Gwyn Lewis 4x4

Although Gwyn established his business back in 1984 when he was just 16 years old, it was evident at a much younger age that he had a talent for modifying and improving most things mechanical.  

When he was 11 years old, Gwyn told me that his dad bought a tipper lorry, this he said got his creative his juices flowing. From then on Gwyn was obsessed with trucks, he could name the exact make of a lorry by just hearing it and he would spend almost every weekend either modifying or mending something on the lorry.  Gwyn was hooked.

When he was at school, Gwyn told me that he would modify the families lawn mower to go faster. He also customised a rotovator with a straight through exhaust and modified it so that he could fit an array of different attachments.

So it was no surprise that this passion and fascination for all things mechanical continued and flourished into his own business repairing and maintaining many types of vehicles alongside designing and manufacturing custom parts. 

Gwyn’s first 4×4 was of course a Land Rover, a Series 2a to be precise, and by all accounts it was in a bit of a state when he got it.  The venerable Land Rover was stripped and totally rebuilt, Gwyn also replaced the original petrol engine with a 2.2 BMC diesel lump which was much better.

Later, in 1989 Gwyn bought a 1 year old Toyota HiLux which he of course modified by making a 3” roll bar, bumper, sill bars and all manner of add on’s that adorned 4x4‘s in the late 80’s.  Inevitably, Gwyn started off roading the HiLux, and he told me that everyone around him thought he was mad for taking such a vehicle off road! 

“It’s a shame.” He said,  “that I hadn’t joined AWDC by then as it wouldn’t have been a good vehicle to compete in.  I sold it in 1992 and bought a newer HiLux as I wanted to fit a turbo and intercooler to the engine, I did and what a hell of a difference that made!”

Like his previous HiLux, Gwyn fabricated and fitted the usual roll bars and bigger rubber. 

After he a rebuilt and modified a badly damaged Land Rover 90, Gwyn’s off roading became quite serious, and he began visiting Dave Mitchell’s Landcraft which is fairly local.  He then began competing in winch challenge events, like the Optima Series which was run by Paul Peete and Paul Massey.  This is where most of Gwyn’s ideas started life, driven by the need to improve his own Land Rover in off road winch challenge competitions.

“That’s where I made a name for myself.”  He told me.  “Others saw what I had created to improve my 90‘s off road performance, the more I modified it, the more interest it attracted, and that’s when ‘Gwyn Lewis 4x4’ began to take shape.”

Since then, Gwyn has been constantly developing new and innovate ideas for Land Rover enthusiasts to use on their own vehicles, both on and off road.  Most of the items are designed and made in house, so quality is always assured. 

As well as his heavy duty rear coil spring retainers, Gwyn has recently created a quick release rear mudflap mounting kit and front mudflap extensions for Defender’s.

He then designed the Gwyn Lewis Challenge Suspension Kit using Toyota Land Cruiser 11” travel pin/pin shocks all round.  He admitted that he lost a lot of sleep trying to get all the components to work, adjustments where continuously made before it was perfected.

The uniqueness with Gwyn is that once he has an idea in his head, he then has to set about creating the tools that makes the product, and that takes time and effort.  Of course, if the end product isn’t up to his standards, then the process of rebuilding the tool starts over again, it’s all trial and error. 

His rear spring re-locator was one idea that took a long time for him to find the right length to hook the spring at the right time.  Gwyn was visibly deflated when he found that another company had taken his idea and copied it.  Now there are quite a few companies selling ‘bootleg’ versions, but they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Gwyn also sells Sumo Bars, in fact, when Ian Sykes of 4allfours decided to sell up and move to Iceland, as his biggest customer at the time, Gwyn bought the name and rights.

 

He now supplies these heavy duty replacement steering bar for the Defender, Discovery 1, Discovery 2, Range Rover Classics, as well as the Series range.  There are 2 types of bars available, the original 29mm Heavy Duty Hollow bar that is accepted by the ALRC and AWDC as replacements and the 32mm EXT Solid Bar for those wanting more strength.

He prides himself and his team on always willing to advise and treat customers like he would like to be treated himself as a customer.  “These days,” He told me, “It’s getting difficult to find a retailer who wants to help or has the knowledge to advise on products.  Some companies just want to make money and aren’t bothered if you buy the right item or not.”  

He’s aware that he’s lost a lot of sales over the years by not selling items to customers.  When a customer phones and wants to purchase something which Gwyn knows is wrong and won’t work, he’ll tell them.  He would rather lose business than have an unhappy customer.

Gwyn’s the type of person who very rarely switches off, wherever he goes he’ll notice something and an idea of how to improve it will pop into his head.  You get the impression that no matter what his passion is, he will always find ways to improve on the norm.

He’s quite proud of the fact that his products are not only found all around the globe, but are also used in many of the harshest competitions in the world, like the Rhino Charge in Kenya.

It isn’t often that you hear about companies that don’t advertise, but Gwyn is a case in fact, he finds himself in wonderful position that a lot of customers find him from word of mouth, which is the best kind of advertising.  Although you can still visit his website, Gwyn tells me that a new on-line shop is currently under construction, if you want to buy something then customers can either phone them or visit his ebay shop.

Meanwhile, whilst his team are busy servicing and MOT’ing, Gwyn is happy in the background these days inventing and creating new products, he can’t help it, it’s what he does best!

www.gwynlewis4x4.co.uk

Prolinx Suspension Ltd

With a family heavily involved in Autograss racing, it was inevitable that Paul would follow in their footsteps, in fact, after watching his first Autograss National Finals when he was just 4 years old, you could argue that there was no hope for him!

He began racing in 1987, and straight away it was apparent to him that a good suspension set up was more important than engine power.  The problem was, as soon as you get more traction you begin breaking driveshafts and associated driveline components, and at the time everyone was using standard CV’s and breaking them.

Paul found a manufacturer of CV cages in the USA and started buying them for himself as well as friends and family.  The company also sold Fox shocks and at the time the usual Autograss set up was Hillman Imp front shocks and TVR rears as these were coilovers.

Soon he began winning races, then championships. He won the National Autograss Champion of Champions at the Finals in 1992, the highest accolade in the sport.

With two British Series running, there are over 5,000 Autograss vehicles competing. With his high profile, in 1993 he launched Prolinx as a part time hobby.

By 2004 it was much busier, and with 70% of Prolinx turnover being Autograss suspension, Paul had to make a decision.  By his own admission, this so called part time hobby had turned mad, so he decided put all his eggs in one basket and committed himself completely to Prolinx.

One day, he received a phone call from someone in Credenhill, ‘It was all a bit cloak and dagger.’ Paul explained.  ‘The caller said that they had an off-road vehicle they wanted me to look at.’

It transpired that a certain Elite army regiment had taken a classified vehicle over to the USA on exercise with the US Special Forces. It drove really well but general consensus from some US off road experts that were present, was that it required some hydraulic bumpstops.

It had a very sophisticated suspension system with a bell crank and pushrod down to the bottom wishbone. ‘It was really clever,’ Paul said. ‘They had taken the air bags and put them inboard to get them out of harm’s way. There were 2 Koni shock absorbers per wheel station, but being of forward control design it had no room any brackets, just an open wheel arch, there was nowhere for the hydraulic bump stops to go.’

The customer gave Paul a sample shock absorber, axle weights, air spring data and wheel articulation measurements and he then sent all the info to Fox in the USA who said they would be really keen to get involved and subsequently created a bespoke shock absorber with a built-in hydraulic bump stop at the bottom of the shock.

Paul went out to San Diego to help with testing the new vehicle suspension, followed by further shock absorber tuning in the UK.

At this time the SNATCH Land Rovers were getting a bad reputation operationally, so the vehicle in question was de-classified and armoured, meaning it went from 4-1/2 tons to 6 tons, which meant retuning the shocks for the extra weight.

Once the shocks were tuned to work at the new payload, drivers began using the vehicle in anger and as we all know, that’s when the next weakest link rears its ugly head.  Paul and the Fox team had inherited the Koni mounting bushes and because the new shocks were much stiffer, the bushes began to fail and this was during the final testing stage before deployment. Figuring that sleep was overrated anyway, Paul and the Fox crew set about producing new bush mounting washers that wouldn’t cut into the bushes and Fox produced much stiffer bushes to suit the new shock valve codes.

By this time you’d probably be under the impression that he could take a break, of course you would be wrong.  Being pressurised to 300psi, the new shock wasn’t something you could replace at the side of the road with standard tools, so the MoD requested a deployable inflation kit... within 2 weeks. This caused some considerable headaches for all involved.

The vehicle?  We probably all know it as “Jackal”, and since the vehicle’s migration to Fox shocks, Prolinx has supplied the MoD with over 6,000 shock absorbers plus ongoing technical support.

During some fine tuning trials of the Jackal, some regiment lads were following in Land Rovers and couldn’t keep up. It was at a Military show where they collared Paul and John Marking (Fox Off Road VP) and asked for Fox shocks for Solihull’s finest.  Paul designed a Land Rover shock and Fox built 20 sets and gave them to the UK Special Forces for evaluation and tuning. Prolinx tuned these shocks to their requirements. The current OEM Truck Department at Fox was spawned from this programme.

Prolinx also works with several armouring companies in the Middle East who build and run fleets of Toyota Land Cruiser, amongst other vehicles. Prolinx works with these companies to produce the specification for these vehicles.

Whilst at a UK Military Show, Paul met James Halstead from MIRA (vehicle engineering, not the shower people!), who knew several high profile AWDC type off roaders and this opened up a new customer base for him, and Prolinx currently supplies the majority of the UK’s top Comp Safari and Ultra 4 off road racers. 

Paul is currently in the process of building a Polaris XP1000 to race himself which he believes is the next big growth area in UK off road motor sport as it already is in the USA. Being reasonably priced, with nearly 20” of wheel travel and the power to weight ratio of a Golf GTI, it will be a force to be reckoned with once Paul has finished with it.

There are a few other secret prototypes on the go which he wasn’t allowed to talk about. But it isn’t all work, within the next week or so of us chatting he’s involved with a round of the British Autograss series, riding the International Welsh 2-Day Enduro on his Enduro bike, and co-driving for Andy Degiulio in the AWDCHill Rally.

From the humble beginnings of supplying components on a part time basis for Autograss racing, to being the sole European distributor for Fox Military Suspension, Paul and Prolinx have certainly come a long way. Paul offers bespoke suspension systems for virtually any off road vehicle, whether you use it for racing, expeditions or just road use. 

www.prolinx.biz

Milner Off Road

For as long as I can remember, the name Milner has been synonymous with off road racing, engine conversions and of course parts and accessories. My last dealings with Milner was around 7 years ago when I had an imported Toyota Surf, they were one of only a handful of places where I could buy spare parts at a reasonable price that were delivered promptly every time - what more could you ask for?

These days however, things have moved on a bit, they still provide good quality spares and accessories for Japanese trucks, but they’re also, and I quote, churning out some excellent off roader racers that have a habit of winning!  With that in mind, I had to take a look.

Milner off Road can be traced back to the very early 80’s when Trevor Milner was into off road racing and I, incidentally, was still at school.  Back then it seemed that everyone wanted to swap their petrol engines for the more powerful and economical Japanese diesels, so he began developing engine conversion kits. Not long after, Trevor noticed that the market for Japanese 4x4 parts was getting bigger and decided to do what any savvy businessman would do, and Milner Off Road was born.

Since then, the conversion side of the business has been sold on, and now with a strong, knowledgable sales team and enthusiastic engineering side, they focus on parts and racing.  Milner aren’t just about imports, they supply common serviceable items, exhausts, fuel tanks, suspension, wheel and tyre combo’s for most of the Japanese 4x4’s you see on the road today.  In fact, with over £2 million in parts alone they’re even outgrowing their new purpose built premises that they moved into in 2006.

Walking around their warehouse it’s evident that they carry a massive range of stock, with 30 parts staff, racks bulging with parts (many being OE spec), and there’s a whole floor dedicated to exhaust systems!

On their website you’ll also find part diagrams for your vehicle to make easy for you to narrow down those elusive parts you require, anything they say to help make your buying experience be as easy and trouble free as possible.

Although they still supply parts for Surfs and Pajero’s, these days Andrew told me, it’s the Mitsubishi L200 that’s popular.  But as we all know, time stands still for no one, and as all vehicles evolve and become more technical, Milner are constantly updating their stock and knowledge to stay ahead of the parts game. With that in mind, you wouldn’t be surprised to read that even main dealers form a part of their customer network.

As well as suppling to both trade and retail customers in the UK, their parts often find themselves in the remotest parts of the world, with deliveries sent out to Cook Island in the South Pacific, clutches to Africa for a couple on expedition, they’ve even had enquiries for Land Cruiser parts from BBC’s Top Gear team.

A mile or so up the road I parked up in front of their other building and met up with Dave Chapman and Tim Marsh who form part of the racing and engineering side of the business. Years ago when I actually ‘worked’ for a living, I was constantly told that when I dealt with customers it was me who they saw representing the company. Well, just chatting to Dave and Tim for a short while it was evident that they take great pride in their work, showing off their creations, modifications and engineering skills with real enthusiasm.

As a company, Milner obviously make more money selling kits, but I got the impression that both Dave and Tim would rather build a vehicle from scratch so they know it’s spot on when it leaves. So, with millions of pounds being invested in the racing side of things and having produced 30 vehicles so far, I was hoping they’d have a demonstrator vehicle for me to have a play in. They both chuckled, Tim explained that every time they build one, it gets sold. ‘We simply can’t keep them!’

Sitting alongside the new LRM-1 in Milner’s current line up is the R5.  The R5 is an evolution of the previous R4 that’s lower, lighter and faster.  Dave explained that they can build them with any engine and transmission combination the customers wishes. Previous builds so far have included engines from Ford, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Rover, Lexus and a Millington 2.7 Diamond engine.  Although you can have pretty much any engine you want, Tim explained that for around £5k delivered, the Chevy V8 from the Corvette is good simple engine, and as a bonus, everything’s metric!

Your decisions don’t stop there, suspension wise you can have Varidamp dampers or Donerre Lithium 3-way or 5 way adjustable dampers with internal hydraulic bump stops and DETRA fast rebound system that’s available with ART (Anti Roll Technology).  The bodywork can be supplied in either basic chopped strand fibreglass or various composite materials - or a mixture of both.  Milner can also supply them gel coated to a colour of your choice, so that’s one less worry.

The LRM-1 came about when Land Rover, recognising their expertise and knowledge gained over 30 years of cross country racing, approached Milner in a joint effort to create a competitive race car and promote themselves in the rally scene. Although it’s still instantly recognisable as an Evoque, and arguably one of the best looking cars to be launched in the UK since the Allegro (kidding!), clad in a composite body shell it’s actually scaled to 4/5 the size of a real Evoque.

Built using a full space frame chassis with double wishbone, fully independent suspension, the LRM-1 uses parts and technologies from some of the best brands in motorsport, and therefore capable of competing at the highest level from the outset as all of the development has been carried out over the last 2 years in Milner’s own 'works' test car.

The first production car had the latest Land Rover 5.0 V8 supercharged engine producing in excess of 550BHP and 680Nm of torque. The transmission is a 6spd sequential gear box driving a Milner transfer box and Milner differentials with Quaife centres throughout.  There’s no denying that it looks stunning, either stood posing or doing the business in the NORC, AWDC, Britpart & Scottish championships. (Harriet was keen to point out that they have vehicles top of the table in all of the above championships).

Depending on how much change (and large denomination notes), you can dig out from the back of your sofa, the LRM-1 is available to customers as a turn-key car or as a rolling kit with a choice of power plants and transmission packages.  Whether it’s the LRM-1 or R5 that tickles your fancy, a full, street legal vehicle can usually be supplied in around 3 months of your order.

Admittedly, there are other 4x4 racers out there, so when I asked the simple, why would I want to buy from Milner, I received a very simple answer, ‘Because you want to win!’  The thing is, it isn’t a conceited answer, the results simply speak for themselves.

Of course, they don’t just build fast and reliable racers, they service them and fix them too.  Over the years their engineering expertise has been called upon, not just by the MOD and drivers who want a competitive racer, but when Hollywood came knocking too.

Milner has provided 4WD systems, transfer cases, steering and suspension set ups for all manner of famous vehicles.  Some examples are both the Aston Martin and Jaguar XK8 from the frozen lake scene in 007’s ‘Die Another Day’, and they also provided the shocks and steering for the Land Rover Defender in ‘Skyfall’.

The Batmobile from ‘Batman Begins’ wouldn’t exist without Milner’s expertise either as the Americans said that it couldn’t be built due to its complexities.  Once the English special effects team mulled it over and said it could, they contacted Milner to do the rest.  More recently, Milner have been asked to design and build the dampers on a buggy for a new, up and coming Guy Ritchie film, is there no end to their skills?

Fame however hasn’t sent them over the edge, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to racing and engineering or the sales team for parts, what’s evident is that both Milner divisions are a happy and dedicated bunch who are always happy to help.

For further details, visit either their websites:
Parts - www.milneroffroad.com 
Racing - www.milneroffroadracing.co.uk
Or, give them a call on - 01629 734411