THE LONG-TIME Moreton Island resident squinted at my Perentie as it sat in the sand outside the general store at Bulwer. “I suppose if you’re going to get stuck on Moreton with a two-wheel drive, a Land Rover is the one you want.”
As John trundled away in his weather-beaten Disco 2, I thought he was probably right, as my maiden off-road voyage post turbocharger, clutch and power steering upgrade wasn’t exactly going to plan.
A few days on Moreton Island had seemed like the perfect way to play with the newly upgraded Perentie. Plus, it had been too long since I’d ventured across the bay to one of my favourite weekend getaway destinations.
It’s hard to be in a bad mood as the ferry churns its way to the island – wind in the place where my hair used to be, a fresh espresso in hand and the glowing beaches of Moreton just peeking over the horizon. The warning signs on what was about to come should’ve been there, in hindsight, of course, but I was feeling way too cocky about the Landy’s capabilities.
After dumping our gear at Cowan Cowan I was pretty keen to explore the island, so we trundled down the beach towards the middle road that traverses the island, with the aim of running down the ocean beach to Karingal.
However, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Warm weather and a long weekend for Queenslanders meant the sand was soft and badly churned up along the middle road. More than a couple of stock fourbies had given up and headed back to the beach; but not me, I was driving a Land Rover, after all.
As the going got tough I kept my foot planted to maintain as much momentum as I could muster, but the Landy started to bog down and then there was a cracking sound from the front end. I stopped. I may have even used a couple of bad words.
After crawling around in the sand to check if there was anything obvious, I tried to gently move. With the centre diff lock in, I had two-wheel drive; without the centre diff lock, I had no drive. It was pretty clear I’d snapped a front axle; there was the even worse possibility that I’d blown the front diff, but I figured that would be pretty unlikely for a Perentie.
Luckily, a well-kitted Triton soon idled up behind me. I explained my predicament and old mate kindly offered to tow me back down to the beach ... not the most dignified of journeys.
I should’ve expected a development like this. After all, I’d just increased the power output of the Isuzu mill by a large margin, and if there was a slight weakness in the driveline somewhere, churning through the sand was going to find it.
So while I sat under a tree contemplating what the next four days of two-wheel driving was going to look like for me, I thought I’d call ahead and book the Perentie in for an axle upgrade ASAP. The guys from MR Automotive were going to get another visit when I made it back to the mainland.
While its off-road capability may have been limited, I still managed to tackle the beach at low tide to get to Bulwer for supplies. In fact, the Landy did quite well as a 2WD; although, getting off the beach required a fair pace. I also managed to shred my Treds when I did get stuck; it’s safe to say that I’ll be replacing them with a different brand of recovery track.
After limping home and delivering it to MR Automotive, we discovered the front right-hand axle had indeed busted. So I bit the bullet and opted to replace both front axles with heavier duty Maxi-Drive items, as well as convert the hubs to oil bath. I know there are different schools of thought on greased bearing versus oil bath, but I’m definitely in the oil bath camp ... maybe it’s the truckie in me.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to head bush since picking the old beast up from the shop, however that doesn’t mean I haven’t been driving my camo-clad wheels around with a stupid grin on my moosh. It’s brilliant.
However, I have a trip to Fraser Island planned in the next couple of months, and this trip better be hassle-free as I’m heading up with a mate of mine and his Jeep Wrangler.
If anything breaks on the Landy, I’ll never hear the end of it.
Through rough tracks and rough times on 4x4 Shed
4x4 Shed Log: 1988 Land Rover Perentie Defender 110
Current mileage: 104,610km
Date acquired: February 2017
Mileage this month: N/A
Average fuel consumption: N/A