Your Land Rovers
With his well-prepped Range Rover Sport, James Sandison has the perfect vehicle for exploring the whole of Australia
A well-prepared Range Rover Sport makes the perfect outback explorer
When you grow up in Australia, chances are you will either be a Ford or Holden man. The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore were Australian home-grown heroes and every Aussie kid growing up wanted a V8 they saw racing at Bathurst on the TV. This led me to own a string of V8 and Turbo I6 Falcon Utes (two-door pick-ups unique to Australia). These are great for a young couple but no good for transporting children. It was just before Christmas 2016 when we got the news that we had a ‘young bloke’ on the way, so I had to start thinking about something a bit more practical with a minimum of five seats.
My Scottish old man has always been into his Land Rovers, with a 300Tdi Discovery and P38 at home. I suppose that had something to do with my decision, but I had always looked at the Sports, anyhow. The Sport is essentially just a dressed-up Discovery, and I always wondered why people weren’t kitting them out for the bush!
When I started looking I had set myself a budget of AUD$30,000 (around £17,000) to buy, modify and register what would have to be my daily driver, tow rig and bush basher! I had the vision to create an off-road-capable Range Rover Sport on a budget. This has been difficult due to the lack of aftermarket parts available, but I’ve been able to adapt bits and pieces to suit – which has allowed me to keep costs to a minimum. This is a unique car in my area, and I’m glad to have something a bit different to your run-of-themill Toyota or Nissan.
I bought my 2007 TDV8 Sport in June 2017 from a retired gentleman in Melbourne. He truly could not believe that I had plans to take the car off-road and genuinely wasn’t aware the car had low range gearing or how to use it. I don’t think the car had ever seen gravel roads either. In Victoria, we call luxury SUVS that never leave the pavement ‘Toorak Tractors’, Toorak being a highend, super expensive suburb of Melbourne. Mine was certainly a Toorak Tractor! I ended up getting the car for the right price and am well on track to finish the mods list and stay under my budget.
To keep costs to a minimum I’ve completed all the work myself and adapted generic items to suit my application. I started with a mandatory bull-bar. I used one made by Opposite Lock for Discovery 4s – it fits right in, only leaving a small gap at the top. I wanted this to house a 12,000lb winch. The snorkel is a Disco 4 item that fitted easily too. Next was a roof basket (it’s a Nissan Patrol one I modified with custom built stainless roof rails, but don’t tell!). I’ve added some lighting power with a 52in roof-mounted curved light bar, dual 9in LED spot lights and reverse lights.
I also fitted a set of Tuffant 18x8in steel rims with 285/60 R18 Monsta Mud Warrior mud tyres, and a homemade middle and rear silencer delete pipe, offering a sweet, growling exhaust sound.
Finally, I’ve filled the back with a few recovery items such as a Hi-lift jack, a battery-powered chainsaw, snatch straps, shackles, shovels and Maxtrax; all standard equipment out here. I plan to upgrade the boot with some heavy-duty drawers, a dual battery system, a fridge on a slide, and water storage for camping and touring. I also plan to fabricate some rock sliders and scrub rails attached to the bulbar. I want to make a fully sealed stainless 4in snorkel to replace the plastic D4 unit I am currently running, as it is not properly watertight for deep crossings. There are always other items that I’ll inevitably add to this list.
In fact, the Sport is now due for a set of front lower control arm bushes and sway bar bushes, but I was aware of this at the time of buying; and, knowing they’re a common fault, I’m not surprised they need replacing.
I live right on the edge of the Great Dividing Range in South East Victoria. I’ve been off-road in the US, Canada and parts of the UK and I have to say we’re very lucky with the access to mountain tracks, rivers, camping spots, 150-year-old mine workings and settlements with next to nothing in between. All that, and we’re still close to the beach!
I’ve toured the Grampians and Canunda National Parks – visiting remote waterfalls, lakes and some of the tallest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere – yet I can’t wait to discover more of my fantastic country in this fantastic Range Rover Sport.
‘The seller couldn’t believe I had plans to take it off-road and wasn’t even aware it had low range’
No longer an urban limo: this one means business
Unsilenced V8 diesel makes sweet music
18in steel rims and D4 snorkel are just the ticket
Much of the equipment needed tweaking to fit
Standard recovery gear for an Aussie bush-goer