2018 Ultimate Adventure Derange Rover, Part 5 #UA2018

Part 5: Rollcage, Seats & Roof Over Our Heads

Verne SimonsPhotographer, Writer

Most folks in the U.S. don’t know much about late-1980s Range Rovers. Given its 1989 price tag of $30,400, that’s not surprising. Some car nuts know that at least part of the body is aluminum, but if you’re like us you probably didn’t realize how little is made of the lightweight nonferrous metal. The frame is fully boxed steel (really a tubular steel with multiple layers and internal gussets) that’s thick enough to be rigid but thin enough to tear and dent more easily than we would like. From there up is a steel internal body structure, which extends up into the roof.

Outside this body “skeleton” are a few bolt-on aluminum body panels, including the roof, quarter-panels, cowl, door skins, and so on, and excluding the hood, tailgate, and rear quarter corners, which all bolt-on but are good ol’ weighty British steel. Even the doors have a steel inner structure.

The point is that there isn’t much weight-saving aluminum in a 1989 Range Rover Classic. As a result, Range Rovers are strong, but they ain’t anywhere near light—especially when you add in about 200 pounds of electronics in the form of relays, wires, computers, CD changers, amps, and motors to make this thing late-1980s-fancy. We like vehicles that are lightweight. In fact if we had our druthers, we’d prefer a four-cylinder Jeep, Kia, or Suzuki. Oh, did we mention that the Derange Rover will have dual transfer cases, 1-ton axles, a diesel engine, winch, armor, a rollcage, and so on? Even on paper this thing is getting heavy.

So given all this info we knew the Derange Rover wouldn’t be a bantamweight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to keep things as light as possible and at least place weight down low where we want it. The 1-ton Ultimate Dana 60 axles aren’t light, but that weight is down really low, in theory adding stability (to a point). The Offroad Design Magnum Box underdrive isn’t bad in terms of weight, but that bulletproof NP205 is heavy for sure. But like the axles it will sit relatively low in the chassis. The Cummins R2.8 weighs more than the Rover’s original aluminum V-8 but it’s lighter than many other diesel engines and it makes gobs more torque. That is weight we want and can compromise for.

What we can’t compromise for are electronics that we don’t need (that don’t work anyways), especially ones that are high up in the Derange Rover’s body. The original seats aren’t all that comfy to begin with, and with multiple electric motors tucked under them they aren’t lightweight either. Easy—we’ll toss them for a set of MasterCraft Baja RS seats. How about that huge and nonfunctional electronic sunroof? Yep, gone. A Legacy Products Soft Top is a much better solution for us. Add in just about every inch of factory wiring and all of the modules relays, computers, black boxes, timers, factory HVAC . . . all of it needs to go! An easy decision is to replace one of the Rover’s weakest links (the wiring) with a smaller, simpler Painless Performance wiring harness.

When it comes to the Derange Rover, whatever we don’t need we don’t want. In short, we gutted the Rover’s interior, only adding back in the things we need, like a stout rollcage, a simple dash, comfy seats, and not much else. Did we save much weight over stock? Probably not, but the Rover is safe and comfortable without all the heavy fluff that a late-1980s luxo-ute would have. Oh, and did we mention almost none of the electronics worked anyways?

Corner Gussets & Triangles

There is a lot of art and science in building strong steel structures like rollcages, but a few simple rules can make a big difference. The corners are generally weak points, and triangles are your friends. One way to beef up the corners of a ’cage is with corner gussets (little triangles), but most of us are not born knowing how to build good corner gussets. Sure, you can buy some, but these that we copied from our friend Rob Bonney at Rob Bonney Fabrication are relatively easy to make and add a ton of strength to our corners.
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