THE UK BASED WEST COAST OFF ROAD DON’T JUST KNOW EVERTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT 4WD VEHICLES – THEY ALSO LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN PACKING UP THEIR 4WD VEHICLES AND HITTING THE ROAD ON FAMILY ADVENTURES
Paul Lundstrom, of West coast off road centre has off-road driving in his genes. Paul and his brother Tom grew up with spanners in their hands.
Their father Tony, was involved in the tyre and car maintenance business for years before setting up the West Coast Off Road Centre in Southport in 1987. Tony had recognised that there was a real need to cater for the maintenance, modification and preparation of specialist 4×4 vehicles. The business was an immediate success mainly due to Tony’s dedication to customer service and his philosophy of building long term relationships with his customers.
A year after setting up the 4×4 business , fate intervened, and Tony met Tom Jacob from Australian company Ironman 4X4 who just happened to be in the UK at the time , and West Coast became the main UK importer of Ironman 4×4 suspension and accessories.
Paul has been a keen offroader since the age of 11. He has worked at West Coast Off-Road and has been trained as a Mechanic ever since leaving school. Fully Qualified since 1998 Paul has built and modified 4×4 vehicles and bikes. He has owned , used and tested everything from Series Land Rovers, to Suzuki SJ and now also collects Toyota Landcruisers.
Paul races in rally raid, cross country off road navigator events, winch events, Trials, Ultra 4, Comp Safari and Expedition/overland with his Family and Friends.
In 2010, driven by their passion for off roading and a life centred around 4×4 vehicles, Paul and Tom took over the business from Tony upon his retirement. Today, the business continues to go from strength to strength. If you use your four wheel drive to compete in winch challenge events, or for overland travel, green-laning, camping or indeed any activity where a four wheel drive is required, the team at West Coast provides specialist advice and support to help you get the absolute best from your vehicle.
Whether that means a restoration, overland preparation, performance modification and anything in between, West Coast has built its reputation on strong customer service and vehicle-specific expertise.
And for Paul, 4×4 is his business and his lifestyle. All of his effort goes into preparing safe, well prepared, upgraded, aesthetically pleasing vehicles for his customers.
This Autumn Paul, Victoria and their one year old son Vincent took a 4WD touring trip to Portugal. After crossing by Ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in the north of Spain their journey began. They travelled in their Toyota Land Cruiser, a fully overland prepared 105 Series. (Paul has previously raced this car in the Carta Rallye Off Road (GPS Expert) Cross Country Race in 2018, where he and his co-pilot Mike Bibby came in 1st Place).
This same vehicle will next year also serve as a support vehicle in the Carta Rallye 2019 for a number of customers who are entering the race and need technical support from West Coast.
Arriving initially in Spain, the family decided to start their off-road adventure in Vimioso. Paul had previously been there in 2015 as a co-driver in the Ultra4 Europe Championship ,returning home with 2nd place.
He knew there was nice territory to cross. Known as ‘the rugged north’, drivinh though a landscape of mountains one day and then forested tracks intersected by deep valleys the next. The tracks were overgrown but relatively easy to navigate. Eventually arriving at the mountains near Torre (Tower), the highest point in mainland Portugal, at an altitude of 1,993 m (6,539 ft).
Driving on, the streets in villages became narrow as they passed through.Paul explains that the tourist information offices have information about which tracks they are happy for 4×4 vehicles to drive on, but it is also simple to see the forest tracks, and natural roads which the locals use.
The road to the top is winding with beautiful vistas, on a clear day you can see for miles and on a cloudy day, you can often be looking down onto the top of a pristine carpet of clouds. Shops in the village at the top sell a selection of delicious local cheeses and sheep skin and woolen items. There can be a temperature differential of many degrees between the top and bottom of the mountain, if its 25c at the foot it might be 12c at the top.
The mountain road is full of switch backs as you climb higher into mountain range, the fire breaks in the woodland break up the tree lines,into uniform forest tracks, driving fully exposed on the downhill side made for nail biting times for the family, on occasions. The family camped for the evening at the artificial ski slope Campizmo a nice sheltered spot. This is Portugal’s only ski resort, with a ski-lift running to the top of the peak, which operates all year round.
Next , the family drove towards the coast near Leira, where driving in the Dunes was lots of fun, although as they arrived in the area in the immediate aftermath of Storm Leslie, the devastation to the local businesses was terrible, fallen pine and eucalyptus trees had fallen decimating villages and seafront towns. Many of the Dune tracks the family drove required a chainsaw to help to clear the path.
En route back towards Northern Spain for their return ferry from Bilbao, Paul , Victoria and toddler Vincent stopped in the mountains again near the ancient town of Braga (Braga is sometime called the Rome of Portugal because of its many churches and ancient character). The landscape around the towns are littered with huge granite boulders, and the villages pre-date medieval times. The trails in this area are a mix between soft dirt trails, forest tracks and rocky outcrops. Having enjoyed the wonderful vistas and some adventurous driving, the family then made their way back through Spain towards the ferry at Bilbao on the road back home. Here is some useful information that Paul has provided for those thinking of exploring Portugal in a 4×4 vehicle.
Off Road Driving in Portugal
Off-road driving is allowed on public unpaved tracks and there are plenty of these to choose from in Portugal. While road traffic regulations are pretty much the same in Portugal as in the rest of the EU, off-road driving is allowed on public unpaved tracks and there are plenty of these to choose from in Portugal. Specific rules apply inside Nature Parks and other environmentally sensitive areas under the control of the Portuguese Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (www.icnf.pt), and during the summer period (usually between June and Sept), when the country is affected by forest fires, care must be taken to observe the instructions given by the local authorities.
Climate wise, being a southern European country exposed to the Atlantic, the weather in Portugal is generally mild but varies from one region to another depending on the latitude and proximity to the sea. In the Northern regions, particularly inland, winters are cold with temperatures often reaching sub-zero figures and some snow falls mostly in the highest mountain ranges. Summers are hot and dry especially in the south with temperatures easily going above the 30ºC mark, so be prepared to bring your hat, sunscreen and ray-bans. The rainy season normally goes from November to April and the dry season goes from May to early October. There are often warm, sunny days in the autumn making it possible to travel and explore in your 4WD having pretty decent weather for over six months of the year.
We hope to hear more from these 4WD gurus in the future.For more information on the UK based West Coast Off Road check out their website and the wide range of 4×4 products including whats on offer from Ironman 4×4.