Build and adaptations

The ‘bathroom’ area – the toilet will be fitted here – the shower will be to the right (from where it can reach outside the entrance), there will be a screen that can be opened to give the throne a modicum of privacy

Well we had another site visit last week, ostensibly to check how hand-controls might fit. Defenders have never had the most room for drivers, especially between the driver and the door. The Puma model is no different in that, plus the dash is slightly closer to the driver too. What was immediately apparent  (at least for someone with long legs) was that there is no room to reach behind the wheel to grasp a hand control. (The space being taken up by steering wheel rim and knee.) The windscreen wiper stalk also invades  space that would need to be utilised by a hand control kit.

We then iphoned the Jeff Gosling website. You recall that we were looking at their hand controls as their site has a picture of a Puma Defender fitted with their kit (as above). It was Paul [OEC] who now spotted that they had fitted a smaller diameter steering wheel. Paul explained that if we were to go down this route then we would need to make sure that we got one that was up to the job. Many it seems, will simply bend if used to e.g. lever one into or out from the cab. OEC recommended QT services (of ‘the Wildcat’ fame). It turned out that his was exactly the same wheel that Jeff Gosling have in their picture!

OEC then called Jeff Gosling Ltd to get some more detail. Anton was surprised when they insisted, in  no uncertain terms, that they would need to oversee such a fitting, as it was ‘special’ in the case of a Land Rover Defender. This was an entirely different message from the week before, when the same company had advised that the hand controls could be ordered and fitted as a kit “no problem”. [Of course the compromise here is to check with GM Coachworks who are agents for Jeff Gosling, and OEC work with them quite often.]

So the job gets a little bigger – as is the way of these things…..  Which caused me to (re)think about the viability of a left foot accelerator as an option. It would certainly save any need to replace the steering wheel and trim the wiper-stalk. Key would be the adjust-ability of the pedals (either of the accelerator unit or the brake).

We decided to get GM to advise with me ‘in-situ’ as it were – at least then we can make the plan and get cracking. OEC are looking to pull out all the stops  to complete by the end of July (which will undoubtedly be tight). Both options will work for me I’m sure – but of course all involved want to be sure of the detail before committing both time and expense!

Regardless we should have more room in the cockpit, once the vinyl seats are replaced with Exmoor Elites on extended runners. We thought a lot about seats but inevitably they are so important that we decided not to compromise (although the rear row will remain in the OEM pragmatic vinyl).

We also agreed the colour of the pod’s upholstery (‘something drab, neutral that won’t show the dirt for us! OEC do advise that anything is possible though.).

The pod is really starting to take shape. Much plumbing and wiring is in, the taps and filters are about to go in, and in general it is now starting to look like a finished Azalai.

Anton also advised that the OEC crew were meeting early this week to agree a strategy for the tail-lift. We confirmed that the design priority is to get me in and out easily and reliably – any load carrying ability would be a bonus.

It was a very worthwhile meeting as the build moves towards the beginning of its end.

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