FINDING the perfect camping vehicle is almost impossible. There are always trade-offs and always something that could’ve been done differently or better.
This was first published in 4x4 Australia's August 2012 issue.
Having said that, we reckon Alan and Soraya’s Ryrie’s cab-over Land Rover 101 is near perfect for two-up touring, whether that be for a weekender or that long-dreamed-of lap of our great country. Sure, it looks like a brick outhouse but that makes it more practical for fitting everything inside, on top and underneath; bugger the looks.
But, hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I for one actually dig this look. It has character, manliness and practicality all rolled into one big chunk of 4X4. Now, this 101 is a far cry from the ones that originally patrolled various countries around the globe.
Not only is it adorned in a non-standard deep burgundy colour (much brighter than drab army green), it features major driveline components from a few other makes and models that are a far cry from Land Rover HQ.
For starters, the original petrol-guzzling Range Rover-sourced 3.5-litre alloy V8 has been swapped for a frugal 3.5-litre, four-cylinder, intercooled turbo-diesel from a Mazda truck. Onto this has been grafted (via a Samurai conversion kit imported from the UK) a Range Rover LT95 dual-range transfer case (fitted with high-speed gear ratios) and manual four-speed gearbox.
Wow, that makes a difference to the running costs as well as on- and off-road driving. Alan tells us his Wombat (as he affectionately calls it) can nudge along easily at 100km/h.
While the mesh grille behind the bullbar can be removed to reach certain components, most of the engine is accessed from within the cab, once the heat and soundproofed centre console is removed – the engine sits right between driver and passenger.
The standard radiator is retained with a little extra ducting to help with its cooling. The front and rear diffs are standard Salisbury units packed with 4.6:1 ratio gears, while the rear has had a McNamara manual diff lock added.
Manoeuvring the big 101 (which refers to a wheelbase of 101 inches) is via a large diameter steering wheel, although that job has been made easier with the fitment of a GQ Nissan Patrol steering box and custom-made steering arms. Long, supple, front and rear leaf springs provide an excellent and comfortable ride on all surfaces, according to Soraya who rides in the passenger seat.
To provide a little extra comfort, Land Rover Defender bucket seats have been installed with an extension on the lower seat section on the passenger side – Soraya has longer legs than Alan. Silverstone MT 117 285/85R16 tyres on steel 16 x 6.5-inch rims provide an excellent off-road biased tyre, while standard drum brakes have been retained and do a fine job of holding back this big rig.
A steel bullbar provides protection for the front end and a perch for the Cibie Super Oscar spotties and radio aerial. There are also the final hooks of a Norwegian Nokken R1BJ centre-mounted PTO winch resting on the passenger side within the bullbar.
This PTO/capstan-type set-up can (with a fair amount of work) be re-routed via a series of standard underbody pulleys to pull from the rear with its 65m of cable. Some 101 mid-mounted PTOs had the ability to drive a separate output shaft at the rear of the vehicle, which then drove a trailer that had its own driveshaft and differential.
This provided an articulated 6X6 vehicle, but unfortunately didn’t make it into full production. At the rear, twin wheel-carriers have been grafted under the body utilising LandCruiser wind-up mechanisms. That allows for easy access to the heavy rim and tyre combination.
Above the spare wheels sits an aluminium storage box, work light, reversing camera and 9kg LPG bottle. Three batteries power the 101: a 135 amp unit with a 100 amp alternator to start the engine and run general lighting, and two deep-cycle crankers via an 80 amp alternator for the on-board 110-litre Waeco fridge/freezer and extra power needs.
Two 50-watt roof-mounted solar panels also help keep the batteries topped up, which is especially useful when camped in one spot for extended periods. Inside is neat, tidy and 100 percent practical. Once the roof is popped there is plenty of headroom.
The L-shaped lounge converts to a double bed and there are drawers and under-bed storage. A conventional oven with gas cooktop and a microwave oven ensures the couple won’t go without a feed while on the road, and a digital TV keeps them up to date with the latest news and entertainment.
Underneath are two 80-litre fuel tanks, and a 70-litre water tank which is plumbed via an electric pump up into the stainless-steel sink in the camper. Up in the camper body, once the top is popped, meshed windows are accessed by unzipping the soft PVC sidewalls to allow flow-through ventilation.
Alan and Soraya have had many far-reaching travels in their 101 and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Perhaps, after all, some vehicles are made just right – after hundreds of hours modifying and tinkering. Ugly maybe, but definitely perfect for this couple.