07 October 2023
Meet the hardcore Freelander 2 built specifically to work hard. Now it plays even harder
‘‘I almost didn’t go for a Land Rover,‘‘ grins Michael Howell-Walmsley, owner and builder of this formidable Freelander 2. ‘‘There were a few different vehicles that fit the bill of what I needed, but the Freelander came out on top. I’ve had it three years now. I think it was the right choice.’’
Looking around this thoroughly worked-over F2, it’s hard to get your head around how differently it presents to a standard example. It oozes presence; the modifications amplify the stylish body lines, and the whole vehicle just seems so much bigger and more purposeful. One of the last Freelanders off the Halewood line, this 2013 gen 2 facelift actually shares a lot of its components with its period Evoque sibling, in an era when Land Rover was starting to wind down Freelander production in preparation for its Discovery Sport successor.
‘‘The fact it’s such a late one has caused me some challenges,’’ explains Michael. ‘‘There’s a good aftermarket supply of parts and upgrades for Freelanders now, but these late F2s have so many subtle differences to all the earlier ones that getting bits to fit isn’t always straightforward. The corner of the winch tray, for example, hits a sensor that fits in the intercooler pipework. That sensor is only there on really late examples.’’
Warn Winch nestles discreetly behind front bumper
Peering through the grille, it’s obvious that the bits chosen to make this Freelander into Michael’s perfect do-everything 4x4 have been carefully considered. Going back to the winch, Michael could have chosen a budget offering or short-drum unit that is a more common fitment on the F2, but he has his reasons. ‘‘It’s a Warn Zeon Platinum 10S, which is about as expensive as it sounds,’’ Michael muses through a wry smile. ‘‘But it has proper bus-bars in the solenoid pack, which you can relocate wherever you want, and critically it has a remote freespool that doesn’t rely on air pressure, it’s electric.’’ Given how neatly and discreetly the Warn is tucked away behind the bumper, it’s easy to see why a remote freespool is needed – you’d never get your hand onto the manual lever.
Michael bought the F2 to transport hisworking dogs safely
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The reason Michael was in the market for such a vehicle in the first place was for his hobby and passion: working gun dogs. The fortress-like TransK9 dog cage that takes up much of the space in the back of the F2 is a giveaway, sometimes containing up to five working dogs at a time. ‘‘The shoots I go on as a beater and the land I use to train the dogs on, is only accessible down miles of rural tracks, some of which have all but fallen apart,’’ he explains. ‘‘I needed something economical enough to be my daily driver, with decent ground clearance, and something tough enough to put up with that sort of use. I considered all sorts – Skoda Yeti 4x4, Suzuki Vitara, Subaru Forester, that sort of thing. They all had downsides. One of the things I really wanted was a top-hinged tailgate, rather than a taildoor, so I can shelter from the rain on shoot days. It didn’t take me long to realise the Freelander 2 ticked all the boxes, and I’ve been really happy with it.’’
Slimline silencer and side exit exhaust tuck clear of rocks and ruts
That all-important ground clearance has been boosted by a MuddyMods lift, which gives the F2 an extra 40mm of height up front, and 50mm at the back. At least it did… ‘‘There’s a lot of weight in the car now, so one of the next mods will be some bespoke heavy-duty springs to deal with it better,’’ he explains. ‘‘I’ve also removed the rear anti-roll bar, and disconnected the front, which helps the ride no end over rough terrain. There’s a bit more body roll on the road, especially with the roof rack loaded, but the trade-off is worth it.’’
Controlling the spring action is a set of uprated Bilstein B6 dampers, easily distinguishable by their bright yellow hue, and a 17-inch alloy shod with a beefy 245/60 R17 BF Goodrich KM3 mud-terrain is bolted to each hub, with a 30mm spacer in between. ‘‘I did have slightly taller tyres on, but the gearing was too high for hill starts,’’ explains Michael. ‘‘I’ve heard that some front-wheel drive Ford Transits use the same gearbox but with a lower ratio gearset, so I might explore that in the future to help bring things back in line. It’s liveable at the moment, but I find I have to slip the clutch more than I’d like.’’
Fully-sealed intake;Warn winch’s power pack lives in the bay
The Freelander’s 2.2 TD4 engine is mostly standard, with just a K&N panel filter and custom-made exhaust rear section to aid flow. The exhaust in question deletes the huge full-width standard rear silencer and is tucked an inch and a half higher up in the tunnel, to keep it clear of rocks and stumps when off-road. It also exits high up behind the nearside rear wheel, in a cut-out in the heavily-modified rear bumper, so it doesn’t fill with mud when wading. As well as these mild improvements, Michael is keen to keep the air the engine breathes as clean as possible by fitting a Mann & Hummel Provent 200 oil separator, which is plumbed in between the inlet trunking and breather port on the standard crankcase vent, and ensures that the EGR valve, intercooler and inlet manifold stay free of gunk.
MuddyMods snorkel safeguards the TD4 in situations like this
You’ll also notice that the black plastic inlet pipework is gone in favour of aluminium and silicone to ensure a proper seal all the way up to the top of the MuddyMods raised air intake, improving wading depth over the standard 500mm, should it be needed. The TD4’s ECU software is standard at the moment, but Michael isn’t ruling out a remap further down the line to perk the engine up a bit.
Slowing the extra rotating mass of those chunky mud tyres are uprated brakes front and rear, in the form of bigger i6 petrol-spec discs and caliper carriers at the sharp end, and Brembo rear discs and pads at the back, which helps to bring the extra heft to a stop. The calipers are fed fluid by extended Goodridge braided brake hoses all-round, which also help compensate for the extra suspension height when the steering is on lock.
Trimmed rear bumper improves departure angle dramatically
One of the most noticeable things about this F2 is the rear end – or rather, the lack of it. ‘‘I found the departure angle needed improving on rocky steps,’’ Michael notes. ‘‘So, I’ve trimmed the bumper away, which also lets the exhaust exit higher. The only downside is the parking distance control doesn’t work now, as the sensors are gone. I don’t miss it though, as they’d always beep in long grass. The bumper cut has transformed it off-road; I just need to get around to painting it white.’’
The Fuji White colour choice is no accident, by the way, and was one of Michael’s other requirements when looking for a vehicle. ‘‘It helps reflect the heat and keeps the interior cooler for the dogs,’’ he explains. ‘‘That’s also why it has the dark limo tint. Not that I ever leave them locked in the car, but even when driving it all helps to keep them comfortable.”
Also helping protect the Freelander’s vital organs and bodywork is a full complement of MuddyMods armour, including sump guard, all-important fuel tank guard and rear diff guard, as well as sturdy tree sliders to ward damage away from the sills. The extra track width given by the 30mm wheel spacers also helps hugely in rough terrain, by pushing the F2’s flanks clear of rocks when traversing side slopes or pushing through ruts.
Mix of Rigid and Lightforce lamps provide lumens for night work
Up top, a Frontrunner Slimline II roof rack hosts a Terrafirma awning and twin jerry cans, as well as a set of traction boards and the spare wheel. For when night falls, the rack also houses a full complement of Lightforce work lights, with Rigid Industries spot and driving lamps along the front edge, and a further pair on the grille to give plenty of illumination.
Cleverly, Michael has mounted all the relays for the roof rack lights in the boot and made a custom wiring harness to run out of the taildoor aperture vent, terminated with two 12-pin Deutsch connectors, so that the rack can be removed and refitted quickly and easily if needed without faffing with loads of individual wires.
47-litre ARB fridge keeps the milk – and game birds – chilled
The electrical system upgrades don’t end there either, as you find when you head inside this Freelander. Immediately noticeable is the lack of a rear seat, gone in favour of a 47-litre ARB fridge which Michael uses to not only keep milk cold for a brew, but transport frozen prepared birds from the shoots he beats on to the local farm shop where they are sold. On the dash, the standard infotainment system has been enhanced by a bang-up-to-date ID Core unit, which gives Apple CarPlay and also improved navigation over the dated original.
Centre console modded to house switches and CB
The centre console bears a CB radio, voltmeter and internal temperature sensor with a bank of Carling switches mounted towards the back to control the various extra external and internal lights, which Michael explains he may relocate as the younger dogs can get a bit excited when in the front seat area and trigger an impromptu disco by standing on them.
TransK9 cage, Fuji White paint and tinted windows keep dogs comfortable and safe
Genuine Land Rover front seat covers protect the upholstery, while the massive TransK9 dog cage looms large in the back – vital to the owner’s chosen hobby. ‘‘Unfortunately, I was run off the road in my last car, and it rolled over with dogs in the back. The cage absorbed the impact and, although confused and shaken, they were fine. They’re incredibly good cages – the Scottish police use them.’’
The cage is all well and good, but how do you get into the spare wheel compartment if you get a flat? You don’t need to, because as you may remember, the spare now lives on the roof. Not only that, the compartment is now full of a RedArc 12v charging system, which helps keep the second battery healthy and manages power to the Watt-hungry fridge, as well as keeping an electric chainsaw, air compressor and handheld radios powered up. Also on the electrical front, a Victron 1200W inverter churns out all the juice Michael needs when out on trips or away camping. Talking of which…
Bootlid and awning provide ample shelter on rainy shoot days
‘‘I sort of got into greenlaning by accident,’’ he laughs. ‘‘I starting doing the Freelander up primarily for working with the dogs, but then I got involved with the Freelander 2 Off-Road Group (FL2ORG) on Facebook and went on one of their trips. I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m planning to undertake a big coast-to-coast trip soon, and I can’t wait.’’
Michael, an ex-armed forces engineer, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty either. ‘‘I took the F2 to the garage to have a hub bearing done shortly after I first got it, which cost more than I thought it would.
“I’ve done everything myself since. I’ve even changed the clutch and the timing belt at the side of the road. I’m friendly with a farmer across the way now and he lets me use his yard for bigger jobs, which is a huge help.’’
Michael’s got into laning in a big way since buying the F2
Whichever way you look at it, Michael has done an amazing job selecting a base vehicle that’s right for him, and choosing the best upgrades to make it do the job he needs it to, but far better than it ever could in standard guise. Needless to say, three years and countless upgrades down the line, the constant evolution of this Freelander shows no sign of slowing down.
“I’ve got the springs to sort, the gearing to look into, the front section of exhaust to have modified, which will tie in with the remap – there’s still plenty to do. But for now, I’m just enjoying using it as much as possible.’’ We’ll see you out on the lanes, mate.
2013 Freelander 2 gen 2 facelift 2.2 Td4
• 2.2 TD4 157bhp
• Aluminium and silicone pipework
• Mann & Hummel Provent 200 air-oil separator
• Custom exhaust by Alunox Exhausts
• K&N panel filter
• MuddyMods raised air intake
• Six-speed manual gearbox
• Standard Haldex and rear diff
Suspension and brakes
• MuddyMods 40/50mm lift
• Bilstein B6 dampers
• Evoque strut brace
• Rear anti-roll bar removed
• Front anti-roll bar disconnected
Body and chassis
• Fuji White paint
• Limo dark-tinted rear windows
• Wind deflectors
• Rear bumper cut
• Frontrunner Slimline II roof rack
• Terrafirma awning
• MaxTrax traction boards
• Twin jerry cans
• Spare wheel, slide-out table and shovel mounted on roof
• MuddyMods rock sliders
• MuddyMods sump, tank and rear diff guards
• MuddyMods discreet winch mount
• Stainless steel fixings
Wheels and tyres
• Standard 17-inch alloy wheels
• 245/60 R17 BF Goodrich KM3 mud-terrain tyres
• 30mm H&R wheel spacers
• Freelander 2 TransK9 B21 dog cage
• Land Rover front seat covers
• Rear seats removed
• On-board water tank
• RedArc BC/DC battery charger
• 1200W Victron inverter
• ARB Classic 47-litre fridge
• ARB high-output air compressor
• Lightforce work lamps
• Rigid Industries driving and spot lamps
• Carling switches on centre console
• Thunderpole T-3000 CB radio
• ID Core infotainment system
• iCom PMR handheld radios
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