NAS LR3 build with an overseas twist

#1
I finally hit a tipover point where I had enough pictures and stuff accomplished to feel like a build thread was appropriate. As a promotion gift to myself I finally pulled the trigger on an LR3 in Dec of 2013; I'd been impressed by them after partnering with one for VOT and with my wife in grad school I was putting a lot of (loud) miles on my D1 so it was time for some comfort. When a 78k mile 2006 Tonga Green w/7 seat black interior, SE model w/HID & cold wx package came up the kids and I went for a test drive and she came home. Then I found out I was being sent to the UAE...
LR3 Overview.JPG
My OCD requires that everything start with a purpose/endstate and for this truck I think that context is important as it shapes the build a great deal; this truck has been modified from the beginning to be a comfortable daily driver that can take me + wife & 2x kids places on and offroad safely. I didn't really bog down on the lack of an HD package because if I wanted to thrash a truck I'd do it in my D1, or eventually in the series that my wife wants as her wheeling rig-so the LR3 was more meant to tow, or to get to the slopes, the campsite, etc. Basic specs of the truck:

-2006 LR3 SE 7 seater, green on black. HID and cold wx packages
-IID tool
-Nitto Terragrappler 285/60-18s including full size spare
-Winch bumper (custom made in the UAE by Icon)
-Superwinch Tigershark 9.5k w/synthetic line
-Rock sliders (really more like tube side steps at this point) (Icon)
-Frontrunner 1/2 rack & ladder
-Wet okle seat covers
-Traxide dual battery setup with an aux Optima yellow top in the LH side box
-Ironman fridge in the 30 portion of the 35/30/35 seats
-Blue Ridge Overland MOLLE panels & headrest covers w/1st Aid kit(s), recovery/winch, microstart/jumpstart, & fire extinguishers
-TJM portable 12v compressor hard mounted w/QD on the front bumper
-SPG case w/tools (~Pelican 1510 sized)
-Hella 4k compacts
-Maxtraax

More overview shots, follow on posts will detail some of the ins/outs for how it got to where it is today.
Liwa Hotel 3.JPG Maxtraax on roof rack.jpg
mid-stride shakeout trip over to Oman:
Oman.jpg Oman 2.jpg
r-
Ray
 
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#2
Background/initial ownership

After grabbing her off from the used car lot which almost certainly picked it up at wholesale auction, turned off whatever warnings were on and washed it I set about 'owning' an LR3.
IMG_0525.JPG
That meant first figuring out why the passenger side floorboard carpet and soundproofing was wet...awesome. So a lot of $$$ to the dealership later to offset my lack of time and familiarity with the truck saw a new cowling installed and the wiring harness that runs in the canal, I mean channel, on the right side repaired.

The winters in VA in 13-14 demanded better shoes, so once the Nittos showed up they went on...appropriately enough on a snow day:
LR3 tire change_snow day.jpeg
I love Northern Va's less flashy side for the ability to find a place to mount/balance and install even if some of the work has to be done on a place they just cleared of snow.
Truck immediately went into the fight to go pickup the wife in Cville and return for an event-I love the Terragrapplers.
Cville.jpg 66_pm.jpg
Early mods were minimal since there was still, at the time, some thought of unloading the her given the pending overseas move. Once we discovered that we could bring it to the UAE the decision was made even if we knew we were being foolish sending a dark green truck with a black interior to the desert. Before going I did get some decent time with the truck making some minor mods:
D3 conversion.jpg
Obligatory Semper Fidelis-ness shots:
Iwo Jima_15 Feb.jpg
And taking her up to Twin Mountain in WVa for some light fun in the mud
D3_1.jpg
 
#3
Exploring Ras al-Khaimah (Part 1)

After executing the move overseas in mid 2014 the truck made its way via ship, eventually arriving to clear customs, get inspected, etc. Demands of the job (a lot of travel) coupled with the wife being back in the U.S. teaching as part of her PhD program put most of the modification and even utlization of the truck on the back burner. I doubt I put more than 300miles on it from Aug-Dec. During Christmas the wife (and cats!) came to the UAE for the rest of this tour and thus as we started to look for things to do the desire to explore emerged. Our first major trip was up to Ras al-Khaimah which is the northernmost of the Emirates as you head along the Arabian Gulf. Rugged mountains and a lot of (relative) isolation made for some amazing scenery as we explored.
RaK exploration.jpg
Top Gear should seriously come here.
RaK_road to Jais.jpg
Stunning ruggest mountains, the pictures really don't do it justice.
RaK Jais Mtn views.jpg
UAE_Jais Mtn_15 Feb_2.jpg
After a stop on the transit up Jais Mountain we decided to start looking for somewhere to camp. The LR3 in stock form was more than adequate for the terrain encountered, admittedly we weren't pushing hard and didn't have to go far up the wadi to find a decent level place.
RaK_ingress.jpg
One of the great things about the UAE is that much of the land is public, or rather it isn't private. With a little map work you can find wadi's to drive up and basically you can camp anywhere you see fit so long as you are not encroaching on obvious infrastructure or otherwise bothering herds of livestock and the like. Pushing just a little ways up a Wadi got us to here:
RaK Campsite_1.jpg RaK Campsite_3.jpg
What was also interesting was how close we were to the border of Oman-with little/no demarcation past what was on our GPS.
GPS_Border btwn UAE & Oman.jpg
 
#4
Exploring Ras al-Khaimah (Part 2)

After deciding that the intended location was level enough, we unloaded our camping gear which was a mixture of stuff pulled from our D1's setup (wolf boxes, action packers, rollup tables) as well as the purposely acquired double tent cot/tent cot mattress. As we prepared to depart the U.S. I went ahead and purchased a double tent cot based off the notion that I'd spent enough time sleeping on the desert surface, if packing my own stuff in I was going to do better than mission dictated discomfort. The downside to the tent cot is that it is huge, with the mattress being even bigger. The upside is that it does great for keeping you off the rocks, and the mattress is fantastic.

I got bogged down with scenery...
RaK Campsite_2.jpg
...and shots of the truck in the scenery.
UAE_Jais Mtn_15 Feb.jpg
Eventually I was directed to assist more with camp setup.
RaK Campsite.jpg
Some lesson's learned about UAE acquired firewood and a whole bunch of notes about the state of our camping equipment aside, the night was fantastic and as is often the case in remote areas the stars and the silence were superb.
The next morning at dawn was a treat:
Dawn 15 Feb 15.jpg
As light came up the obligatory making of coffee transpired along with the other normal tools of the trade being utilized (the diet coke is mine, coffee is the prerequisite to get the wife moving).
Coffee.jpg
Packup was quick and painless and the trip back to Abu Dhabi fostered the discussion on whether it was time to refine our build on the truck since previously we'd just assumed it would be postponed till return to CONUS. That starts the next chapter; i.e. getting a bumper, rack, and the like.
 
#5
The build begins in earnest; winch bumper, rack, sliders

On the heels of RaK and being cleared hot by the finance minister to start building the truck given our enjoyment of what the UAE (and prospectively Oman too) had to offer I set out trying to figure out what was in the realm of feasible given the location. With that said it is probably worth setting anchor for a moment and point out that the UAE is an amazing place to live. For those that have experience in other less desirable parts of the greater Middle East/North Africa/South Asia the simplest thing that can be said is that this is a long ways from that. I spend a lot of time in those other places, and I will unequivocally champion the UAE, and Oman for that matter, as fantastic places to come visit with the entire family. I'll cover Oman more in a follow on post so for the sake of focusing on the UAE I'd describe it as being better than a modern European city, and without question its infrastructure and amenities make much of the US look, well, poor. It is worth highlighting that you aren't likely to run into too many Emiratis as they are a small percentage of the population-but when you do it is notable. You will encounter a wide swath of other Arabs, droves of ex-pats from the UK, the rest of Europe, Americans, and of course a tremendous number of Asians.

I find that between Abu Dhabi and Dubai I much prefer Abu Dhabi, but that is likely a facet of not wanting to go out quite as much anymore and not wanting to deal with as much traffic. To be sure both locations have plenty to see, do, and enjoy. It is worth pointing out that it does get exceptionally hot for about 4 months of the year, but the rest of the time it is just hot or downright amazing for about 4 months of the winter.

Enough on that, on to the build itself. There is an ARB distributor in AD, when engaged about a bumper it could easily be procured but it was going to cost me probably $500 more than it would in the U.S.. I'd considered waiting for L8's work with PM to come to fruition but started exploring local options when I came across Icon Auto in Dubai (http://www.icon-auto.com/). While they mostly work on Raptors and the large Jeep community here a look through their gallery of custom fabrication resulted in a query which was answered promptly. As I started to work with Sam, their lead fabricator, it became apparent that I could get a bumper built, and sliders, and a front runner 1/2 rack (they are a FR distributor) for about as much as the ARB, perhaps a few $100 more. I decided to give it a go based off a face to face trip, and ordered a winch. I should mention that Amazon prime is amazing and will ship pretty much anything, including superwinch TS 9500's (thank god it was a synthetic) to DPO (like an APO/FPO, but at the Embassy). With that en route I provided Icon an OCD sketch to work off of:
IMG_1245.jpg
A few weeks later the winch showed up and an appt was booked to drop off the truck
Icon drop off.jpg
Always neat things in their parking lot
Icon parking lot.jpg Icon parking lot 2.jpg
About a week later things were wrapped up, with the main item being the bumper. All told I am extremely happy with their rendering of my sketch, its appearance, angles, etc. Time will tell on durability of course but I think it will do quite well. I also am happy with the access to the winch, something I felt was lacking on the ARB based off my friend's LR3 with that bumper setup-I also appreciate they took the time to wire in the plug to the top of the bumper and then remoted the solenoid. The LED lights they threw on for me, I didn't really like the look so went to Hella 4K compacts later. It is also worth noting that out of the box the Superwinch comes with a hook that could double as a ship crane's...so a Warn hook was ordered to give it a better appearance.
IMGP2902.JPG IMGP2903.jpg IMGP2904.jpg
The sliders are...ok, they aren't exactly what I want but they are a good start. I think I'll be taking them back to get tucked in closer so there is no gap and potentially add in skids integrated where appropriate to strengthen what I currently consider to really be tube side steps. That said between the intended purpose of the truck and their relative cost, I have no major issues with them as-is for the moment.
Sliders v1.jpg
The rack is what one expects from Frontrunner, superb (even though this is an older model vice their newest slimline series).
Maxtraax on roof rack 2.jpg
One thing that didn't get sorted in the haste to get the truck back to me was the front EAS block, something they probably didn't want to mess with too much anyway so a trip to my local LR mechanic (Abu Askoor-former LR UAE master tech and recommended by a forum member) got that sorted quickly albeit perhaps not in an OSHA approved manner. It doesn't hurt that Abu Askoor is across the street from the TJM distributor (and down the street from ARB).
IMG_1341.jpg
 
#8
Fridge

One of the things that was in place before the RaK trip was the 12v fridge that we'd previously had in Coyote. When we were planning our move to the UAE the prospect of mountain and beach camping was good enough that we figured it better to send the fridge vice leave it in the Disco or put it in storage. All along I'd wanted to see how it would work out in the middle 30 section of the 35/30/35 seating. To my pleasant surprise it fits very well and integrates with the cabin of the vehicle perfectly.
Fridge.jpg
From the back:
Rear Seat Panels.jpg
The fridge itself is an Indel-B (aka Ironman), it has an ironman transit bag around it. The rubber matting on the top was from a generic rear cargo mat I cannabalized because when we sent the fridge out here we packed it, in the transit bag, in its origininal box. Which worked great, right up till we went to unpack it and in cutting the tape on the top of the box we-I-cut the transit bag too. Rather than have a nice long streak of black duck tape on the top I decided to use some of the thin rubber diamond plate and velcro that down. I am fairly happy with the results, finding that it also acts to keep things on top of the fridge for passengers as well as reduce the impact of little shoes that frequently climb over/on the fridge to get to the rear seats when those are used.

The fridge is secured by using bolt plates from US cargo control like these:
Bolt plate.jpg
(http://www.uscargocontrol.com/Tie-D...Snap-Hooks/1-Bolt-Plate-Black-Painted-2200lbs)
When I removed the 30 section I used the existing hardware to bolt the plates down and then routed the ARB Fridge/Freezer tie down system through them and tightened it up. As you can see very little sticks out, with the placement of the hardware the straps run back along the side of the fridge keeping everything compact:
IMG_20150310_083118.jpg
There is a small gap in the back, I thought about building something to cover it but like the ability to reach in there if needed to manipulate the power cord and such, not to mention unless looking at it from the rear it is pretty unobtrusive. The fridge is wired through a 12v outlet connected to a blue sea systems fuse box I mounted in the rear cubby (that setup will come in a later post).
IMG_20150310_083127.jpg
As all who have convered over to the 12v fridge have found, it really is the only way to go once you spring the $$$ for it. The wife views it as the single best offroad mod we've made to any vehicle it gets installed in and it greatly improves morale on trips to have cold drinks, unsoggy food, etc. I am fairly certain upon return to the US I'll be buying a 2nd fridge to keep one in here and return one to Coyote.
 
#9
Oman

To keep this somewhat chronological it is worth tossing in a quick blurb about the spring trip we took over to Oman. If you are looking for an authentic Middle Eastern experience but don't want to do Jordan (you should do Jordan too for the history alone) Oman is a wonderful place filled with warm, friendly people. Good infrastructure and modern standards make it an exceptional place to explore if you like the outdoors or just want to wander a souq. I am unabashadly a fan of the UAE, but Oman is far more 'origininal' in the sense that you will interact with Omanis throughout the visit whereas in Abu Dhabi that is a rarity. It doesn't hurt that at the same time I got sent to AD the wife's sister and her husband decided to pull the pin and go teach overseas, ironically ending up in Muscat. We see them more now than when we lived on the East Coast and they were in Colorado.

With a friend of April's from grad school taking a break from it all and coming to see us we decided to try the drive over to Oman (flights cost ~$100) because we'd heard the scenery was amazing. We were not dissappointed. Mandatory nerd map showing ingress (green) and eggress (blue) routes:
UAE_Oman Map.jpg
The border crossing was underwhelming. When you read things here about African crossings or stuff in OJ you get the sense that any moment your car will be impounded and you'll be making frantic calls to the Embassy for help. Between the UAE and Oman it was far less dramatic; a short wait in a line of cars, a quick trip into a building for exit stamp and then boom...you are in Oman. Note that there was no entry stamp. That freaked us, especially me given what I do, out a great deal. Nobody else seemed to care. The guards just kept saying Jizi (prounounced Jeezy) and saying '30km.' (*Note, having a Garmin that only has UAE maps loaded = fail, especially b/c my cell was a work blackberry which has atrocious mapping). So we drove around for a bit in the town adjacent to Al Ain, to no avail. Finally we walked into a police station-always a great idea when you have no status in the country you are in. It was clearly the most exciting thing going on b/c the entire station turned out to assist. Ultimately the chief drew us a strip map with great landmarks and somewhat great distances/times and off we went, driving some 30 min out into the desert to the 'border' crossing where we got our visas for Oman and were then legal. The rest of the trip in was uneventful though I will say the coastal road in Oman is a trip b/c of the chaos as you approach each town as people vie to defeat the inevitable backup of traffic and roundabouts. We stopped at a coastal fort for a break with mandatory picture:
IMGP2886.JPG
Finally getting into Muscat that night we spent the next day showing my wife's friend the city, A few shots from down along the gulf of Oman and the inevitable placement at a Starbucks right there on the Corniche. I would be remiss if I didn't point out that I love the irony of Starbucks being pretty much everywhere (including Pakistan) I go, so I've embraced it now because people need to drink coffee and the collection of country mugs I have cracks me up.
IMGP2894.JPG
IMGP2892.JPG

The transit out provided some of the overview shots I've used and was much more pleasant than the coastal road since it ran through the mountains and then across the desert back up to Al Ain. Entry to the UAE was far less challenging since now we were used to it, with the rest of the transit being pretty much low key.
Oman.jpg
You cannot help but stop and take obligatory pictures when you see these for the first time:
IMG_1378.JPG Camel xing.jpg
 
#11
Rear Cargo layout

I'm enjoying this thread immensly. The labelled gear bags are cool :)
Appreciate the comments!

On the subject of the gear bags I figured it was worth delving into the setup in the back of the truck. Keeping with the theme of retaining comfort I expressedly tried to avoid the function over form priority that went into my D1's build up while still retaining what I view as important items in a convienient place. Put another way I was told directly by the wife that this truck couldn't be the mental woobie that my D1 came to be in mimicking all my time in uparmor HMMWVs or MATVs. That, plus market availability, meant that any modular system I put together wouldn't be based off seat covers like what is in the D1 from Kexby. Here is an overview of the normal day to day setup to work off:
Rear Cargo layout.jpg
The bags are are mounted to items from Blue Ridge Overland Gear, specifically their MOLLE panel and their headrest panels:
[URL="http://www.blueridgeoverlandgear.com/MOLLE-Seat-Back-Panel-p/21msb14.htm]seat panel[/URL]
[URL="http://www.blueridgeoverlandgear.com/Hook-and-Loop-Head-Rest-panel-p/21hrv8x18.htm]head rest panel[/URL]
Both are superb, in particular the MOLLE panels work great to provide a component that can be quickly removed if desired but is of sturdy construction and solid materials. To provide further context on what is being carried here's a labeled version of the labeled area-just to make this thread a bit more anal retentive!
Seat back layout.jpg
The bags themselves are a mixture as well. The IFAKs are just cheap first aid kids from Amazon ([URL="http://www.amazon.com/Condor-RIPAW-P-Rip-Away-EMT-Pouch/dp/B0086UBR8K/ref=pd_sim_200_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=0WVWECN6P5RRQXX36AR3]IFAK[/URL]), I operate of the theory that if they work once they will have served their purpose and since they are for trauma they don't come off the truck or see any wear/tear as placed (i.e. this is unlike an IFAK that I'd have on a set of gear that I wore for work). The bags containing the winch controller, the Micro Start/Jumper cables, recovery gear, and first aid kit on the other hand are higher quality. These are medium or large STAT bags from Springtail solutions ([URL="http://store.springtailsolutions.com/MOLLE-Pouches_c_30.html]Springtail solutions[/URL]) With these I wanted quality components and my experience with Springtail's stuff is much like BROGs; you get what you pay for and this was worth buying. Also worth highlighting both companies are responsive and engaged about their products and I appreciate their dedication to customer service and willingness to put up with customs declarations to ship overseas and such.

To round out the space the diagram shows the dual folding shovels as well as fire extinguishers. The dual shovels come from a mindset that recognizes that one is none and two is one in terms of certain pieces of gear. Mostly it is so that if there is a need to dig it doesn't turn into a DOT work zone with one person digging and everyone else watching, at least this way both driver and passenger can dig or if there are four people two dig/two rest. For anyone who has ever spent time moving earth with folding shovels it is a special place in hell and thus company is always appreciated. For a serious trip where mud or deep sand was likely enough to know we'd get stuck, I'd get real shovels and mount those on the roof rack. The dual shovels also allow for either driver or passenger to grab one should a smaller hole in the desert become a necessity in short order, always something to keep in mind when traveling-especially overseas! The fire extinguishers rest inside neoprene sleeves from smittybilt that are designed for jeep roll bars, they tuck nicely under the large stat bags and while I'd rather not have to rotate the seat forward to get to them it was a compromise position that works well. The labels are all from amazon where you can get custom made name tapes pretty cheap, though I also like Adventure Tool Company's stuff and have some of those floating around too.
IMGP2905.JPG
What isn't readily visible is a few other items that are resident back here, the black bag in the center of the above pic usually gets stuff down into the footwell below the passenger side third row seat. It contains a kinetic rope as well as more shackles. The cubby areas are both being used too but I'll hit that in a follow on thread about the aux fuse box, relay block, etc.
r-
Ray
 
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#12
Tools

Moving meant that my rolling collection of tools from adulthood got packed up for the most part, and I was utterly unwilling to take the pelican 1510 that lives in Coyote and cannibalize it for the time overseas since that tool kit was built off years of the mantra that if it was used to repair the D1 it stayed with the D1. When we showed up in Abu Dhabi I think I had a hodge-podge of stuff thrown in a 5 gal bucket with a bucketboss organizer on the outside. The LR3's tool kit generally consisted of some mini-fuses, electrical tape, a gerber, and a headlamp. Not adequate. One of the other facets is that the truck is parked in a below ground garage of the building we live in, so any trip back to the apartment meant an elevator ride back and forth-a bit frustrating to go from a garage with tools/facilities to this but a small price to pay I guess.

Thus I set out to build a new tool kit using the lesson's learned from Coyote. What I didn't think about when I started was holy S making a tool kit from scratch is expensive! That meant a lot of trips to the Ace hardware here (so much better than a US hardware store, hard to explain but great to experience.) Likewise some trips to the aforementioned friends over at TJM:
TJM.JPG
As a Rover loyalist I am a fan of the bottle jack that came in D1s/RRCs/etc, especially if you can find the metal ones. Making friends at Abu Askoor's got me over to the local salvage yard for one of those, I'll be going back looking for saudi grills and the like to be sure:
Mussafah Salvage Yard.JPG
In the end quite a bit had to be ordered so my continued addiction to Amazon Prime was reinforced and there were a lot of days coming out of the mail room that were like Xmas.
Mail Order.JPG

Since I am driven to self-sustain any mods from the vehicle I decided a pelican was the best way to go for storage and transport. I couldn't find a dealer easily so I went to the UAE equivalent of REI and sourced a competitor case by a US company named SPG in a size more/less like 1510 which resides in the back strapped into the driver side tie downs with a ratchetstrap (of note the ratchet strap has a carabiner replacing the hook on the fore end since it is a royal PITA to lean all the way in and re-attach if it comes loose-it was also cut down to reduce how much extra is flapping around)
Tool Peli strapped down.jpg
Inside the pelican case is quite a bit broken down very much akin to what is in my D1:
Tool Peli laid out.jpg
(from front to back)
-SK socket set (1/4" set, I'd say I ordered it on purpose but it was an errant 'purchase' based off a great price vice 3/8's...that said 1/4" seem to be fine for most tasks inside the truck)
-anti-seize & threadlocker set, strap wrench
-A large tool roll (I have come to prefer the Ergodyne because it has good clips keeping it rolled up and the pockets do well holding torx bits (tool roll))
-two small mil surplus wrench rolls for box end and ratcheting wrenches
-electrical kit housed in my OJ renewal field kit that has wire strippers, crimpers, cutters, mini-multimeter, fuses, tape, etc
-3/8 and 1/2 sockets as required, 3/8's mounted on a tekton holder
-Pry bars, mandatory absurdly large flat head, mini hack saw
-tire kit (plugs and such are in ziplock) + random emergency tape, spare duck tape, etc
-a large wrench roll for outsized items (also Ergodyne)
-the bottom of the peli also holds a tarp for either laying on the ground or using for emergency shade, as well as a large assortment of zip ties.
It all packs up nice inside the case and is fairly easy to access, lay out, and retain accountability of stuff all told.
Tool Peli packed.jpg



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nwoods

Expedition Leader
#15
Loving that bumper! Can you post a few hundred more photos of it? Seriously.

Also, with the investments you've made, seriously consider getting the GAP Tool to round out your kit. Could really save your bacon in the hostile climate you are in.
 
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