February 7, 2013

Raised height vehicles: Are the poseurs going to shut us down?

How best to deal with significantly raised vehicles has been covered in a recent LVVTA News, published by the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association. There are three common methods of raising 4WDs; increased tyre circumference, body lifts (spacing the body away from the chassis, usually to provide clearance for bigger tyres) and suspension lifts. Commonly, modifiers use a combination, sometimes all three. Recently, it has become something of a trend for people who have no need or desire to go off-roading to achieve the “bigfoot” look for appearance only, and that’s causing concern.

The trend is placing urgency on discussions among LVVTA and the LVV certifiers about dealing with the inherent safety risks that such vehicles can present. Concerns include the reduced stability that can come from shifting the centre of gravity upward and increasing unsprung weight without proportionately increasing the track; and the “aggressiveness” they present toward other vehicles that are designed and tested for frontal and side collisions with like-height vehicles. Opinion of the safety of these 4WD vehicles, particularly from an operational point of view, is divided between even the most experienced and proficient LVV certifiers.

Setting some workable technical requirements, preferably performance-based, that ensure raised vehicles are no less safe than when originally manufactured, and minimise risk to other road users, is a high priority for LVVTA this year. An LVV Authority Card has been the proposed solution to differentiate between the genuine enthusiasts and others, but this may no longer be an option due to divided opinion on the concept amongst enthusiasts.

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