The Esarco eight wheel drive (8WD) was developed in the early 1980's by Major Michael Somerton-Rayner. The first Esarco was based on standard Land Rover 110, (later called Defender) engine, transmission and axles. The front and rear axles steer - in opposite direction - which made for a tight turning circle, a concept seen on the AEC road train as far back as the 1930's.
Two full-time four wheel drive Land Rover transfer cases were used, mounted back to back with the first driving the second through their power take-offs by a dog-clutch and a short drive shaft. The first transfer case drove axles one and three and the second transfer case drove axles two and four. The axle differentials being offset, the prop-shafts could pass neatly over the intervening axles on their way to the appropriate differentials. All in all there were six differentials - four in the axles and two in the transfer cases.
Early Esarcos used the Land Rover 3.5L V8 engine. On the road, the second transfer case was disconnected and the vehicle became an 8x4. Offroad, the second tranfer case was connected to the first, making an 8x8. The Land Rover transfer cases contained a "centre diff'" for full-time four wheel drive and were equipped with diff' locks.
Land Rover coil-spring suspension was also adopted frpm the Land Rover 110. A ladder-frame chassis and a simple forward-control cab structure completed the picture.
At some stage the concept was taken up by Stewart and Stevenson of the USA, becoming the Esarco SS 300. Part-time 4WD transfer cases were adopted and pictures show free wheel hubs fitted to axles 1 and 4. Engine options became a 7.3L V8 diesel engine or a 6-cyl petrol engine.
Although intended as a "utility" 8x8, at least one Esarco was prepared for racing! In 1991 Jacob Westerfeld and Michael Amiralay prepared this Esarco (left) for the Paris to Capetown Rally, also aiming for the Paris Dakar Rally.
The Esarco concept was bought by the MWG Group who spent a lot of time and money refining the concept. MWG was put in to administration and the 8x8 was purchased by the ex MD of MWG, Mike Hearn. A company was formed called H.U.G.O. All Terrain Vehicles Ltd. which built final prototypes and type approved the 8x8 (in 1991), and christened it the HUGO (heavy use-global operation). This one was sold and remains in daily use. Production then ceased. It is expected (as of 1998) that the 8x8 will be put back in to production soon. It will be available for overseas licensed production as well. The 8x8 differs considerably from the Stewart & Stephenson vehicle.
The 8x8 has remained on the back burner apart from three prototypes and a production unit which is in daily service with an emergency response operation for the oil industry. It is regularly used and highly thought of. The Stewart and Stevenson design differs considerably from our present vehicle. We established early on that the possible users would want to carry a crew. Army gun towing, re-supply, emergency aid relief etc. - all of these usually need to carry a useful load off road and also carry the operatives. As a result we made the 8x8 as a diesel engine vehicle for better fuel duration and fitted a Perkins four cylinder Phaser 110. We will now fit the up to date inter-cooled version. We also fitted an automatic Chrysler A727 gearbox and a Land Rover LT250 transfer box driving four specially made wider and stronger axles.
The body was made as a rigid frame structure and all suspension was coil with double acting shock absorbers. The cabin was constructed on a rigid square steel frame providing roll over protection. It is a four-door four-seat cab. There is room between the rear seats for a fold-down bench seat for two more or for an access door to the load deck. The 8x8 will re-appear again soon I expect.
A 6x6 variant was designed for the Portuguese paratroops, and a number of these were built. This model is also discontinued.