Helen & Chris's Freelander

Helen Jacks-Hewett, an equine sports therapist, and her husband, Chris Hewett, a paramedic, bought their Camel Trophy Freelander, R581 HAB in 2005.  Helen uses the Freelander for her business when she has to reach inaccessible farms and paddocks.  At the weekend, Helen & Chris use the vehicle to explore greenlanes and byways.

Fewer of these vehicles were made than any other competitor model: Only 37 were produced and a Land Rover specification list suggests that only 8 of these were right-hand drive.

This particular vehicle, a RHD 2.0 L-series diesel, was prepared for the 1998 Camel Trophy in Argentina and Chile.  The Freelander's four-cylinder engine produces 96 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 154 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm. Among the list of equipment are front airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic traction control and Land Rover's unique Hill Descent Control (HDC) feature that debuted on the Freelander.  The Camel Trophy vehicles were specified with a full Safety Devices roll cage, a-bar and winching points, underbody protection, upgraded electrical system, driving lamps, full length roof rack and tonneau cover and a Warn M5000 short drum portable winch.

Vehicles that were used for the 1997 and 1998 Camel Trophy were decorated with mountain range graphics along the door sills.  R581 HAB lacks this, indicating it was one of the vehicles used for the pre-event team selections in Sweden.

For the 1998 Camel Trophy, each team chose its own route, guided by GPS coordinates and local maps.  They collected points for reaching any combination of up to 225 locations scattered from Santiago, Chile to the tip of South America, Ushuaia, Argentina - as far south as it's possible to travel by road.  The progress of the event was tracked by the logistics headquarters in Santiago and the location of each vehicle plotted in real time using a satellite tracking program on the Camel Trophy website.

The 1998 Camel Trophy was the first pure winter event, with a particular emphasis on athletic tasks.  The event was criticised by die-hard off road fans, yet the Freelander proved its worth.  In the winter conditions, it was the support Defenders that needed assistance most often.  The Freelander proved to be rugged, nimble and especially competent on ice and snow.

"I was amazed at how the Freelander did," said an American competitor, Dean Vergillo, "I didn't expect the car to get through all that stuff. I think part of it is the car's unibody construction. It has an extremely smooth undercarriage, and as long as you keep it moving, it runs great."

After the event, ownership of the vehicle passed to Julian and Victoria Read, two British Offroad Racing Championship drivers who restored it and then used it as prototype and to support their racing Freelanders. They participated in the 2003 and 2004 Macmillan 4x4 Challenge events.  The vehicle was also used for an aid run to Bosnia.

Since purchasing the vehicle, Helen & Chris have been doing odd jobs to return the vehicle to its original condition  with the help of Helen's father, Nigel, who can sort out any wiring problem that the car throws at him.  The vehicle is now in 99% original specification.  The navigation and communications equipment has been fitted.  Only a set of snow chains and an emergency distress beacon remain to be sourced.

 
         
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  R581 HAB at the Camel Trophy international selections, Sweden 1998.

 

  Land Rover wiring can present some interesting challenges.

 

 
  Click here for a larger picture   Thanks to Dan Wallace, Shires LRC  
  Lights ablaze, Helen explores the rare greenlanes and byways of Warwickshire, October 2005.

 

  Bob's Bash: Camel Trophy 25th anniversary celebrations.
(photo by Dan Wallace, Shires LRC)

 

 
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  Exploring the tracks around Eastnor Castle with Land Rover Experience, November 2005.

 

  The best way to break the ice at a Christmas party, Salisbury Plain, December 2005.

 

 
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  Just add mud.

 

  Freelander leads the way across Salisbury Plain, Christmas 2005.

 

 
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  Snowdrops in Woollard, North East Somerset.   Helen managing perfectly well without interference from Chris.

 

 
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  Developing new routes for Xtreme Offroad, Churchill, April 2006.

 

  Freelander is capable as long as the driver avoids deep ruts and sharp approach angles.

 

 
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  The Keynsham contingent on the CTOC stand at the Heritage Land Rover Weekend, Gaydon, April 2006.

 

  Highly polished and complete with winch and flag for the first time since 1998, R581 HAB was probably the best turned out Freelander at Gaydon.

 

 
     
  Hung up on a huge rut on the LRW Show off road course, June 2006.

 

  Guided by Alf from Land Rover Experience.

 

 
     
  Trying to get the off side rear wheel to lift.

 

  The only Freelander to attempt the LRW Eastnor off road course, triumphant!

 

 
     
  Competing in the LRO Show "Twist Off" competition in which Freelanders achieved a modest index of 240-260 depending on mods.

 

  Marshalling the LRO Show off road course at "Simon's View" on the Eastnor estate, August 2006.

 

 
     
  Mud on ...

 

    ... Rinse off!

 

 
     
  Not the muddiest Freelander, not the muddiest Camel, but the muddiest Land Rover at the Dunsfold Collection Open Weekend.

 

  Freelander and the Camel Trophy Owners Club led the London to Brighton Land Rover Run 2006.

 

 
     
  SLSLRC trophy for Best Freelander.

 

  That's the last time I drive through the monkey enclosure at Longleat!

 

 
     
  Making a splash with Ben, Guy, Dan and the Keynsham Camels.

 

  Steep hole at Dundry's off road course, November 2006.

 

 
     
  ... And out the other side!   Nick was ready with the camera when too much enthusiasm (and not enough skill?) sent Chris into the hedge.

 

 
     
  Tim leads the instruction as the Freelander's winch is used in anger for the first time since the Camel Trophy national selections in 1998.

 

  Caught on cameraphone lifting a wheel through the mudhole.  
     
  Helen's bow wave on Salisbury Plain, New Year's Day 2007.

 

  Time for a brew with Darcy and Poppy near Yanbury Castle on Salisbury Plain.

 

 
     
  Freelander led the team convoy for over fifty miles of offroading on Salisbury Plain.

 

  Escaping from "Helen's ditch" ... but it was Chris that got stuck this time.

 

 
     
  Early morning sunrise at the 2007 London to Brighton Land Rover Run.

 

  Event Freelanders were supported by load carrying Defenders - here Helen is closely pursued by the Harris's 1998 Defender 110.

 

 
     
  St Johns in the Vale, the Lake District, 2008 - unsuitable for motor vehicles...

 

  Flying the flag for the Camel Trophy Owners Club at the Severn Valley Railway 60th anniversary of Land Rover celebrations.

 

 
     
  Complete with roof bag, gathering at the "Home of the Legend" at Land Rover's Lode Land factory.

 

  After the 60th Anniversary Solihull to Gaydon Heritage Run, May 2008.

 

 
         

More pictures are available from the "out and about" page

 Chris Hewett

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Otto Czarovitch

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