Back in harness.

Back in harness. Time to dig the old 80 inch out.

With Summer finally here it was time to resurrect my 1948 Land Rover from its resting place of the last year.  Readers may recall that my son Matt and I spent an entertaining afternoon putting the old girl into long term storage on the mezzanine floor in his workshop.  The process involved putting the Land Rover on a trailer, reversing the trailer onto the four poster ramp, bridging the gap with a pair of ramps and driving very gently back into a position where it would be out of the way.  The return journey back to ground level was going to be easier as we now have some long ramps that would dispense with the need for the trailer antics.  



Deep concentration easing the 1948 Land Rover down from its resting place of the last year.


Matt had charged the battery and I checked both oil and water before we attempted to fire up the engine.  The leaf springs creaked and groaned as I settled into the drivers seat and turned the polished old brass ignition key.  ‘Rat a tat tat’ went the SU fuel pump, clicking away for about 30 seconds.  I pulled the choke out and gave the starter button a tentative push and the engine turned over.  Within a few revolutions everything remembered its function in life and the engine started, soon settling into a steady tickover.


Before we all keeled over from exhaust inhalation we had to get the 80 inch moving.  My eyes were already beginning to water as I inched it forwards and onto the edge of the ramp.  The brakes squeaked a bit, but worked okay as I manouvered it onto the ramps watched and guided by Matt.  It all felt very high up peering out of the window and looking down, but we made it and once on the ramp switched the engine off and went outside for some fresh air.  Once the air had cleared of acrid blue smoke we took the truck for a drive up and down the Matt Savage test track and all seemed remarkably good.  The brakes were sticking a bit, but freed off with plenty of applications.  The steering felt light and responsive and, back at base, most of the lights worked.  A poor earth connection on the brake lights was sorted out, but that was it!  The following day Matt took it down for an MOT and it passed.  Now, just a week later, it is amusing to realise that will be the last MOT it has to go through, thanks to the change in the law regarding pre 1960 vehicles.



A quick check over and off for an MOT test which the old girl passed.


The reasons for digging the old 80" out are many.  Firstly I have missed not having it about.  It has been a big part of my life since I bought it for £80 back in 1973 and we’ve been through a lot together.  Secondly, with the good weather here, having something open topped to drive to a country pub is essential.  And finally I have committed to entering a Trial jointly hosted by the Staffs and Shrops Land Rover Club and the Series One Club on June 17th.  Club trials filled many weekends in the mid 1970’s when I enjoyed mixed successes with the Peak and Dukeries LR Club, usually being thoroughly beaten by LRW’s very own Pete Wilford!  Later, in the early 1990’s I competed with The Leicestershire Viking Club - all in the same old Land Rover with very little changed.


For those unfamiliar with how it all works, here is a brief synopsis.  You pitch up at scrutineering at about 8.30 am., wondering why the engine has developed a misfire for the first time in 20 years and cursing not fitting new spark plugs.  You smile a lot at the chief scrutineer and assure him that all Land Rovers of this age must have masses of play in the steering box and that you’ll get the correct spec Fire Extinguisher for next time.  Having signed on and paid you then join the throng for the ‘Drivers Briefing’ to be told roughly where each class of entrants will be competing.  Formalities over, you join an orderly line of about 10 other Land Rovers ready for the first section.  These are marked out by ten sets of canes over a route that gets progressively more challenging.  If you hit a cane, or get stuck, at the first gate you get 10 points, if you make it all the way to the last pair of canes without mishap you get zero points, or a ‘Clear’.  The person with the least points at the end of the day is the winner.



Competing with The Peak and Dukeries back in 1975.


In next months column you will either read about how I made a marvellous comeback and swept the board, or several paragraphs of excuses blaming the Land Rover, the marshals, the wrong sort of mud, or even, as a last resort, my lack of skill!


Copyright Toby Savage