Project Beast: Suck, Squeeze, Bang… no blow!

Like anything bursting with muscularity, our Project Beast supercharged V8 Range Rover needs the occasional pamper to keep in tip top, bionic condition.

So, after nine blissful months and many thousand enjoyable miles of supercharged ownership, I decided to book “Rangey” in for a good Spa treatment at the highly experienced Land Rover specialists, John Kemp of Wymondham.

Having been the careful custodians of our old Project P38 Rangey, Road Magazine friends Barry, Steve, Chris, Shaun and boss John were the obvious, local, skilled choice for taking good care of Project Beast and were only too glad to welcome me back into the fold of Land Rover ownership, with the L322 range-topper in tow (hopefully, never on tow!).

Suck, squeeze, bang and blow is the raison d’être of the combustion engine and I like to try and tackle as many of these principles as possible on a good service.

So, I’d lined up some of my favourite, tried and tested, top drawer products to help the V8’s glorious internal combustion process run as efficiently as possible on the big old 4.2-litre beast.

K&N Air Filter 

Giving us a good dose of maximum suck? Well, a fine, free-flowing, dirt-protecting, horsepower boosting, washable, re-usable, easy to install and 1,000,000 mile guaranteed K&N panel air filter. Naturally…!

Designed to minimise restriction and radically improve (and smooth) airflow – by up to 50% over an OEM unit – these fabulous units have gone in pretty much every car I’ve ever owned.

The brilliantly designed cotton gauze units only cost a fraction more than a standard, air-choking paper unit, and have been dyno proven to hike horsepower – through greater sucking potential – and in turn improve throttle response = perfect for the big old V8, who likes to breath deeply.

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K&N says: “The K&N FilterCharger® air filter is designed to achieve high, virtually unrestricted air flow while maintaining filtration levels critical to ensure long engine life.  Our automotive OE (original equipment) replacement air filters generally add 1-4 horsepower.

“The secret to our success lies in the unique characteristics of our air filter medium that was originally developed by K&N all those years ago in the dust, sweat and tears of desert motocross racing. We just wanted to win races and stumbled on a cotton filtration technology destined to be great. K&N air filters consist of four to six sheets of cotton gauze layered between two sheets of aluminum wire mesh. This media is then pleated and oiled to enhance its filtering capabilities and overall performance. K&N Air Filters were created for an environment requiring maximum horsepower and enhanced acceleration in addition to protection from the dirt and dust of off-road racing. The result is an air filter that allows dramatically more air into an engine, is washable and reusable, and will protect your engine for the life of your vehicle.”

It’s difficult to be 100% objective about these things (especially in the light of the spark plug change & engine oil swap happening at the same time), but the throttle response from Project Beast’s monster V8 is noticeably sharper now and she is happier breathing at the higher rpm range also. K&N strikes again. I’m happy.

Ravenol Oils 

And with the suck factor dealt with nicely by the K&N, attention now turns to the squeeze factor provided by the meaty moving internals of the big V8’s pistons, crank, cams and valve gear. And the best way to spa treat them? Well, quality oils of course.

Now, quality oils and lubricants for me – through experience and having heard such incredible things from very fussy, very knowledgable, very technical contacts and friends of mine in the rallying and motorsport world about this brand – means a good dose of Ravenol oils.

We used the German brand in Project P38 and the EcoWagon, with superb, long-lasting results and so they’re back for Project Beast.

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The 2015 BTRDA Rally Series sponsors, Ravenol specialise in lubricants that not only meet but exceed the technical specifications required by manufacturers.

And, rightly so, the brand is getting quite a rep in the rally, racing and road scenes, with a growing fraternity of Land Rover followers, thanks to their huge range of engine and transmission products, available through Land Rover giants, Britpart.

Talking specifically about Land Rovers (but applicable to many marques) Ravenol says: “Choosing the correct lubricant for Land Rover & Range Rover models is complex and a cause of much confusion, and the wrong choice will not only lead to increased wear and fuel consumption but to gear selection problems, especially with Automatic Gearboxes.

“The days where one oil covered everything are long gone, which is why Ravenol offer one of the most complete ranges of Land Rover & Range Rover specific lubricants on the market. We have also made it easy for people to choose the correct lubricant by using the spreadsheet on the website, which covers just about every model from the early 90’s onwards.”

For Project Beast’s cavernous engine, we required 10 litres of Ravenol’s FO SAE 5W-30 fully synthetic engine oil (2 x 5 litres @ at a very reasonable £24.99 each) and two litres of VSG SAE 75W-90 differential oils (@ just £9.99 each). So, the total cost was a few pennies under £70, which is excellent VFM for such high quality products in my view – not only aiding in the slick operation of the V8 and diffs, but acting to preserve the life of both, through trick lubricant magic I just don’t grasp with my tiny brain, but am very happy to buy into.

Post service, the engine certainly felt far fitter upon its return from John Kemp, as did the differentials, which were noticeably quieter and much smoother/less clonky in operation, at low speed turns and during high speed cruising. Happy days.

NGK Spark plugs

NGK have been developing spark plugs since the 1930s, and have been in the automotive sector since the early 1970s here in the UK… so know a thing or three about creating the necessary bang aforementioned.

They have a frankly bewildering array of plugs available, for all manner of applications, but Project Beast’s trick, high power, 400+bhp V8 requires one of their high end bangers, namely their Premium Laser Iridium technology sparks.

IMG_4717These high-tech, incredibly hard and resistant to heat items allow for a reduction in the size of the centre electrode diameter (as small as 0.4mm). This offers a distinct reduction in the required voltage to get the desired bang and provides a consistent spark position and a reduction of something (I fail to properly understand!) known as the “quench effect!”

All of this means a more complete combustion process going on inside the combustion chamber, which in turn means more power (which Beast is not short of, but welcomes) and better fuel economy (which the beast certainly needs and heartily welcomes) and claimed lower emissions (which Beast reluctantly agrees is important). These NGK Iridium technology plugs are specified for high heat, high stress, high performance engines – like the 4.2-litre supercharged V8 in Project Beast – and come highly recommended. They’re undeniably excellent, especially when fitted correctly, as they were up at John Kemp’s. Cheers lads!

Summary

There’s no doubting that Project Beast’s big old V loves the fresh, added spark, deeper breathing and smooth running.

She’s now firing harder than ever on all eight, and has never felt so potent, or healthy – with the combined effect of the consistent, bionic bang (thanks NGK), the smooth, strong suck (thanks K&N) and the slick and slippery squeeze (thanks Ravenol).

Ignoring all the innuendo and being serious for a moment – individual and collectively, these are all get products that work, darn well and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Good value too, so it’s a win, win.

Now, moving back to innuendo mode… perhaps soon, we’ll sort out our beast with a bigger blow… obtaining an upgraded, back-pressure reducing stainless steel exhaust system… and a biblical, supercharged V8 soundtrack to boot.

But maybe I’m getting too old for all that now? Maybe…