I had some knowledge of landrovers including their downsides.

The Bluebeast being prepped, new wheels/tyres next

The landy is generally known as the Bluebeast and is not the most nimble of machines – it struggles to turn in a bus turning circle at our local station so supermarket car parks take a bit of shunting. We bought it over a18 months ago with the idea of getting to know it and get through any issues inevitable in a car which is 20 years old. Late last year we went for a test run through France to Northern Spain spending a week in the Pyrenees with two of our daughters which proved quite useful.

Living where we do, I have reasonable experience of off road driving both on our land and the numerous  green lanes in South Devon – probably a regrettable statement, but our view is that we are not looking for trouble and while some people take great delight it trying more extreme routes etc, having got stuck in tractors, landrovers etc more times than I can count,discretion is now my more normal approach .

Vehicle Equipment

The vehicle came with a heavy duty full length Brownchurch roof rack, complete with roof tent,including lower screen/enclosure which fits to the underside of the tent which was all in very good condition. The vehicle had been  used by a local authority and a conservation organisation and came with an extremely comprehensive history file and this had been continued by the previous owner. He had fitted a new very powerful electric winch and dual batteries with a split charger. The rear tub was fitted with an aluminium Ivor Williams cover, wheels had been changed to flashier alloys from a discovery, which are not really rated for this load capacity. Given the fact we had both cab and rear tub we have plenty of space, which in turn influenced some of our decisions that may not have been possible in smaller vehicles. We made the decision to do as much as possible ourselves because of cost but also so we understood things better. I have to say that we were not impressed by many of the suppliers, dealers etc contacted,although it was obvious that we had money to spend,service was at best poor and in some cases appalling with us chasing several times to simply purchase items.Various landrover mags provided the occasional useful piece of advice, but it is my view that they generally seem to be geared up for puffing up their various advertisers equipment and getting freebies installed than offering a serious critical objective view of equipment which would assist general punters.The various forums were a much better source of information.

Trying out the toys when" new"


Shelving sized for " Really Useful Boxes " (clear), homemade fridge slide using commercial HD runners, water treatment with clean tap and " Dirty" shower,pressure drop pump to rear


  • Roofrack – Brownchurch full length with ladders to both sides.I fitted marine ply deck to forward area and have made an aluminium locker for lightweight secure storage. Spare wheel mounted on threaded bar drilled for padlock. Hi lift jack secures to side above drivers door again padlocked. Four spots fitted by previous owner to front rewired/switched in pairs. Likewise two work lights independently switched from cab were fitted to rear. These are useful for reversing in tricky areas as well given the poor rear vision/output from standard reversing lights let alone the usual cab reflections from the straight glass you get in landrovers
  • Bonnet – Fitted with chequer plate to bonnet and wings by previous owner. Two spots by previous owner attached to bull bar
  • Wheels – new ” steel “wolf” heavy duty with new extra wide flexible spats
  • Doors – new suited security locks (van type),homemade mesh panels to rear doors. This was the best solution other than padlocks we could come up with. The long type deadbolts mentioned on some earlier website are no longer available despite what I understand is quite a demand according to various ironmongers I contacted.
  • Protection – A front sump guard and diff guard was already fitted along with HD rocksliders/ tree guards and front and rear light guards,I added a rear diff guard.
  • Winch – The previous owner had fitted a heavy duty bumper and winch which I wired so it could also be operated from the cab.
  • Rear Tub– I fitted this out with two 120 litre tanks well strapped/ secured. One as a back up diesel tank connected to existing main tank via the breather and turned on off via a manual valve as required, to top up main tank, as its higher this works by gravity – no pumps etc to go wrong. The water tank arguably bigger than needed, was installed with the Nyika leg in mind this is connected to a pump with flow switch, the power to this is in the cab.A small hand held shower spray is attached with enough hose to enable external showers albeit cold. Off this is also a ceramic filter which is supposed to remove all known bugs etc – this provides portable water from the main tank. Both tanks have new separate fillers.The rear area is racked out with steel dexion/ply shelves to support various storage boxes etc. I made a heavy duty fridge slide and covered the rear tailgate with stainless with two fold out flaps to provide a cooker base and washing up area to complete the basic kitchen. The lift up tailgate was fitted with 2 HD lifting rams and a custom made swing down kitchen cupboard which stores day to day bits and pieces etc. Rear secured by HD stainless lock

    Drop down kitchen for immediate use, tanks with shelf over at rear

    Shelving sized for"really useful boxes" clear, homemade fridge slide using commercial HD runners, water treatment with clean tap, pump to rear

  • Cab – We decided that as we would be spending so long we would treat ourselves to better seats so fitted a pair of top quality seats from Exmoor trim -very comfy they are too but really just better upholstered Landy seats with the usual limitations  in respect of leg movement, no recline. Again because of the time factor I stripped out the interior and fitted acoustic foam to in the interior including roof, we then fitted new heavy duty floor mats/ linings.We fitted a secure cubby box and a “Mud” console to take extra switches radio/cd player which is a bluetooth version to play music from the laptop.Rear seats are removed although we may take one ,decision yet to be made. I divided the rear storage area beneath the rear seats and fitted lockable lids providing some further secure strorage. There is a good sized inverter fitted to the back of the cubby box for mains type devices. I also fitted a directlink to batteries using a HD anderson connector which enables the electric air pump and battery jump leads to be connected simply by plugging in. Additional LED internal lights were supplied including a cheap LED conversion to the existing cab light which uses the existing bulb connectors, it was only a few quid so if it fails its back to bulb no problems. Two new  Gell type dual type batteries were fitted, charged using the existing split charger. Various power points were fitted throughout cab and rear tub with some spare ways in case we need them
  • Engine & Running gear – Having got the car in good time we have hopefully ironed out most problems. First was front wheel bearing failure not long after purchase -easy fix. We had a problem with the cylinder head – apparently a” standard” defect after certain mileage so that’s one ticked off, this allowed inspection of the bores etc which were all good. The clutch was renewed after our return from France, this allowed an inspection of gearbox which was pronounced sound. Prop shafts diffs etc had all been replaced by previous owner and were without any play. I replaced the alternator with a newer 100amp version given the two batteries, winch etc, the original will be a spare. I also fitted a larger inter-cooler and new turbo hoses not expecting too much but was quite surprised at the difference it made, which is definitely a good improvement and most noticeable when cruising on a dual carriageway. Suspension springs were upgraded to HD ( 10% stiffer progressive type) and we splashed out on expensive adjustable Koni Raid shocks and new bushes all of which have “transformed” the handling as the motor mags say. I also fitted adjustable air helper bags to the rear springs to help stiffen up the rear end when fully loaded the pressure of these can be quickley adjusted via two normal air valves and using th electric pump takes seconds. You can get all sorts of on board dials etc cab controls my though it why? On this sort oftrip your load is not going to change for much of the journey if at all. Therefore once set up there should be no point in fiddling, even if you have to/ think you should try a different setting now and then its not a major hardship to connect an airline
  • Spares – List is included on the Info page. Our thoughts were influenced to some extent that in addition to travelling we would be based quite far from garages etc whilst at Nyika for some considerable time.


 Other Equipment

A full list is attached in info pages. The roof tent was a good start. we use large  Coleman sleeping bags with liners which proved OK on our France trip, in terms of suppliers we found Coleman and Gelert stuff to be practical and well made. We added a Queucha pop up tent – ventilated version – which goes up in seconds. The Coleman unleaded twin burner stove seems to work well, early versions seem to have had a problem running on unleaded rather than the special fuel, I can only assume this has been corrected as ours is fine.

We took a long look at fridges and the considered opinion was, it had to be an  Engel . The price of these seemed ridiculous to us and its clear the market has changed/ improved in recent years. We went for a Waeco 50l with dual adjustable compartments which we felt would best suit our needs, and performed excellently on our trip to France/Spain.

In lieu of the generally recommended “wolf” boxes we went for those from the Really Useful Box Co, transparent, in a variety of sizes and with a bit of thought, they enable almost full storage in sealed boxes.

We opted  for a cast iron “potjie” for fire cooking and I made up a fire grill/ BBQ support which fits over the spare wheel securing it, in the well of the spare wheel ,with stow ropes, recovery shackles etc etc.

Awnings seem to cost a ridiculous amount of money. We use the Queucha  fly sheet which comes with two poles and is excellent value for £25 approx. We adapted this with a few sewn on loops to two edges and it fits easily to roof rack either along sides or across the back as an awning. I also have a HD ex army tent section which has eyelets enabling its use as both ground sheet and awning which is stowed in roof box.

We added two HD grp waffle boards again with Nykia in mind which can be used for bridging as well. Surprisingly heavy in the size we have. I hope to configure the fixings to enable them to be bolted over front cab windows if need be to provide extra security if parked up.I also found a combination padlock with a secure compartment which I intend to use to store spare keys somewhere under the vehicle in the event of loss.

In all cases the Internet was indispensable in buying stuff, keep your eyes open and you can find big discounts. we found prices vary hugely so its worth shopping around, waiting for sales etc


We decided to have the full vaccinations given the time we will be spending away, which involved several trips to our local surgery.We found there appears to be a problem worldwide with the supply of Rabies vaccine so book early, the same goes for one or two others and the timescale is such, that you need to apply in advance. Don’t forget to budget for this either, as some are very expensive.

With regard to malaria we are going with Doxycycline, We tried  the expensive Malarone previously and did not get on too well with it, also you can only take it for a shortish period.However,it might be worth taking a small amount as a possible treatment ,rather than a preventative  if far away from medical help and you suspect malaria.


2 thoughts on “VEHICLE & EQUIPMENT

  1. The bluebeast looks sooooo cool! You seem fully equipped! The tent on the roof with the ladder and awning is an especially cool idea. Good luck on the trip!

  2. hi Mike and Emma
    concerning malaria, as I used to work with MSF, I will give you some indication
    – prevention ok for “doxy”
    – for diagnostic, MSF is using “paracheck” or an other item (forgot the name), no need of microscope, a plastic blade working like a pregnancy or diabet check gibing the result in 10 mn
    – treatment : “artesunate” (some extract of chinese cucumber) made by Sanofy (or an other one now), caring in 12 h
    MSF is not suppose to distribute these item to private person out of hospital but with a big smile you probably can convince the Head of Mission to give you this items for your health in remote places or go and buy them from the hospital or health Center MSF supports