What’s the Story?
I warn you, you’re gonna get muddy,’ says Jim Marsden, as I strap myself into the Gigglepin Defender co-driver’s harness and brace myself for the ride of my life.
He’s not wrong. Within seconds of hitting the throttle, lumps of earth are flying through the open door tops and filling my shirt. I quickly zip myself up and hold on tight as Jim drives us straight over a 20ft precipice; it’s got to be 60º. We cruise to the bottom, breeze through some marshy ground, and spin around to aim back up the slope. The earth’s soft, very soft, and at the top there’s a foot-high vertical lip. Surely we can’t do it...
Jim drives confidently at the base of the incline, knocks the sequential gearbox down a cog – and up, up and away we go. No screaming revs or spinning tyres – the V8 sings a steady note, those massive Maxxis tyres dig in, and we’re clear over the top. This really is incredible...
We whizz up and down a few more times; diving, sliding, climbing – it just doesn’t get any better than this. Then suddenly Jim hits the brakes, as we’re poised dangling over the edge of the crest. This wasn’t the line he meant to take, and we’re peering precariously over a rock with at least a metre’s drop the other side. ‘Er, I’ve never dared do this bit before,’ Jim admits. But there’s no going back now, so steadily does it... and over we go. Time seems to stand still as the back wheels lift clear of the ground and we hang forward in our bucket seats. But after a few gut-twisting seconds, we’re back down to earth, and the horizon is where it should be.
I look over at Jim, who’s smiling as much as I am. It’s clear he still gets a massive kick out of the beast that he and his team have created.
Our Favourite Bit?
Enough slope crawling – let’s see some speed. Jim fires us up a steep climb and we launch clear of the ground – a beautiful jump with a big landing that’s swallowed up by the massive suspension, and we’re immediately back on the power. Now we’re hurling across the open field, the 6.2-litre V8 shouting in our ears, Jim slotting through the sequential gears. Reaching the far corner, we fly over a blind crest, and in that brief moment I’m convinced Jim’s overdone it. There’s a fence just ahead, and in front of it, slippy mud, steeply downhill. We’ll never stop in time. Thankfully, those tyres have awesome stopping power in this soft earth, and we pull up well short. Jim knows what he’s doing.
We wheel around, and soon we’re flying again in the open field. Jim sends us into a massive four-wheel drift. Grass and earth are pelting sideways through the cab, piling up around my feet, and I’m suddenly hit with the impression of riding in the belly of an angry lawnmower. ‘Next year we might fit wipers on the inside of the cab,’ Jim tells me. And he’s not joking.
And the verdict from Theo Ford-Sagers?
Despite the mad fun we’re having, I know Jim’s taking it easy. We barely need the locking diffs, and I don’t think we use low box all day. The V8 has plenty more to give; and besides, Jim’s not going to risk stuffing his machine just to show me how far it can go. This monster has bigger fish to fry.
Chassis: Bespoke Richards Chassis with 106in wheelbase
Engine: 525bhp/490lb ft, 6.2-litre Chevrolet LS3 V8
Power & torque: Approx 200bhp, 290lb
Transmission: Six-speed Quaife sequential, LT230 transfer box
Axles & suspension: Spidertrax Pro Series axles, GearWorks hypoid locking diffs
The full story can be found in the Spring 2015 issue of LRO. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.