"That's where we're going!"
story: Peter Matusov
photos: Mike Gorbunov and Peter Matusov

That's how it started.

 These days, it's way too easy for a guy on the other side of the planet to check the calendar of your Land Rover club and find out that the "good" guys are going to Moab. And my college buddy and good friend of the last 25 years, Mike, did just that.

 It was some time in August. I've made up my mind about the trip, and dreamed up some grand plans for my truck.

 I figured then that I'd have enough time to install the front TrueTrac in the Discovery, replace rear trailing arms with something more substantial, order and install caster-corrected swivel balls from Rovertym Engineering, install longer shock absorbers along with some taller bump stops, properly route the cable for the CB antenna and replace the 185,000-mile-old fuel pump. Oh year, build that front bumper out of realy heavy stock...

 Fast forward to late September. That must be that season when four-wheelers shed their seasonal rubber and get taller tires - and, all of a sudden, I found myself not having a single stock-sized tire in my garage, but with a 7-stack of 265/75R16 mudders. That's promising...

 I dug out that TrueTrac bought five years ago from GBR (which arrived habitually late - late for the trip, and off to the shelf), and installed it in the front axle 3rd member. In process of taking stock of my surroundings under the front overhang, noticed the brake pads about gone. Off to the independent Land Rover shop for parts, back under the truck. The only vehicle that takes less time to swap the brake pads on that I know is a 200-series Volvo - a thing of beauty.

 Right... Next morning, I took the truck to work, only to discover the brake pedal going slowly to the floor at the first red light. Back to the garage, back behind the wheel of a 39-year old jeep, to work - and to the shop for more parts. A new brake caliper was procured, and installed the same evening. I could give a very elaborate lecture on how to bleed the brakes - cover all possible ways of doing that and their relative merits - but that doesn't mean I could bleed them worth a damn. The double-pumper action would plague me through the entire trip.

 As soon as I was semi-satisfied with axle and brake work, I noticed a 2-inch puddle of coolant under the driver's side of the engine... Duly ignored it and went about the other business. The puddle appeared in the next place I parked the truck for a couple of ours, and prompted investigation.

 A week, and sixteen Ben Franklins, later, I had my all-so-new-and-improved Disco back. She's got new head gaskets (along with every possible seal and gasket that happens on the way to the heads and back), thermostat, radiator rodded out, one of the intake plenum trumpets reinstated in its place, and running cool as a cucumber, quiet and smoothly like a real vintage Buick V8 should. It was a certainly right thing to do, but not quite planned on...

 Time left before the trip - five days. I don't feel like wasting a sunny and warm Sunday under the Land Rover.

 Day M minus three days - Mike flew into San Diego. The evening's worth of truck preparation was traded in for a healthy party. Between tequila and gear oil, the latter loses universally.

 Two days before the trip I received my stout 7/8" heil-jointed, 0.250-walled, rear trailing arms. The only problem was that the mounts wouldn't fit, and no amount of creative hacking with the drill press and angle grinder would help it... The oh-so-nice hardware was left to rest on my workbench.

 The night before the trip - I installed the cargo area tie-down rings, packed up the tools, spare parts and fluids, recovery hardware, and camping supplies, and called it done. The fuel pump would have to wait - or die.

 Take stock:

 I have a largely stock 1996 Land Rover Discovery, with 184 thousand miles on the clock, about 2" of suspension lift (in theory - more like 1" in the back with 7-year old springs and loaded to the gills), two TrueTrac limited slip diffs. There's a fair amount of steering gear and diff protection, so I could take a few hard knocks. The driveline maintenance is more or less up to date. The only "body armor" I have is a pair of beat-up SafariGard rock sliders (mounted using through-bolts). Low range in the transfer case seems to be engaging, and so is center differential lock - that was checked not too long ago. There's some rumble coming from under the driver's foot under heavy acceleration - must be a transmission mount on its way South (need to be easy on the throttle).

 And a full tank of gas.

On to Day 1 of the trip!