Drive like an Egyptian.
A rolling restoration in the shadow of The Pyramids.
As if we need reminding of the versatility and durability of the venerable Land Rover - I am happy to report that an Egyptian Series 3 that took a few pals and myself deep into the Sahara back in 2003 is still going strong in Cairo today, albeit in an updated form. I first came across the brown Series 3 LWB on an Anglo/Egyptian Expedition to Jebel Uwainat (on the borders of Egypt, Libya and Sudan, if you feel the urge to fire up Google Earth) over the Christmas of 2003. Back then it belonged to my Egyptian friend, Mahmoud Marai and he was taking his first tentative steps towards becoming a desert guide and organiser of expeditions. He had assembled a group of experienced Egyptian drivers in the Series 3, his cousin’s 110 Station Wagon and a Land Cruiser pickup to carry supplies.
Kicking up the dust back in 2003. With Mahmoud at the wheel this already old 109 made a very successful
1500 mile return trip to some of the remotest parts of the Sahara.
To put things into context, classic Land Rover ownership in Egypt requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. For a start they are difficult to find in reasonable condition, British Leyland having unwittingly handed the North African market over to the Japanese whilst they were busy discussing whether the Series 3 should have a plastic grille or stick with the metal one! Those Egyptian residents lucky enough to find one, then have great difficulty acquiring spare parts and often find it easier to use other manufacturers' major mechanical components, purely on the basis of parts availability. Therefore back in 2003 it was no great surprise to discover Toyota engines and gearboxes under the Birmabright skin of the two Land Rovers. Minor obstacles like exhaust and throttle linkage alignment had somehow been overcome with North African craftsmanship - one dared not look too hard! Whatever their faults both Tojo Rovers completed the 1500 mile odyssey without major drama and the trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Cairo domiciled ex-pat, Darrell Hardman, a Canadian by birth, has a long history of Land Rover ownership spanning a few 88 inch Series 2’s and 3’s but finding himself without his favourite wheels in Cairo forced him to start searching for a project. With the Desert on the doorstep, no self-respecting Landy Man can last long without wheels! It was not long before he spotted Mahmoud's old truck with a ‘For Sale’ notice in the window and made a deal. It had been some years since our epic trip and the old girl was looking a bit sad. Perfect for a restoration and a spot of updating to make the Land Rover a capable Desert steed again.
With the venerable 109 safely in Darrell’s workshop he assessed the situation and fancied doing a coil spring conversion. Easy enough in the UK, but pretty ambitious so far away from the many after - market suppliers that make our rebuilds so convenient. Luckily, as a man who mixes in the right circles, Darrell found out about a 110 with a wrecked engine that was classed as scrap. A deal was done and the complex swap was undertaken by local mechanics under Darrell’s supervision, somehow losing an inch along the line to make the 109 body look good on the 110 chassis. A bit of North African Engineering must have gone on somewhere, but it is impossible to see where!
In safe hands. Darrell Hardman has put a lot of work into making this a fine 300TDi hybrid Series 3.
Next, it went to a body shop to have all the little dents hammered out and the doors realigned and fitted with all new windows. Whilst there, many of the old nuts, bolts and rivets were replaced to reduce the rattles created by decades of driving pot-holed tracks and rocky desert. When this stage was finished Darrell found another local craftsman in Giza, (famous for its Pyramids!), capable of fabricating and fitting a full roll cage. The design was based entirely on looking at photographs in magazines and the result is a work of art. With all the work completed it was time for a fresh coat of paint and the Land Rover was transformed back to a proud desert warrior once more.
Until funds allowed, Darrell was happy to leave the old Toyota engine in - it worked and there was nothing wrong with it, but when a 300 Tdi engine came on the market he snapped it up and that is now fitted to great effect making it a Defender with a Series 3 appearance. Fortunately, in the eyes of the authorities, nothing has changed - it is still just a pale brown Land Rover - and lengthy sessions at a local licensing office have been avoided. I look forward to seeing it still romping around the Desert in another ten years' time.
Copyright Toby Savage