A giant step forward in vehicle capability has been the installation of the Ashcroft Automatic Torque Biasing (ATBs) front and rear differentials. This has been on my radar for a few years, but like every decision sometimes you need to save the spare cash to complete these types of upgrades. Having seen the capability improvements in friends vehicles when they had installed various diff locking options I knew it was time. The more I have taken on challenging driving, the more I have realised the stress the Landy is put through. Tracks the like the ‘Old Coach Road’ from Maytown to Laura in North Queensland, is a very solid test for any 4wd, and although I made it through, there were a number of times when the Landy just lost traction and spun wheels going nowhere. It was at that time that I decided to improve the vehicles’ rough terrain capabilities and look at my traction options.
While I looked at a number of diff locking options I didn’t really like the idea of having air lines and compressors in the vehicle nor was I keen in having holes into the diffs and lines that can be caught up in remote 4wd activity or suffer from water ingress. Again my thinking lingered on keeping things simple and mechanical with less to go wrong which led me to go with the fully sealed Ashcroft ATB. Some may not of heard of this particular unit and before Rene from the Landy Centre suggested them I was one.
The Ashcroft ATB are made in the UK and need to be shipped in. But for the price of one Eaton E-locker and without the electrics you have your front and rear diff covered in the Landy. Fitment requires a good knowledgeable mechanic and a few hours to ensure all the teeth are lined up perfectly. Overall impressions are that a far more solid piece of engineering was being placed into the diff housing than standard open diff which came out.
More important was giving this a genuine test and having some comparison from tracks I have previously driven the Landy on and know where the traction control has previously activated. So with the old man visiting we decided to take an overnighter behind the Atherton Tablelands and drive the well known ‘Ravenshoe to Walsh River Powerline Track’ known for steep gradients, loose rocks, and coupled with the recent wet season rain, I knew we would be provided a great test ground.
To sum it up, all I can say is that the Landy just did things easier. The places where that familiar churning sound of traction control activating with the green light flashing on and off on the dash simply did not occur. I genuinely think it is the biggest advance in the vehicle’s capabilities that I have added to date. Like in most hindsight situations I wondered why I hadn’t prioritised this side of things earlier. For more information on the specifics of the ATB’s I recommend heading to the http://w.ashcroft-transmissions.co.uk/ site.
For protecting the Landy underneath I did a lot of looking around at various bash plate options, alloy, steel, in all the various forms. Eventually I found a little niche company called APT fabrications (APT Offroad) which is based in Brisbane. They specifically focus on Land Rover vehicles and, when passing by, I took the opportunity to visit, have a look around and a chat to the owner Ben Woodgate. Over the past two years I have slowly added protection under the vehicle. The first was the removal of the standard Landy steering protection bar and replacement with the APT steering protection guard. I also added the front differential slider/guard. I did this prior to Open Sky Touring crossing the Simpson in 2015. Since then I have also added a fuel cooler guard and rear differential slider/guard. They certainly come in handy and provide peace of mind when taking on a challenging section of track.
One lesson I have learnt with the Landy Project over the years is often the best products and advice are from people who are developing products to solve particular issues they have found themselves. These guys not only know the product but they live the lifestyle and are able to provide advice from genuine experience. While some of the larger businesses do a good job, often they are only as good as their sale person’s experience, but speaking to the person behind the product provides so much more value and authenticity.