Here’s What It Takes to Build Armored Rangers and Bespoke Wranglers

A chat with Dan Thompson, director of custom shop DV8 Works

December 5, 2018 9:00 am

Between the new Jeep Gladiator, consistent upgrades to the good ol’ boys and the race to the first mass-market electric truck, we’re this close to starting a pickup offshoot called InsideHaul.

So which of these beauts would grace the hypothetical first issue? Actually, we’ll pass on all of those in favor of a Ford Ranger — specifically, one armored to the teeth by the bespoke vehicle maestros at DV8 Works.

We first came across the shop a few weeks back, though they’ve been in business since 2016, and have had a poster of their custom Armoured+ Edition tacked above our bed ever since. And that British spelling of “Armoured” isn’t a typo; DV8 Works is located across the pond in Warwickshire County, England (not to be confused with California’s DV8 Offroad).

Unfortunately, a casual perusal of their website offers few details about the services they offer, but we’re not ones to leave baby (that is, jaw-dropping mods) in a corner. So we got in touch with DV8 Director Dan Thompson to get some more details about the customization they offer, his work on Spectre and their brand new, never-before-seen Jeep Wrangler build.

DV8 Works 1 (4 images)

Why did you start DV8 Works?
I have numerous business interests in the automotive industry, ranging from the UK’s largest 4×4 specialist wheel-and-tire company to a procurement company that specializes in product sourcing and manufacturing for the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] vehicle market — customers include Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Renault and Nissan to name a few.

With this in mind, I’ve always wanted to enter the vehicle modification market, and with the Land Rover Defender coming to an end and the ever-increasing sales worldwide of pickup trucks, the timing felt right. In addition, I am lucky enough that this is not my primary source of income and as such this allows me to concentrate foremost on my passion rather than having to concentrate on margins.

What experience are you bringing to the company?
I started my working life at Jaguar Land Rover working across numerous sectors before moving on. Under my own companies, I’ve had many exciting projects, the most recognized was working alongside Jaguar Land Rover and producing the wheel and tire assemblies for the James Bond Spectre movie.

What’s the scope of vehicles that you build and customize?
We like to concentrate on the commercial market covering all pickup trucks and currently offer Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, VW Amarok and Mercedes X-Class. In addition to this, we are soon bringing a commercial van to market with both Ford and VW where we still feel we can bring something that doesn’t currently exist. We also offer a few Jeep Wranglers.

Customer-wise, we attract small to medium business owners who don’t want anything “off the shelf.” They feel that, even though they require a vehicle that is functional, that doesn’t mean boring. They want a vehicle to be proud of at all times and one that far outperforms anything else on the market.

DV8 Works 2 (4 images)

Why start with the Ford Ranger as a platform? What makes the Armoured builds unique?
Ford to me seemed the obvious choice. It’s a strong global product that seemed the most ideal fit to replace Land Rover Defenders. But in addition, Ford themselves embrace individuality and styling which unfortunately isn’t the same for the whole sector. With this in mind, the vehicle lends itself quite nicely to modifications. The arches are wheel-shaped but understated, allowing us to improve the stance of the vehicle, and there is plenty of room in the arches to upgrade wheel and tire assemblies. Also, the standard lighting system isn’t brilliant — again, an easy fix for us.

What does DV8 Works bring to the table that you think is missing in the bespoke field?
It has to be the attention to detail. To give you an example, I have to explain a pain we went through during R&D: Wheel arches. Dear god, what a nightmare. They can be purchased all over the world, but will arrive with 3M Bonding Tape as the method of application. It will not hold perfectly, even though this is normal in the [Original Equipment] market as a mounting method. First, we removed the tape and tested three different brands. Nothing at all worked, so after months of trying different products we settled on body-shop panel bond — this is the stuff they use to fix new panels to your car should you crash. We started testing in the latter part of winter and all was great. Finally, the sun arrived; the plastic polymer used sweats in heat due to the oil and manufacturing process. Around 10% failed. I could’ve cried, I kid you not. I was, however, absolutely determined we would not under any circumstances change the arch design. In the end, we pulled in a chemical manufacturer and set about creating our own two-part epoxy bond that could not only set in five minutes but also had a low enough heat generation as to not damage the original paint underneath should we ever want to remove them. Needless to say, we succeeded and our fit is better than on a new vehicle from a manufacturer.

As you can tell, DV8 Works is a brand I am hugely passionate about and I believe we can bring a quality to the market that unfortunately just isn’t seen in this sector. I like to say we are to commercial vehicles what Mulliner is to Bentley.

DV8 Works 3 (5 images)

Do you have any projects coming up you’re excited about?
Loads. The Jeep is now finished [pictured above], and I’m proud because on this side of the pond a build like this is quite rare. We’ve had interest from all over Europe. We are also planning a retro mod on a Land Rover Series II which is taking some balls. It’s a vehicle that is hugely regarded here and not something you would normally take away from standard at all.

That being said, what I intend to do is a nut-and-bolt restoration with subtle yet key tweaks whilst trying to keep the heritage. Exterior-wise, the vehicle will be all new panels, custom-made in-house in some instances. Also, new gearbox ratios, the original petrol 2.25-liter engine but with some tweaks. The fun challenge here is no leaks anywhere. It seems simple, but I have never ever in all my years seen one without a leak. Interior-wise, a slightly improved seat setup in full leather with door cards, cord carpets and a customized dash with hidden satnav and stereo. But it will still look classic in style.

Head over to DV8 Works to stay up to date or book an appointment for your own 

Answers have been condensed for length and clarity
All images courtesy of DV8 Works

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