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Land Rover Pan American Journey: Part I

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Posted On: Oct 6, 2012 By: Charles Kayajian Category: Land Rover News

James Raikes has a passion for Land Rovers that rivals any that we have ever seen. For starters, James has been driving Land Rovers for 14 years and owns five (!) different Discoverys, but that’s not what sets his enthusiasm apart. No, what makes his story unique is the trip that James and five other members of the Miami Valley Land Rover Society of Ohio will be making from Cincinnati, Ohio to Panama City, Panama by way of the famous Pan-American Highway.

Land Rover Pan American vehicle

I first had the pleasure of speaking with James a couple of weeks ago when he called in search of someone to share his Pan American journey plans with. James explained that the trip was originally planned for this December, but had recently been postponed to the following year due to the escalating violence on the U.S.-Mexico border. A setback like this often leads to a group deciding to cancel their trip - but not in James’ case. When life give you lemons, make lemonade – or, when life gives a Land Rover owner a year to plan for a Pan-American journey, make some great modifications to your truck!

We were thrilled that James thought to share his story with us, but our excitement quickly turned to awe when he began to explain some of the modifications that had been done to his Rover in preparation for the journey. As James so perfectly stated, “there’s no reason to be doing this, but it’s just sort of fun.”

Land Rover Pan American vehicle - before starting trip

Our eyes were first drawn to the vehicle’s elaborate roof rack and its interesting placement of bull horns! James informs us that the setup is custom built and provides flexibility so that the rack bends but doesn’t break when confronting a low hanging branch. Attached to the rack are items both customary (jerry cans, shovels, camping gear, manual air pump front and rear spotlights) and unconventional, like a wireless controlled tornado warning horn which I’m told is extremely noisy, and thus a wonderful deterrent to anyone attempting to tamper with the vehicle!

People familiar with the history of the Pan American Highway understand that the route bears little resemblance to what we traditionally think of when we hear “highway.” Large segments of this trail are treacherous due to challenging off-road terrain, unsavory locals, or both. Thankfully James’ Disco is outfitted with just about every off-road accessory needed to traverse the rainforests of Central America, including:

  • Custom-built front bumper which holds a 12,000lb winch and two additional spot lights
  • Hood-mounted brush guard with spotlights
  • High-Lift Jack mounted on spare tire mount on rear door
  • 2" lift and All-Terrain, BF Goodrich radials LT 235 / 85 R16
  • Ziebart protective coating applied to chassis and rocker panels
  • Anti-slip skid plates on the hood (for when rocking the vehicle becomes necessary)
  • Rear, Door-Mounted Video Camera
  • Heavy Duty/Waterproof Compass (mounted on hood)
  • Waterproof external video camera

Is there anything James is missing? Before you answer, let us briefly describe the interior of the vehicle which features an array of custom built switches, electronic meters and gauges that measure everything from oil pressure to solar charging levels. A custom-built center console houses 12 waterproof, individually fused rocker switches which control all the components on the roof rack, as well as an air compressor and a 12-volt refrigerator capable of keeping food and beverage cool or warm. A 40 channel CB receiver is also present, presumably to keep in contact with the mainland when traveling off the grid.

interior of Land Rover Pan American

James intends to make several more vehicle modifications before his trip, noting there are “endless things to do to your Land Rover,” and there doesn’t always need to be any particular reason to do them. We’re sure James’ passion resonates with plenty of Land Rover owners and we’re hopeful that he inspires a few too.


Stay tuned for future pieces on James’ Pan American Expedition. We will be following his journey preparations and providing updates on his adventures along the way!

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