DERANGE ROVER

PART 5: ROLLCAGE, SEATS & ROOF OVER OUR HEADS

4 Wheel & Off Road - - CONTENTS - BY Verne Si­mons EDITOR@4WOR.COM PHO­TOG­RA­PHY VERNE SI­MONS

PART 5: Rollcage, seats, and roof on the of­fi­cial UA 2018 ve­hi­cle.

MOST FOLKS IN THE U.S. don’t know much about late-1980s Range Rovers. Given its 1989 price tag of $30,400, that’s not sur­pris­ing. Some car nuts know that at least part of the body is alu­minum, but if you’re like us you prob­a­bly didn’t re­al­ize how lit­tle is made of the light­weight non­fer­rous metal. The frame is fully boxed steel (re­ally a tubu­lar steel with mul­ti­ple lay­ers and in­ter­nal gus­sets) that’s thick enough to be rigid but thin enough to tear and dent more eas­ily than we would like. From there up is a steel in­ter­nal body struc­ture, which ex­tends up into the roof.

Out­side this body “skele­ton” are a few bolt-on alu­minum body pan­els, in­clud­ing the roof, quar­ter-pan­els, cowl, door skins, and so on, and ex­clud­ing the hood, tail­gate, and rear quar­ter cor­ners, which all bolt-on but are good ol’ weighty Bri­tish steel. Even the doors have a steel in­ner struc­ture.

The point is that there isn’t much weight-sav­ing alu­minum in a 1989 Range Rover Clas­sic. As a re­sult, Range Rovers are strong, but they ain’t any­where near light—es­pe­cially when you add in about 200 pounds of elec­tron­ics in the form of re­lays, wires, com­put­ers, CD chang­ers, amps, and mo­tors to make this thing late-1980s-fancy. We like ve­hi­cles that are light­weight. In fact if we had our druthers, we’d pre­fer a four-cylin­der Jeep, Kia, or Suzuki. Oh, did we men­tion that the Derange Rover will have dual trans­fer cases, 1-ton axles, a diesel en­gine, winch, ar­mor, a rollcage, and so on? Even on pa­per this thing is get­ting heavy.

So given all this info we knew the Derange Rover wouldn’t be a ban­tamweight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to keep things as light as pos­si­ble and at least place weight down low where we want it. The 1-ton Ul­ti­mate Dana 60 axles aren’t light, but that weight is down re­ally low, in the­ory adding sta­bil­ity (to a point). The Of­froad De­sign Mag­num Box un­der­drive isn’t bad in terms of weight, but that

bul­let­proof NP205 is heavy for sure. But like the axles it will sit rel­a­tively low in the chas­sis. The Cum­mins R2.8 weighs more than the Rover’s orig­i­nal alu­minum V-8 but it’s lighter than many other diesel en­gines and it makes gobs more torque. That is weight we want and can com­pro­mise for.

What we can’t com­pro­mise for are elec­tron­ics that we don’t need (that don’t work any­ways), es­pe­cially ones that are high up in the Derange Rover’s body. The orig­i­nal seats aren’t all that comfy to be­gin with, and with mul­ti­ple elec­tric mo­tors tucked un­der them they aren’t light­weight ei­ther. Easy—we’ll toss them for a set of MasterCraft Baja RS seats. How about that huge and non­func­tional elec­tronic sun­roof? Yep, gone. A Le­gacy Prod­ucts Soft Top is a much bet­ter so­lu­tion for us. Add in just about ev­ery inch of fac­tory wiring and all of the mod­ules re­lays, com­put­ers, black boxes, timers, fac­tory HVAC… all of it needs to go! An easy de­ci­sion is to re­place one of the Rover’s weak­est links (the wiring) with a smaller, sim­pler Pain­less Per­for­mance wiring har­ness.

When it comes to the Derange Rover, what­ever we don’t need we don’t want. In short, we gut­ted the Rover’s in­te­rior, only adding back in the things we need, like a stout rollcage, a sim­ple dash, comfy seats, and not much else. Did we save much weight over stock? Prob­a­bly not, but the Rover is safe and com­fort­able with­out all the heavy fluff that a late-1980s luxo-ute would have. Oh, and did we men­tion al­most none of the elec­tron­ics worked any­ways?

1 In Part 1 of the Derange Rover buildup (Aug. 2018; bit.ly/2M9D8hx) we showed you how we stripped down the fac­tory in­te­rior. The point of this mass de­struc­tion was to re­move most (if not all) of the Rover’s fac­tory wiring. Start­ing fresh al­lows us to avoid chas­ing any is­sues with the fac­tory har­ness, and as said we don’t need most of the op­tions this thing has or had. We are go­ing to re­tain the col­umn (ig­ni­tion switch, turn sig­nals, wind­shield wipers), lights, win­dow mo­tors, and that’s about it. We re­placed the Rover’s har­ness with a Pain­less Per­for­mance 26 Cir­cuit Cus­tom­iz­a­ble Weath­er­proof Off Road Chas­sis Har­ness (PN 10140, $675). This har­ness has plenty of cir­cuits for what we need and is much sim­pler than the fac­tory one. We will wrap the har­ness with Pain­less Per­for­mance Power Braid from one of the com­pany’s Power Braid Chas­sis kits (PN 70920, $160).

2 The fac­tory sun­roof is huge, and al­though we never tested it we doubt it worked well, if at all. One of the big­gest prob­lems is that it hung so low that our rollcage would be aw­fully close to the oc­cu­pants’ heads. Heads bang­ing on steel tube is bad news, and a heavy, leaky sun­roof is also point­less. Plus, we have an idea to make the Derange Rover a bit more… airy.

3 With a call to Le­gacy Prod­ucts we got hold of one of the com­pany’s uni­ver­sal 40-inch­wide, 55-inch-long Slid­ing Rag­tops Fold­ing Sun­roof (PN RAG4055, $645). It’s the same idea used for decades in VW Bet­tles and buses and other Euro­pean clas­sic cars.

4 The top is easy to in­stall with the on­line in­struc­tions and opens well over the heads of the back seat pas­sen­gers (for when we have the back seats in­stalled). We opted for black matte can­vas, but many col­ors and fab­rics (in­clud­ing vinyl) are avail­able. Just be sure to mea­sure twice—nay, three times—be­fore cut­ting your roof. It’s easy to screw up mea­sure­ments on a huge hole. You want to be es­pe­cially care­ful to make the cuts square rather than di­a­mond shaped. The top won’t like that. Mea­sure di­ag­o­nally from cor­ner to cor­ner un­til those mea­sure­ments match.

5 A good air saw is a must for this in­stall, and Le­gacy gives a few tips on how to use it in the in­struc­tions. One thing we’ve found to be es­pe­cially true when cut­ting alu­minum is to use some sort of lu­bri­cant. Alu­minum likes to gum up blades, and a lit­tle lube goes a long way in help­ing.

6 With the hole cut and the mount­ing holes drilled for the alu­minum frame­work, we test-fit the top to make sure it opened fully and eas­ily. We then re­moved the top and frame, ap­plied a gen­er­ous bead of seam sealer, and started bolt­ing the frame in place. C-clamps help hold ev­ery­thing in place and make start­ing the re­tain­ing nuts eas­ier. Once the frame is in place the fab­ric and slid­ers can eas­ily be re­moved from the frame for paint or while we are weld­ing the ’cage.

7 The Le­gacy Prod­ucts Slid­ing Rag­top al­lowed us a few more inches of head­room than the fac­tory sun­roof and al­lowed us to start work­ing on the rollcage. We started with the A-pil­lar. Keen eyes will see the splice halfway up the wind­shield to make get­ting the com­pound bends of the A-B pil­lars eas­ier. To strengthen the joints, we used 1.75x0.120-wall DOM and made sleeves out of 10-inch lengths of 1.5x0.120-wall DOM. Be sure to cen­ter the sleeve in the outer tube and round the cut edges of the sleeve so it won’t act like a can opener on the in­side of the tube dur­ing a roll. We will also drill 1⁄2-inch holes in the out­side for rosette welds. And leave a nice gap for a full pen­e­tra­tion bead at the joints.

8 We built the whole rollcage with legs that were an inch or two short of the floor. This al­lowed us to drill 2⁄1 -inch holes in the floor 4 be­low the feet so we could drop the rollcage down and weld the tops of the tube joints. We will then lift the ’cage back up against the ceil­ing of the Rover and add 2.00x0.120-wall DOM to the feet and tie them into the frame and rock slid­ers.

9 Books have been writ­ten on build­ing a rollcage in a 4x4. There are many ways to do it right and even more to do it wrong. Ex­pe­ri­ence helps with plac­ing bends, cop­ing tube, and build­ing nodes, but a tub­ing notcher, like this old one from JD Squared, also makes things eas­ier. Con­sis­tency and pa­tience are key to build­ing sym­met­ri­cal rollcages that look good and make the ve­hi­cle safer. You can eas­ily waste tube on a ’cage like this if you are not care­ful.

10 If you are in­ter­ested in learn­ing about build­ing rollcages we rec­om­mend tak­ing your time and as­sem­bling the proper tools so you can ed­u­cate your­self and build a strong and safe ’cage. You’ll have to be good at mea­sur­ing and also mark­ing tube as well as know­ing where the tube ben­der die starts to bend the metal rel­a­tive to how you load it in the ben­der, and the ra­dius of the bend. We mark our tube at the start of the ben­der’s die, but some fabri­ca­tors mark right at the start of the in­side of the bend. Up top, above the tub­ing, you can see a test 90-de­gree bend we use to get solid mea­sure­ments be­tween two bends. Be­low is a sim­ple an­gle fin­der we made out of some bar stock so you can get an idea of a bend and du­pli­cate it.

11 Once you have two parts of a rollcage, one for each side, you can check to make sure the bends match by lay­ing them on top of each other or trac­ing their bends on the floor. These are our right and left D-pil­lars. Mak­ing two or more bends in tub­ing in the same plane is hard enough, and build­ing two mir­ror-im­age tubes with bends out of plane can be a geo­met­ric night­mare. If you don’t want to waste money on scrap steel and you don’t think you can build a safe rollcage, don’t. It’s a safety com­po­nent that’s best farmed out to a com­pe­tent fab­ri­ca­tor if you have doubts.

12 Build­ing seat mounts can also be very frus­trat­ing. You have to keep the mount­ing points square (again, a di­a­mond-shaped mount will ruin your day). Even tack-weld­ing al­most brand new seats is a guar­an­teed way to make holes in them be­fore you even hit the trail. For the Derange Rover we de­cided to try a set of MasterCraft Baja RS Seats ($500 each) and the com­pany’s uni­ver­sal towel-bar seat slid­ers (PN 620031, $85 each). The mounts will be tied into the floor of the Rover as well as firmly to the feet of the A- and B-pil­lars of the rollcage. 13 Mastercraft Baja RS seats are civ­i­lized sus­pen­sion seats. They are com­fort­able, strong, made in the USA, and a lot lighter than the fac­tory Rover seats. They also re­cline, mak­ing them that much more ad­justable for in­di­vid­ual com­fort. The MasterCraft Seat Slid­ers also al­low for a va­ri­ety of driv­ers and co­drivers to fit the Derange Rover. Re­mem­ber the towel bar goes up. On the road we will use the Rover’s orig­i­nal seat­belts, while for the trail we added a set of MasterCraft lap belts from our friends at Rusty’s Off-Road Prod­ucts (PN MAS-RE­STRAINTS-2; $45 for blue or red while sup­plies last; $120 for black).

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