Part of the Family.
A very early 107 inch Land Rover is forever youthful.
At an age where most people are retiring a very early 107 inch Land Rover is forever youthful.
Words and pictures Toby Savage, with additional photos by Rupert Grey.
Occasionally in the course of one's travels, or when meeting friends and friends of friends, you come across a real character and come away thinking ‘Blimey - what a life!’ One such person is Rupert Grey who, together with his wife Jan and their three daughters have travelled the World and never the easy way - trekking through the Malaysian Rain Forest, crossing the Sinai Desert on Camels, riding elephants up the Mekong in Thailand and canoeing in Arizona. These heroic adventures barely scratch the surface of their achievements and at the time were completed with a young family!
It is also a life that has involved ownership of Land Rovers. Not for the adventures, where local transport was used, but for general fun and use around the family spread in West Sussex. Rupert’s first Land Rover was a 1948 model. Sadly this fell off a trailer some time in the 1970’s and was damaged beyond repair. It was soon replaced by a younger 1949 one that was used for a while and then sold on, but it was in 1980 during a conversation with a friend in Yorkshire that the 107 featured here came to join Rupert’s fleet. The Land Rover had had one previous owner - Hannah Craddock, a good friend of the character called Siegfried Farnon played by Robert Hardy in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, based on the James Herriot books. Siegfried, Donald Sinclair in real life, was Jan’s father. Ms. Craddock had walked into Glover’s of Ripon and bought what was then the best car available for towing her horse box around Yorkshire. It came with a truck cab and a canvas tilt for the load bed and with car-like comfort in the front, a huge load capacity and four wheel drive to drag the horse box out of muddy fields. It must have been a revelation! Remember that the 2nd World War had only finished seven years beforehand and the choice of alternatives would have been almost non-existent.
By the late 1970’s, after 25 years of noble service it was past its best and Ms. Craddock replaced it with a new Series 3 County Station Wagon. Although not in regular use Rupert learnt that the Land Rover was in reasonable condition and secured a deal for £400 over the phone just before setting off on a 6 month expedition with Jan and their 3 children, the youngest of whom was then 5. Hannah agreed to hang on the Land Rover until they got back, and pretty well the first thing Rupert and Jan did was to take the train to Thirsk, visit Jan’s parents and collect the Land Rover. Thrilled with his new toy, they and 2 of the children then made the long haul back to Sussex in one epic drive, stopping only for fuel and the odd cup of coffee and a bacon cob!
Back home reading through the paperwork he realised he had one of the very first LWB Land Rovers produced. It was manufactured in 1952 stamped with chassis number 7200068 - so the 68th ever to leave the factory. Whilst this was quite interesting, it was not the reason for the purchase. Rupert and Jan needed something to accommodate their rapidly growing children and camping gear to head off for weekends in the Sussex Downs with an old ‘Gypsy’ caravan they had bought. Fortunately they did not have to use the public highway as they could find remote spots using the old droving roads across the Downs, the use of Green Lanes being far more relaxed then than now. Bouncing around in the back with bags of food, tables and chairs the children learnt the true meaning of the phrase ‘hang on tight’!
As the years passed the Land Rover, in common with all other Land Rovers developed a rust problem and was retired from use on the road. The chassis had gone in the usual places and the doors were only just attached to the bulkhead. A situation familiar to most old Land Rover owners. At that point, tragically, the Grey’s cottage burnt to the ground one bitterly cold February night. As part of the deal Rupert subsequently negotiated with their insurers, it was agreed they would pay for restoring the Landrover in lieu of the alternative accomodation costs. This saved a lot of money for the insurers and suited Jan & Rupert, who moved into a nearby barn conversion and organised the rebuilding of the cottage from there. Rupert had become attached to the old girl and sought out a restorer in Ashdown Forest called 4 x 4 Solutions to undertake a sympathetic restoration. Handing it over in 2004 his instructions were to replace the chassis and bulkhead, but leave everything else exactly as it was. Nothing could replace that lovely patina of age and, for Rupert, that was what made the Land Rover special. Nearly 30 years of family history was embedded in those battered panels and it needed to stay.
To their eternal credit 4 x 4 Solutions did a wonderful job. They found, from who knows where, a new bulkhead and fitted a cut down 109” galvanised chassis, taking the opportunity to replace all the brake parts and the exhaust system whilst at it. What emerged a few months later looked identical to the old family Series One, but sat a little higher and stopped a little better! The idea is that it will now last many more years to give Rupert’s grandchildren the same thrills their children had in their childhood.
Taking a drive around the paddock in front of Rupert and Jan’s house this 60 year old Land Rover felt remarkably sprightly. The original 2 litre engine ran sweetly and ticked over like the proverbial sewing machine. The ride was excellent and the steering light and responsive. Embedded within the fabric was the smell and slightly worn feel of sixty years of regular use, from Hannah Craddock showing it off to members of her riding club, to the Grey family bouncing around the Sussex Downs in it.
It was easy to see what a breakthrough for Land Rover this must have been back in 1952. All the off road benefits of the first 80 inch Land Rover, spawned from the Jeep, but with the advantage of a decent load capacity and better leg room. Rupert keeps the Land Rover under cover these days and usually without the truck cab, or full canvas tilt fitted, though either are there if he has to complete a trip in bad weather. When at home this has become his daily driver, but for longer journeys he takes his Rolls Royce 25/30, originally bought by his Father in 1959 and a car he is planning to drive to India - but that’s another story!
Since this article was published Rupert has completed his ambitious trip around India in his Fathers old Rolls Royce tucked away in the garden inone of my pictures
Toby-107.jpg For their ever growing family and friends the 107 was a load carrying bonus on visits to the Downs.
Toby-108-Edit.jpg A delightfully eccentric means of camping. The 107 and ‘Gypsy’ Caravan.
Toby-6249.jpg Today the old Land Rover is stored in this time warp barn on the family land.
Toby-6264.jpg. The 107’s owner, Rupert Grey is a man of many talents and varied interests.
Toby-6268.jpg The 107’s owner, Rupert Grey is a man of many talents and varied interests.
Toby-6289.jpg Chassis number 47200068 confirms this 107 as the 68th to leave the factory.
Toby-6290.jpg Originally supplied to Hannah Craddock by Glover’s of Ripon as a new car back in 1952.
Toby-6292.jpg Every dent has a family tale behind it. Important details to be retained in the restoration.
Toby-6294.jpg The 2 litre engine has not done a great mileage and pulls well, though may have been found wanting with a double horse box on the back.
Toby-6299.jpg The sympathetic restoration replaced the chassis and bulkhead, but left the bodywork as it was.
Toby-6300.jpg The sympathetic restoration replaced the chassis and bulkhead, but left the bodywork as it was.
Toby-6302.jpg For local trips Rupert uses the Land Rover, but for longer distances he uses the Rolls Royce 25/30 bought by his Father back in 1955.
Toby-6310.jpg. Back in 1952 the ‘new’ 107 LWB offered so much more space and comfort that it’s 80 inch predecessor.
Toby-6312.jpg 60 years of continual use have left the load bay stripped of paint.
Toby-6314.jpg A new bulkhead kept everything in the correct place.
Toby-6321.jpg The recorded mileage of 2586 is probably a bit optimistic!
Toby-6322.jpg Still fitted with the original Lucas wiper motors.
Toby-6324.jpg Simple lines and 60 year old paint. Ready for the next 60 years.
Toby-6331.jpg The passenger compartment offered far more room than the 80 inch predecessor.
Toby-6336.jpg The rear tub would have set new standards back in 1952 when the Land Rover had little in the way of competition.
Toby-6337.jpg Old meets new with a bit of improvisation.
Toby-6339.jpg The woods beckon and this Land Rover is still giving great enjoyment to the Grey family.
Toby-6340.jpg The truck cab is stored in a barn along with Rupert’s Austin 7. The car he and Jan were married in.
Toby-6360.jpg Few thrills match a belt round the farm with the roof off and the screen down. Something children remember all their lives.
Toby-6385.jpg All children love an open Land Rover - no matter what their age.
Toby-6399.jpg With a new chassis this Land Rover is ready for the next 60 years.
Toby-6413.jpg Rupert keeps the canvas tilt available just in case he needs to use the Land Rover in the rain.
Toby Savage May 2012