22 November 1996

DOING WHAT LAND

ROVER DOES WELL

– BUT EVEN BETTER

Buy it as a kit or a complete car – the Ibex sets out to out-Land Rover the Land Rover.

Andrew Pearce goes up North to discover more

GRAB a bit of paper, and doodle the outline of a really go-anywhere 4×4.

Youll probably end up with a wheel right out at each corner, minimal ground-snagging overhangs at each end and plenty of underbelly clearance. What engine would you drop in? Most people would fancy a torquey diesel, built for hauling load and delivering flexible power on the rough. And suspension? Probably coils, working over long-travel beam axles to reach right down into gullies and holes. Now, how many production vehicles duplicate your sketch?

Not many. Land Rovers stubby 90/Defender comes pretty close, but the rest miss the mark on one score or other. To be right on target you need to visit sunny downtown Rotherham, home of the Ibex.

In production since 1987 and now in Mk2 form, this snub-nosed bullet of an off-roader uses Land Rover running gear and takes over where the factory leaves off. But is it more than just a new suit of clothes on a Solihull chassis?

Spaced out

It is. Look a little closer – thats no simple ladder frame underneath, and its galvanised. Designer John Foers started from first principles when he dreamed up the Ibex, aiming for a vehicle that could take people and kit just about anywhere and be lifetime-durable with it.

Early on he decided to ditch a conventional two-rail chassis in favour of a spaceframe. This, he reckoned, would resist twist much better and give significantly more protection against impact and roll-over.

So under an Ibexs aluminium/grp panelling sits a lattice of structural hollow box in various sections, none of it less than 2.5mm wall thickness. The main frame carries perimeter rails and, in hardtop cars, three very substantial steel rollover hoops.

The way the running gear attaches could easily be a cobble-up. But John Foers is an engineer, not a back-street bodger. So all suspension locating points, engine mountings and steering/suspension geometry duplicate precisely Land Rovers originals.

Thus the powertrain and ancillaries drop straight in and standard Land Rover spares can be used in service. Externally, non-stressed panels in marine-quality aluminium and grp are bonded to the structure using polyurethane adhesive/sealant, which blocks electrolytic corrosion and insulates against noise. And as there are no compound body curves – all panels are either flat or folded – damage repair is relatively straightforward.

Engine choice and build method are up to the buyer. Most Land Rover engine/gearbox combinations can be fitted, along with the usual aftermarket four-cylinder Mazda and Nissan big diesels. Alternatively you can buy a complete car – see Box.

Mounting the goat

For a taste of Ibexing we settled for whisking John Foers 250 demonstrator round the roads and into the country.

Something immediately feels different; its lighter inside and shoulder room is better. Panelling round the interior and standard Defender dash is adequately trimmed. Behind you is a load bay slightly longer than a 90s, here hosting two optional folding seats.

Twist the key and a 300Tdi diesel grumbles into life. John Foers likes this engine. Its quieter and smoother than the 200, he reckons, with an 1800rpm twist peak suiting it to lazy diesel travel and high-torque off-roading. Go for a gear and push a clutch pedal thats as heavy as usual. Nose out into the traffic and soon you twig that this Ibex drives and sounds like a current Defender, only feeling tighter and less boomy. That stiff spaceframe must be doing its stuff.

Steering is a little more floaty than a Defenders, probably thanks to the tyres extra width and lower pressures. But despite having no anti-roll bars, the Ibex seems to heel less through corners and change direction more smartly than the factory. Performance is pretty much the same, too, though the Ibex is marginally heavier.

But its not a vehicle for A-road burnups or motorway thrashes. Its real home starts where roads turn into tracks, and the demonstrators soft, supple ride over broken ground suggests that the occupants will not arrive liquidised at journeys end. Axle travel is pretty phenomenal and view to the corners is good. And the almost complete lack of overhangs means that an Ibex ought to snuffle up and over a near-vertical step without burying its nose or dragging its tail.

Minimal overhangs, chunky body and spaceframe chassis mark out Ibex.

Left: Room under the bonnet for most Land Rover engines. This one in Foers 240 is 200Tdi. Above: Interior is neatly finished. Spare lives inside for better security.


OPTIONS AND COSTS

The Foers Ibex comes in three wheelbases, equivalent to the Defender 90, Discovery/Classic Range Rover or Defender 110. Designations are Ibex 240, 250 and 280. Body styles are open top, pickup, full hardtop or station wagon, though not all are available for each model.

Example prices

Body/chassis for self-finishing using donor Land Rover:

240 hard top £3775,

280 station wagon £4595.

Fully-built cars using all new parts£20,000-£25,000

Note: 1. Prices are plus VAT. 2. Typical delivery time 5-6months. 3. Insurance-based warranty extra. 4. Part-built vehicles to order.

Foers Engineering (01709-527720)