2017 by Martin
Looking back at an article in International Off-Roader in August 1997 – 20 years on we now have 19 staff
and 3 dogs!
We DID move to larger premises in Louth, which we have since expanded and also added a brand new bespoke workshop. We are busier than ever and constantly expanding.
What a young bunch of lads we looked back then! We might be lacking the hair we had back then, but we are still as passionate about off-roader 4x4s!
Transcript of the article
Famous Four and Getting Even More So…
From August 1997 International Off-Roader Magazine
FAMOUS FOUR is one of the biggest mail order companies for 4×4 products in the UK. They have been established for nearly 10 years and have grown and expanded since their humble beginnings. Back in 1988, Richard Varrall started the business at Market Rasen, a small market town in rural Lincolnshire more famous for horse racing than anything else, in a shop front barely big enough to take two bull bars and a set of tyres.
Richard founded the business after gaining a degree in English at university. Initially he thought it would be a temporary measure to widen his horizons, earn some money and keep him out of the pub before he started a teaching career.
He obviously had the right recipe for success and was forced to move to larger premises in 1990. The site he found was twelve miles East of Louth, another market town. He then doubled his workforce to two and worked long days to keep up with customer demands.
Another expansion followed and workshops and storage were obtained adjacent to his Louth premises and the workforce is now up to six staff. Moves are afoot at this present time regarding moving to purpose-built new premises on an industrial estate in Louth, as the expansion of the business continues.
All the staff at Famous Four have driven off-road competitively, Richard and his brother Andrew have driven in trials and comp safari, Martin Stebbings (Stebbs) still competes in all disciplines with his Series One 80″ trialler and a class nine safari motor. He is also one of the most experienced passengers in the country having had a three year rest from driving yet never missing a chance for a ride!
Geoff has RTV’d, and Andy has recently returned from South Africa where he was working on and driving 4x4s.
Jim is the sixth member of this close team and has a soft spot for the Series One Land Rover as well as his Defender. There is a seventh member of the team, the office bitch Lucy, a chocolate Labrador and the only female on the staff.
The entire workforce at Famous Four has the necessary knowledge to be able to deal with the hundreds of customer enquiries that are received daily. Likewise if a vehicle comes in for breaking for spares they all have the ability to put their overalls on and get stuck in. It is this attitude that has helped the company grow. All the staff have their own roles but they can each overlap, a true strength-in-depth company.
To date the export side of Famous Four includes orders to remote areas of the world including Nepal, Cambodia, Russia, Iceland, and even St Helena, one of the remotest Islands. They were one of the first companies to have their own home page on the Internet, their web site can be found on www.Famous Four.co.uk
In the early days, the company relied on tyre, wheels and bullbar sales but, as times moved on, they are now selling their suspension kits as well as side bars, bullbars and thousands of lines of Rover replacement parts.
Famous Four’s latest break¬through in a competitive market is their new minus-one-inch cc springs for Discoverys. Like the majority of the products they sell, these lowered coils are fitted to one of the company’s vehicles. The Discovery that these are fitted to also has low profile tyres and the road holding is phenomenal, it also gives the vehicle a low sleeker look.
After 100 years without a roundabout, Louth now has two and it is round these that the low coil springs on this Discovery shows the increaser cornering ability. Potential customers can be shown how the handling can be improved significantly at a relatively low cost before they purchase. With all the staff running 4x4s, Richard and his team have the confidence to fit the products they sell to these vehicles as well as having the ability to speak from experience when answering customer enquires.
Part of the reason for wanting to move to larger premises is the increase in the secondhand parts market. Famous Four break all Land Rover models from the series vehicles to 100s and even Discoverys.
Another product that Famous Four sell in vast numbers is their handling kit, and that was my main reason for being there this particular day. Andrew Varrall was to fit one of these handling kits to the IOR 90, H2 LRO. The 1991 Tdi still had all the original suspension fitted to it Andrew found this out by cleaning the old springs and reading the colour codes painted on them.
He was doubly sure when he struggled to remove the old shockers. The header tank and the air cleaner were removed before the serious work commenced. Andrew completed the front end change over without removing the wheels, a job that would be quite simple for the Land Rover enthusiast who is used to diy on Solihull products.
Caution is needed when lowering the axle not to over stretch the brake pipes. Apart from this, the whole job is straight forward and should not take more than four hours to complete. One good tip is to wire brush the paint off the Monroe Gas Magnum 4×4 shocker threads before starting, this will save 15 minutes of spannering against the paint.
The only other parts required that are not supplied are new Nyloc nuts for the top of the rear shock absorbers. Although the old ones could be used it is not advisable – for the cost of about 30p, new nuts should be used.
The total cost for the person who can fit the handling kit themselves is only £350 (1997 prices) inclusive of VAT. The test to see whether it was worth spending that sort of money was soon answered. Simply, yes.
The improvement to the 90 is incredible. I have done a couple of hundred miles in it already and the difference in cornering and general road holding is very noticeable. The ride comfort, if you can use the words comfort and Land Rover together, has not been affected.
I live down a long farm track which tests and ruins the best of cars, and the Defender is as smooth as it was with the floppies on. My son, who drives several new Defenders daily, tried out the handling kit and was surprised how good it was. It drove like a new vehicle on a usual pre-delivery inspection run he commented. Not bad for a six year old, hard worked vehicle with 7.50 tyres fitted and a roof rack on.
As time goes on we will bring you an update on how the handling kit wears and performs off-road. I have taken it off-road for a short run and did not cross axle on an area where I thought it might with the stiffer springs fitted. It seems to be a worthwhile kit to buy with no obvious disadvantages