Canadian Disco 2 Build

R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
Ok, I might as well get my thread started, though it might be pretty tame, at least for a while. Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to take any "before" pictures. Suffice it to say I'm sure we've all seen a stock Disco 2. ;)

I picked up this truck about 2 months ago. It's my first truck ever. In fact, I said I'd never own a truck up until just a little while ago. However, after starting a family, it sort of became inevitable. I have a trackday car I've had for years, but with the addition of our son to our family, it became impossible for the whole family to go to trackdays. I also had two turbo blow-ups in a row which resulted in one limp home, and one borrowed truck tow home, neither of which were fun.

I also have an enduro motorcycle, and a Seadoo, and would like to take both on family vacations up to the cottage. But, that was impossible with only a small car to tow with. It was an either/or problem and deciding was sometimes hard, and limited the use of both machines.

So, it became necessary to get a truck so I can tow larger trailers. Now, once I made that leap, I figure if I'm going to have a truck, might as well get a real truck and use it for more than just towing. I have always loved vehicle based exploring, but motorcycles sort of preclude my wife and son from coming. I also will not put my son on an ATV because I think they're dangerous. Even I don't like riding them. I prefer motorcycles, because in the inevitable event that they fall on you, they weigh drastically less.

I have a soft spot for any vehicle with any kind of "motorsports" heritage, and I'm somewhat of a British and/or European car fan, so that placed Land Rovers squarely in my sights. I considered a Freelander because of the economy and driving quality, but knew that towing what I want would be a bit of a stretch. That, combined with the Disco Camel Trophy heritage kind of made it the only option for me.

That being done, I decided the 04 was the best of the breed. You get the bigger engine, CDL that works WITH the traction control. You get the latest styling which I like, and they're newer with less rust (so that I combat it before it gets bad) and the least miles. They're also last of the line, and (hopefully) have most of the bugs worked out.

I looked at a couple different ones, including a G4 edition, and an 03 Trek. Most turned out to be a bit rougher than I would like, but I'm still wondering if I made the right decision passing up the Trek. Oh well.

I found this Epsom Green on Tan Leather 04 SE, it was in good shape for a lease return, with one month of warranty left. I intend this vehicle to be my daily driver as well as being used for trips and such, so I'm going to keep things relatively mild. I don't think I'll be lifting it, because I am concerned about vehicle dynamics on the road. I also have learned not to stray too far from the factory engineering because you start to get into the snowball effect with a never ending list of must-do's.

Ok, so, the first thing I did was put on some Canada flag decals in what I think are the Camel Trophy positions. Just a bit of a signature thing for me, as my car has them in on the rear windows like a rally car.

Second, I traded somebody the factory 18" Hurricane wheels for a set of P38 16's plus cash. I was hoping for a set of 03-04 6-spoke wheels as I think they're the most modern, but I took what I could get. Once I had those, I bought some 245/75/16 Cooper ST-C tires. I went with this size because it's the biggest size you can fit without lifting and no rubbing. I also didn't want anything too out of proportion with no lift. I also like them because they're a very common size, and should be easier to find under duress if necessary on a trip.

Recently, I painted the wheels with Duplicolor bronze wheel paint. I think it really makes them look less lame, and makes the whole truck look much tougher even though it has small tires. I don't think the pictures do it justice.

I'm pretty happy with these tires as being pretty aggressive, but not going to full-on mud tires.

I have also installed a RAM mount for my Garmin GPSMap 76Cx. Personally, I think this is the perfect GPS. It's a hand held. I originally bought it for hiking. It's exactly like the more common 60Cx, but the 76 floats so that's an added bonus. Nice for boating use. The Cx models have the new high performance antenna that gets WAY better reception than earlier models. I also use this GPS in a Touratech mount on my motorcycle. Now, I have it in the truck. It does rudimentary road routing, but it's not the best at that. But, it take a topo map which many of the car based units will not. I also installed an external antenna to help get reception through the heated windscreen. It works awesome. As you can see, I even get great reception inside my garage with the door closed! It works great even under the heaviest tree cover.

Lastly, I installed my Sirius satellite radio system. I can't live without this ever since getting it back around 2002. I'm an early adopter, and I'm hooked. I can get tunes, or the BBC *anywhere* which is nice. The head unit is piping through the factory amp via pre-amp out from the head unit. The whole thing still sounds like crap... hopefully eventually I'll replace the amp and/or speakers. I'm not sure which is the prime culprit.

So, that's what I've done for now. Future mods will likely be a front bullbar and winch. Haven't decided on what yet, maybe even fabricate my own. Ditto on the rear bumper, sliders, and fuel tank guard.

I do want a roof rack, but I don't think a full on expedition rack. I already have a SportRack basket, which may be used when necessary. I would like roof lights, but they might be mounted to a crossbar instead. I also intend a hood blackout. I will probably have to install some type of HD springs, and I'll go with something that results in only a mild lift. Bilstein is my favorite shock manufacturer and if I do diffs, they'll be Tru Tracs.
 

stevenmd

Expedition Leader
Rob - great looking truck, good decision going with an '04 over the '03. Maybe someday you can make it down to California and we can take you on some of the Sierra Nevada trails.
 

ShearPin

Adventurer
Hey - another Ontarian. Congrats on the Disco.

How do you like the Cooper ST-C's?

Oops - just noticed your posts in the Cooper ST thread - figured you're introduction was new so maybe you hadn't made other posts..... Disco looks good just the same :)



Henry
www.4x4freedom.com
 
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Tanto

Adventurer
Good another build thread to follow!

Nothing wrong with tame. Looking forward to living vicariously through you since mods for me are out of the question right now.
 

R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
Ok, time for an update now that it appears the image uploader works again... though I see all my original photos are missing? Anyway:

Ok, so step one was the wheels and tires which I'll reload:

I decided to go with the ARB bullbar bumper for the truck. The reasons were many and varied. First, I wanted full protection for the front of the truck against deer strikes, etc. The ARB has a full deep beam to protect the cooling package. Second, it's lighter weight than say an RTE, which... I'm not a believer in "heavier is better". Lastly, I liked the styling better. I'm not going for the "industrial" look. Something a little more sophisticated. Installing the bumper was a surprising amount of work. But, I took my time and got everything lined up properly. This version of the ARB bumper (03-04) is pinned vertically to the frame rails, so I believe it should be immune to the infamous "twist".

Into the bumper I put a Superwinch EP9.0. This, I felt, is simply the best winch you can get for ~$500. It's strong and fast, and has the innovative brake in the drum which will be good for synthetic line in the future. I mounted the control socket into the top surface of the bumper. It's easy to access, yet still out of the way. I can reach the clutch release through the access holes in the bumper, and visibility of the drum is ok. Reaching the rope to adjust it on the drum is a bit more of a challenge.

Now, to support the extra weight, I installed OME HD springs and shocks. I got them "handed" as OME intended. I can't detect any lean at all, either way. I'm really not sure what all the fuss was about. The actual difference in height between the springs was less than suggested, pretty minor. I'm pretty pleased with the suspension. Seems to work well off road, thought it's much improved off-road with the front swaybar removed. Yet, it can handle a lot of weigh. I've used a rear mounted motorcycle rack which plugs into the reciever many times, and with 300lb's hanging 2 feet behind the rear bumper, they don't even sag too much. I've even gone on a rough dirt road with the bike on the back with no problems, other than concern for the bike falling off. At the same time, the ride on the road is pretty decent. Mind you, I come from the sports car world so I'm used to a firm ride. I don't find it terribly harsh, and I actually much prefer the improved primary ride control of the OME shocks. The truck pitches and rolls less than stock.

To the front of the bumper, I mounted my trusty Hella FF1000's. These lights have been on several cars, and I'm a big fan based on the price. They have 100W bulbs in them with 10AWG wiring.

I also have a 48" HiLift Extreme jack which is mounted to the upper light mounting tabs on the ARB bar. The tabs are plenty stout, and I used 1/2" bolts, wing nuts, and custom made delrin spacers to clamp the jack to the bar.

I went on a 3 day trek in August which was the first time when I really tested the truck. I started on some 2.5 trails, and eventually got up to 3.5-4. Assessing the difficulty was hard, because the trails were supposed to be rated 3, but we had a VERY wet summer and the water was VERY deep. Based on the water marks on the truck when I got home, it was ~36". The truck performed flawlessly, despite absolutely NO preparation for water fording. The old Jeeps with distributors had way more problems. However, I will be getting a snorkel, as it's apparent that in this area, it's a necessity.

During the trip, I found the truck to be at least as capable as a stock Jeep Rubicon. My truck lacks underbody protection of any sort, but had a better breakover angle. The departure angle caught me out once, and I did rip the rear bumper cover off. Traction-wise, it only ever got stuck in places where even a locked truck would. I was frankly amazed at what it went through. As were many others on the trip, as it was mostly a Jeep fest and I was the only Rover running trails. I was also the only one who could carry all my camping gear in my truck, while on the trails.

Next up, I'll get some photos of what I did with the GPS mount because the adhesive strip did not work. Also, the CB install and internal winch remote switches.

After that, I have QT diff guards I'll be mounting. Also have some tractor work lights that I will be mounting onto a telescoping mast on the rear. Other plans are, well, the hood is getting blacked out as we speak. And I'll put some lights on the roof. I'm toying with the idea of tractor work lights, as I do want the light to be short range, not far. I'll test the concept with the tractor lights I have now. Later this winter, probably a snorkel, and home-made underbody protection.
 
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datrupr

Expedition Leader
That looks really good Rob. I really like your choice in bumpers, very nice. Keep us posted.
 

R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
Just a little update on my latest modification. I wanted roof lights to improve the lighting, in particular throwing light down into holes which the headlights can't reach. Given the fact that I was going for shorter range, I decided to go with the new Hella FF500 lights. They are more compact than more expensive lights which I wanted because the whole install will be low profile. They also have an updated style and reflector technology over the older 500's. I don't want a full roof rack so I had to fabricate a new mounting system. The large 04 roof bars made this quite easy. They are 2.5" OD, so I started with some 2.5" OD 1/16" wall aluminum tubing, which I cut 170° out of. The intent was to have them clip around the bars to hold on.



Then I used a 2.5" hole saw to fishmouth the 2" square tube. This worked out pretty well, and the bar snapped into place with a satisfying click, then was tack welded.





After TIG welding the joint fully, I spent an hour or so with a die grinder and got the joints cleaned up so they look like one piece.



The front face of the bar was drilled with 1/2" holes, and corresponding 1" holes on the back side. The light mounts were then simply bolted straight through the front face. It's all a very easy setup. The wiring was run through the tubing, and just emerges through the top of the tube, complete with grommets and covered with corrugated tubing.



Here is the finished look. It's all very clean and looks pretty much OEM. I used a crinkle paint to try and match the finish on the factory tubes, but for whatever reason, the paint didn't crinkle. :( Oh well, unless you're up close you can't really tell anyway.



The lights were immediately put to good use up at the Rally Perce Neige up in Maniwaki Quebec where I served as a sweep crew for the rally organizers. This involved having to drive very quickly down these snow and ice covered logging roads which was pretty challenging in the truck. Having excellent lighting really helped a lot. The other sweep driver actually had a co-driver calling out pace notes, but I was doing it without such benefit. It was dark by 5PM and I was out until midnight so they got a lot of use.

The performance was exactly what I hoped for. The lights filled in the holes behind any hills in the road, so I never had any black spots like when using just the driving lights. I don't need huge range, because the truck isn't going THAT fast, and long range lights only light up the trees before the next corner anyway. I also prefer the light quality of a regular incandescent bulb.

The intent of having them clip on quickly went away after I was done fabrication. They do clip on, and would probably hold at highway speeds, but I knew any branches would pull it off. Thus I used stainless steel worm screw clamps. I used a large size and cut off the excess so that none of the serrations or pigtail is showing.



 
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R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
Yeah, originally I wanted a bar to extend forward from the roof rack and put the lights low over the windshield, but it was just going to be too complicated to build. Plus, with the lights where they are, the roof shadows the windshield, so I don't get any glare. A lot of the time guy who have the bar right over the windshield have to put light shields under the lights. This way I don't need that either. It's just a pretty simple install. Also to note, the bar *just* clears the sunroof when it opens. There's also very little wind noise.

Oh, and I just realized that I didn't previously cover the snorkel install in this thread. There's not too much point going into detail as it's been beat to death elsewhere. So there it is. Last summer I really pushed my luck on some trails in the Canadian shield. Due to the terrain, they tend to have large pools of water gathering on them, even in August. The snorkel will just make it more comfortable to do these same trails.
 
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RBBailey

Observer
Very cool. I too have an '04, and I'm really up in the air about going with an ARB or with mounting a winch behind the stock bumper. Could you post a few more clean shots of the whole truck from the front showing the bumper -- non-wide angle is best. Thanks! I like the light bar option too, I've been toying with some idea along those lines as well. How did you get the main wires up to the bar?
 

R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
I ran the wires behind the exterior A-pillar trim. There's lots of room behind there. They stick out the top and run behind rack rail. It's all tidy in a nice corrugated sleeve, with a connector just above the A pillar so I can remove the lights. The connector will be hanging around if I ever disconnect the bar, but I haven't taken it off yet.

The wire is visible, but it's pretty tidy, and you really don't notice it that much amongst all the other farkles on the truck.

I don't think I'd bother with a hidden mount. Access to the winch is bad enough as it is with the ARB.
 

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R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
Just a few updates from the past year that I haven't detailed. Installed a CB radio as that is the main method of communication up here, not many people have HAM. Though, I do hope to add one soon, mostly for Rally support operations. I didn't want the radio to be really conspicuous or take a lot of space, because frankly it's usefulness isn't that great. I only use it on trails with others. So, I bought the thinnest radio I could find and tucked it up between the roof and the cubby bin over the headrest. I used a Wilson 4' fiberglass no ground antenna mounted on the spare tire carrier. It's a bit tight getting your fingers on the controls, but I can, and can see all the indicators I need to see. The setup works well enough for what I need it for, and is pretty tidy.



I also added remote winch control on the door panel. It was the best place I could find which was accessible, yet not likely to get bumped. There is an arming switch (red) and a dual position non-latching switch for direction. It was pretty easy to set up with the Albright solenoid.



 
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R_Lefebvre

Expedition Leader
Posting up a few pics from my last trip. I went to Camp Northern Lights which is a large, organized trail weekend, mostly populated by Jeeps. I did meet Len there with a D90, can't remember his last name, he's on D-90 Source. Anyway, on Friday I did the Shoelace Lake trail, which involves one very deep water crossing. Basically the trail wades through a narrow passage between two lakes, but the passage has also been dredged to allow boats to pass through. No problem on this crossing, the snorkel made it much less stressful. Last year this trail was closed because it was just too deep due to recent weather.



The trail also had one really bad rock outcropping.



I couldn't get over this way, it was just too sharp at the top and I kept getting hung up on the "elephant ears" suspension mounts on the bottom of the frame. Backing off, sitting on the back bumper:



I ended up going around the side, which had a better break angle at the top, but was just a little off camber. ;)



On Saturday, I went on Crystal Lake Trail. I did this trail last year, and it was drier this year and generally easier. This one section had had a new bypass cut in it, but my truck was too big to fit through. I asked somebody who'd been through it a few weeks prior with a big Jeep if "were any rocks or anything in it that would stop me" and he said no. Now, I knew also the story that he had tried it and sucked water in his engine (no snorkel), but figured with my snorkel I'd be fine. Little did I know that the bottom was filled with silty mud, unlike last year. I think what happened is that since it was so wet last year, and the bypass had been cut, so the main route was going unused and silt/mud is building up in it. Anyway, so I got in about 20 feet and then was stuck good.





Len ended up snatching me out with his D-90 (thanks!). In the meantime, the truck had filled up with foul water. I knew pretty soon that something was wrong with the transmission. The Transmission Control computer is on the floor under the driver's seat. Most of the gear indicators were not working, and it seemed like I could only select 1st gear. My speakers started making pretty bad noises as the amplifier (also under the seat) went on the fritz, so I pulled those fuses. I asked the Jeep guy "I thought you said there wasn't anything in there that would get me stuck?" to which he replied "I said there were no rocks". <scowl>

Anyway, I ended up having to winch the truck up onto the bypass and cut down a few small trees to get through. I removed the Transmission Controller to avoid doing more damage and set it to dry on the passenger seat. Now with the M and S lights flashing, and stuck in 3rd gear (low and high were both selectible) I limped through the rest of the trail. On the drive back to camp, the truck started overheating on the highway. I think I saw 217°F on the scanguage, or it might have been as high as 224, I can't remember. The engine temp gauge had not moved into the red. I slowed down and it went back under 210. The AC condenser was plugged with mud, which I hosed out, and all returned to normal in that regard. Though I discovered the Aux electric fan has probably not been working for some time, as it is seized. Anyway, I'm running about 200°F now on the highway with the A/C on which seems not too bad. I don't seem to have damaged the engine, I hope, as it's not making any bad noises yet.

So, now on to the wet transmission controller. I was pretty concerned with the cost of the thing. I found some Electrical Contact and Switch cleaner at the local small-town hardware store. I removed the controller from the bracket, and opened up the case by prying back the ears. Now with the board exposed, I hosed it off with the cleaner. Blew it off with air, and it was better but still not right. I tried again, this time spraying cleaner between the board and the aluminum plate which was still attached, it's a tight space. Success! The controller seems fine now, very pleased with that.

Sunday I ran Old Logging and Concession Lake trail without any issues. I have a few more photos that are on another computer for now.
 

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