The Vehicles

By the spring of 2007, The Great Race people had accepted our application as a ‘Future Fuels’ bio-diesel entry.

Now to find a vehicle and get a team together. After considerable research, I set my sights on four possible candidates – BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes and Toyota. The fall of 2007 found Ellen and I in Solihull, England at the Land Rover factory. We were treated to a first class experience by the Land Rover people that included a factory tour and a full morning on the off-road course. Ellen did well on the water and obstacle portion, but just about lost it on the vertical incline when the Defender was straight up and she couldn’t see over the bonnet. Being in the back seat, I thought I would be the first to the bottom of the hill when Ellen stalled the car just at the critical moment when the front wheels were supposed to flop down on the crest  of the steep incline. We defied gravity as the wonderfully patient instructor talked Ellen through the recovery. The view of the factory from the peak was magnificent. We were sold on Land Rover product.

The following day we were greeted by Land Rover executives and technicians at their world headquarters in Gaydon. There, the technicians laid out the specifications we would need to field a killer bio-diesel entry – a 2008 Range Rover 3.6 liter TDV8 diesel – that would operate on any grade diesel fuel that we be able to get our hands on anywhere in the world.

We were also introduced to Conrico, a UK firm that supplies Land Rover  products for special applications throughout the world to clients including the  United Nations, Red Cross and other relief agencies. We ordered the Range Rover after having  confirmed that we would be approved  for a temporary import permit by Transport Canada.

One week later Ellen informed me that she didn’t want to listen to me barking orders for the 63 days of the Race; she wanted her own vehicle; and some ladies on our team to remedy our gender imbalance. A quick check with The Great Race and the factory, and presto, a second identical vehicle was ordered. The factory was good enough to squeeze the new vehicle into the production schedule to meet our looming deadline. I wanted the vehicles on the road in Canada for 5,000 kilometers before we started the race. In the meantime, we received confirmation that ICBC would provide the necessary permits to drive on the roads in BC as CDN 1 and CDN 2.

The Range Rovers arrived on different flights (yes, we had to air freight the vehicles to Vancouver in order to meet the deadlines). The vehicles were trucked from England to Holland to meet Seattle bound Martinair air freighters with wide enough cargo doors to accommodate  a Range Rover; then  by truck in bond to Vancouver International Airport for Canadian Customs clearance. We received the vehicles there. MCL Motors was kind enough to go completely through the vehicles for us and swapped out a set of six 20″ wheels and tires that CDN 2 had come with,  for my preferred 19″ wheels; all of which were mounted and balanced on the rims,  four on the car and two spares. The 19″ wheels would give us higher tire sidewall and a better chance to avoid rim damage on rough roads.

Our plan was to run the Range Rovers for approximately 4,000 km on B5 bio-diesel to see how they would perform in terms of mileage and maintenance. 4Refuel comped us the bio-fuel which we mixed ourselves at every fueling stop (5 L bio to 95 L diesel). [A word about bio-diesel – it can be derived from used fast fry grease (mostly as a cottage industry in people’s own garages); but most big quantity bio-diesel is distilled from agricultural product, the most common being rape seed which is not really used as food for human or animal consumption. Bio-diesel is frequently confused with ethanol (Bio-fuel used in gasoline engines) which is distilled from agricultural product, the most common being corn which is used as food for human or animal consumption.] In any case, our mileage indicated approximately 20 miles per imperial gallon (13.5 km/100 L) in town and 26 mpg (11 km/100 L) on the highway (considerably better than the 16 mpg I am getting on my gas Range Rover. Dave Riddoch and I changed oil (flown in from the UK) and the oil and fuel filters; there were no apparent issues on account of the bio-diesel. The manufacturer notes that B5 is the maximum Bio-mixture they recommend; the main reason for which is the rubber seals in the fuel delivery and distribution system may be compromised by the Bio additive. There are no modifications made to the engine unless you want to run on a high % (up to 100%) Bio, and then the modifications are mostly replacing the rubber seals with neoprene seals that are not affected by the Bio and possibly heat-tracing the fuel lines to prevent gelling in cold weather. The diesel powered Range Rovers were running as well or better than we had expected – lots of power, quiet and dependable.

Prior to shipping the Range Rovers to China we serviced them both on our hoist at home and then had Kal Tire mount brand new Michelin 255/55R19 all weather tires on both vehicles and 4 mounted spares. Dave Riddoch and I sorted the spare parts that we had ordered with the vehicles into a manageable quantity and we purchased a complete set of tools and supplies that were all packed in CDN 2 for the voyage to China.

Then off to CSA Transport in Delta for loading into the sea container which was expertly done by Dale Vigier, Mike, Will Vader and Mitch Evanish from our job site crew, with me getting in the way.

This short summary looks so neat and concise in a few paragraphs that I wonder why it took a year and a half of constant grinding to fit all the behind-the-scene pieces together for this event.

Our profound thanks to Land Rover, UK (Sonia Bryson, Bob Grace, Adel Pishneshin, Dave Roynon); Conrico, UK (Joan Day, David Stewart); MCL Motors, Vancouver (David Campbell, John Chesman, George Heer); 4Refuel, Langley (Ken Fryer, Jack Lee); Transport Canada, Ottawa (The Honorable Lawrence Cannon, Martine Lachance); ICBC, Vancouver (Nigel Mathews); Pacific Customs Brokers, Surrey (Line Clarke, Adam Wickstead); Wilson Beck Insurance, Burnaby (Nikki Keith); Chubb Insurance, Toronto (James English, Paul Morrisette); CSA Transport, Delta (Mike Melwicks); MIR Corporation, Seattle (Marina Arkhipova, Doug Grimes) and many others that helped in educating and assisting us in organizing the event.

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