Here are a few of my archive blogs as editor at large on 4x4 Magazine, but you can read more in future from my blog site which is currently under construction! 



June 2011

Get stuck in

It’s terribly sad that National Parks need to put these signs up in such glorious surroundings as there are too many irresponsible users out there. But if we behave on our excellent greenlanes and show we are willing to help in repairing the damage caused by the idiots, then it can only do us good...


Welcome to my new column ─ ‘Hils at large’. And before you say anything, I’m fully aware of the irony in someone so diminutive (read: ‘short arse’) having such a title, but nevertheless it does accurately reflect what I shall be doing from now on!

Freed from the shackles of editorship, I will now be out and about more, collecting stories and attending events and generally buzzing about the 4x4 scene; so, rather than calling it ‘Hils gets about a bit and reports back’, we felt ‘at large’ was more succinct and perhaps even
a little more refined.


Earlier this month I enjoyed a great day out with ukLANDROVERevents on a greenlaning trip in the stunning North York Moors. Greenlaning in this country has really suffered in recent years. We may be hearing a little less from the ‘anti 4x4’ brigade in the press lately, thanks to a couple of extremely severe winters which have seen our transport of choice earn grudging respect by behaving heroically, saving lives and helping motorists and friends and neighbours in distress: but when it comes to using our hard working and reliable vehicles for some RnR within this beautiful country of ours, that seems to be a totally different kettle of fish.


I was very saddened by the news piece we ran last month about the excellent work done by those who were repairing an unclassified country road, Black Harry Lane, in the Peak District National Park. The road repair was part of the ‘Black Harry Trails Project’ to improve and create routes for horse-riders and mountain bikers and improve recreation facilities for the less able, elderly and young families. The repairs were actually carried out by 4x4 users and motorcycle clubs. Not one walker volunteered, or even helped out when directly asked

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June 2011

Get stuck in

It’s terribly sad that National Parks need to put these signs up in such glorious surroundings as there are too many irresponsible users out there. But if we behave on our excellent greenlanes and show we are willing to help in 

repairing the damage caused by the idiots, then it can only do us good...


Welcome to my new column ─ ‘Hils at large’. And before you say anything, I’m fully aware of the irony in someone so diminutive (read: ‘short arse’) having such a title, but nevertheless it does accurately reflect what I shall be doing from now on!

Freed from the shackles of editorship, I will now be out and about more, collecting stories and attending events and generally buzzing about the 4x4 scene; so, rather than calling it ‘Hils gets about a bit and reports back’, we felt ‘at large’ was more succinct and perhaps evena little more refined.


Earlier this month I enjoyed a great day out with ukLANDROVERevents on a greenlaning trip in the stunning North York Moors. Greenlaning in this country has really suffered in recent years. We may be hearing a little less from the ‘anti 4x4’ brigade in the press lately, thanks to a couple of extremely severe winters which have seen our transport of choice earn grudging respect by behaving heroically, saving lives and helping motorists and friends and neighbours in distress: but when it comes to using our hard working and reliable vehicles for some RnR within this beautiful country of ours, that seems to be a totally different kettle of fish.


I was very saddened by the news piece we ran last month about the excellent work done by those who were repairing an unclassified country road, Black Harry Lane, in the Peak District National Park. The road repair was part of the ‘Black Harry Trails Project’ to improve and create routes for horse-riders and mountain bikers and improve recreation facilities for the less able, elderly and young families. The repairs were actually carried out by 4x4 users and motorcycle clubs. Not one walker volunteered, or even helped out when directly asked.

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June 2011

Get stuck in

Stunning vistas, superb company and a great drive along the North York Moors



It is a very sorry state of affairs when the very people who so readily rush to slam all ‘off-roaders’ for the apparent damage they cause then decline to help when repairing a route that is available to all.


Millions of pounds have been spent over the years on repairing footpaths and bridleways hugely eroded by countless foot and hoof prints. Fair enough ─ these excellent amenities are used by us all, myself included. But, equally, the byways are also perfectly legitimate routes and I think we have a right to expect them to receive appropriate attention, too.


In the meantime, as a 4x4 community the more we can be seen out and about helping to repair general wear and tear caused by weather and all sorts of things, not just tyre tracks, the less ammunition we give to the ‘anti’ brigade.

So, get volunteering for work on any local lanes to you to show that we care about the environment ─ and support those who offer guided greenlane days, such as the trip we took recently. Enjoy what we have left, and prove we can have fun responsibly!"

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June 2011

Get stuck in

See you soon, Hils


July 11

Monster Munch

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June 2011

Get stuck in

A 7.5-litre V8 Chevy ensured Hils & Grizzly made light work of cop


Over the course of the last month I got the opportunity to drive some rather different vehicles that illustrated one extreme of 4WD to another.


The first not-done-before 4x4 experience I had during the last month was driving a monster truck! I know, there will be many of you out there who think these American-style pick-up trucks, that have been lifted into the stratosphere, been fitted with ridiculously enormous booming V8/V10 engines and tyres that a small family could live in, are a waste of time and silly gimmicks and have no place in our 4x4 world. Well, you may well be right, but if given the chance to drive one, I bet most of you would have a crack.


My chance came courtesy of the lovely guys at Chevrolet while I was on the launch of the new Captiva at Blackland Farm in East Sussex. One of the attractions is driving the ‘Monster Truck’; an America spec called ’Grizzly’. You may have spotted this very truck featured in the latest McDonalds ad on TV!


During the Captiva launch we were offered the chance to drive Grizzly on a short course which involved crushing a police car ─ pretty tempting you have to admit. So as not to appear rude and to satisfy a secret burning ambition I gave it a go.


I climbed up the ladder into the Chevrolet Big Block ─ a bespoke manufacture with Silverado body, based on a full-size single cab truck. Under the bonnet a 7.5-litre Chevvy V8 454ci petrol lump grumbled away, held up by 1000/50 R25 (5’6” high) Michelin rubberwear. The steel box-section chassis measures 11x5ft and the suspension is from an American Freight Liner Truck with 12 shock absorbersproviding the damping action.


The noise from the Chevy block was booming as we rumbled around a tight course that saw the Grizzly performing more nimbly than I expected. The hydraulic steering made fairly light work of even the most awkward manoeuvres, but it still felt a bit like driving a large house. Extra wellie was needed to climb over the now rather sunken police car. Applying the brakes ─ the system works on the M54 GMC REO axles as discs operating on those enormous wheels would be ineffective and downright dangerous ─ required every ounce of strength I could muster and wasn’t instantaneous. Yes, it was fun and different and I can now say I have ticked a monster truck off my list.


And so to the other extreme. Last year, I visited Prestwold Hall for some Super Car track driving: all 2WD drive and great fun. This time, however, I was there to do some introductory rally driving. After the ambling Grizzly I now found myself strapped into a Subaru Impreza WRX STi for some high-speed excitement.

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Impreza WRX called for a different 4WD approach


The first round in the Subaru was fantastic, but next up was a 400bhp+ Mitisubishi Evo - now that is a rally car of distinction. Okay, so it was a bit uncomfortable as I had to have several pads behind my back to make sure I could reach the pedals, but the awkward positioning was soon forgotten as I belted around the course. Not a cone was knocked over, nor too many bad lines taken - I was loving this and the stability the 4WD afforded around those tight bends and chicane was superb. I have never driven a 4WD vehicle in that manner before and,boy, was it brilliant.

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About to launch that Mitsubishi Evo rally car’s 400bhp


I was absolutely shattered after that; the way they tell you to steer with arms locked at quarter past nine at all times had my arms burning frantically by the end. My short limbs didn’t help, either. My admiration for the rally drivers who do this in 24-hour races over all types of terrain shot up enormously. They are truly driving geniuses - and strong as oxen.


Unfortunately, that had to end and next up was a front-wheel drive VW Polo to learn how to drift on loose gravel. Needless to say, by this time I was pretty tired and my with off-roading DNA I found I just couldn’t resist leaving the course to experience some off-tarmac fun in the grass and mud.... say no more!


Eventually, I did get the trick of drifting around the corners without spinning off the track. It was extremely hard and very tiring but what a wonderful experience. If you are wondering what to put on your birthday/anniversary/Christmas wish list, try suggesting a rally introductory day to your nearest and dearest and drive some hard-core 4WD vehicles that we gentle, ambling off-roading fans wouldn’t normally encounter. The admiration for 4WD at speed in a rally spec car from this novice was immense. I will pay more attention to rallying on the box from now on.

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Learning to drift in front-wheel drive. The most difficult to master