Jubilee Rally Duty

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Towing duties: One MGB easily removed from the military ranges : credit: © Dave Barker
Dave Barker seeks out some front-end protection for his Disco 4, and helps out at his local historic rally

One of the big plus points of owning a Discovery 4 is that it’s a superb all-round vehicle that can easily adapt to the role of the day, whatever that may be. In this case, it was marshalling at the Ilkley & District Motor Club’s Historic Jubilee Rally. This is a regularity rally for classic cars, with road sections and a special test. For the event, myself and the D4 had two roles – first assisting with setting out the route and tests on the Catterick military range in North Yorkshire. With the space in the back easily accommodating all the equipment needed for the 12 miles of route and special tests, none of the obstacles on the military range’s tracks would faze a D4 except maybe the odd spent cartridge or used smoke grenade. However on the day some of the older rally cars did indeed find the tracks testing.

On the rally itself, along with a couple of friends from the cross-country off-road racing world, we also provided any recovery that might be needed if a car got into difficulties. A handful of mechanical breakdowns were removed from the route with the D4 towing the light historic cars with ease, even when tackling some steep climbs. Two cars had more serious offs into the trees and took a little more recovering, but a friend’s winch-equipped 90 easily pulled them out.

The rear towing eye cover just pops off to allow a shackle to be fitted

When it comes to towing with a Discovery 4, it’s easy. I’ve always been impressed with the way a rear towball is easily fitted into the towbar socket in the rear chassis crossmember when needed on both the D4 and D3, instead of having a towbar hanging down all the time. You remove the plastic cover and simply plug the detachable towball assembly into place when required, which is great for anyone who only tows occasionally, as I do. Also under the plastic cover is a rear towing eye, which is great for hooking up a tow rope or strap onto when needed, either towing or being towed.

However, if you get into difficulty and need a front recovery, it’s not that easy… Yes, there is a towing eye fitted but it’s behind a much larger plastic removable section of trim which, if you happen to
be in a ditch or deep mud, is not that readily removed. One solution is to fit a front sump guard with a hole making the towing eye always accessible, which for my occasional needs I felt was excessive as well as a bit expensive, with prices now well over £350.

As for alternatives, there seemed to be just one company – the sadly now-defunct Bearmach – that sold a replacement bumper towing eye cover with a hole that just replaced the OE plastic cover allowing access to the eye. I found one for sale on a Facebook group; the price was very reasonable, it was brand new in a never-opened box and, best of all, it happened to be local to me. Some cash changed hands and I became the owner of a Bearmach sump guard bumper, as the sticker on the box says. It would do the job I thought, and it looked easy enough to fit despite there being no instructions with it. After all, how difficult could it be?

Thanks to the sump guard bumper, attaching a shackle to the towing eye is much easier and quicker

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Sadly, it wasn’t as much of doddle as I’d thought. It didn’t line up correctly because of some plastic clips and lugs which the original D4 front plastic cover slotted into, but after a little bit of careful trimming, it went on. As I was hoping, it does allow easy and quick access to the towing eye. The eye itself is still a little tight to the bodywork if you are using a traditional metal shackle, but using a soft shackle it’s absolutely fine.

Dent in the sump guard bumper came as something of a surprise

Anyway, on the day of the Jubilee Rally it made hooking up to tow cars much easier and quicker. It allowed ready access to the towing eye, but I have to report that as a protective sump guard bumper it wasn’t really up to the job. It has now been removed and I’m looking around for a reasonably priced quality bumper and sump guard. Despite not going off the gravel tracks and not noticing or feeling the guard hitting anything at all, on returning home I discovered a sizeable dent in one side of it. I wonder just how badly it might have bent if I’d really gone off-road and hit something like a rock or tree stump! I suspect it would have bent badly, and removing it would have been made difficult where it was misshapen.

If I can’t find a reasonably priced full sump guard, I now at least have a front bumper guard I can use as a template and I will find a local fabricator to make me one. The other alternative would be to buy a second-hand front bumper tow eye cover from one of the Discovery breakers and cut a hole in the plastic, but it still won’t have any extra protection. I think this all needs some thought in terms of what I need and how much I’m willing to pay. If you’ve got any good ideas, please let me know – [email protected].

 

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