A one owner, barn find, offers a mate a lovely old Series 2 on a plate.
A friend of mine, Steve, called in the other day, a little too enthusiastic, I felt, about the recent demise of his father in law. Seems the old boy had a remote farm in North Wales, not a million miles from Anglesey where the Maurice Wilks tested the very first Land Rover prototype back in the winter of 1947. Steve’s father in law had bought a second hand Land Rover ‘about 50 years ago’ from another chap who farmed ‘nearby’. Steve, a Volvo owner and I.T. specialist, has been expressing a healthy interest in Land Rovers for about a year. It started with an earnest discussion in the pub about fulfilling a dream to drive across Africa with his wife and young family on the journey of a lifetime. He wanted to pick my brains on choice of vehicle and accessories. It was a good night and after a few pints I lowered my guard and actually suggested he should really buy a Toyota Land Cruiser. Undeterred he did a lot of research into roof tents, sand ladders and solar panels before grabbing reality by the neck and consigning the whole idea to a shoe box in the attic for future reference.
Recent sad events had offered Steve the chance of a Land Rover on a plate, with an interesting family history. I tried to give his announcement a look of complete disinterest, whilst my mind was racing away doing the sums. ‘second hand about 50 years ago’. It had to be an 80 inch, but how second-hand. Could that Maurice Wilks had sold off the centre steer prototype to a farmer friend in North Wales? This analysis of euphoria over logic took about half a second and I gave nothing away with my expression. This could well have been ‘the big one’, for although most pundits agree that the original, centre steer, prototype was cut up, no one actually remembers doing it, or seeing it being done. I’m sure I’m not the only one who peers into every barn in the hope of finding it! Let us not forget that it was only a handful of years ago that the first production model turned up, very derelict, on just such a farm.
A week later Steve and wife, Jenny, were on the farm doing the sad duty of arranging a suitable send off for Jenny’s father. Steve was trying not to show too much interest in the barn in case his in laws thought it held some valuable secret. I was pretending to be even less interested at the other end of a text message.
Hopes were dashed when a selection of phone camera jpegs appeared of a Series 2. The story had been elaborated, innocently, by those not in the least bit interested in Land Rovers. To them it was just another asset of the estate. It was a lovely Series 2, however, straight bodywork and a pair of new doors. Under a thick layer of Wilton carpet lurked the original 2 litre, overhead inlet, side exhaust engine, as fitted to the early ones. It was in running order, but for the last 20 years this had been restricted to trundling around the farm carting bales of hay, logs and the odd stray calf. It had not actually been through an MOT test since the late eighties, but the brakes worked a bit on the third pump and the steering responded after half a turn.
‘What should I do?’ Steve shouted in my ear above the noise at a recent party. We have all been asked this question as bar stool experts, but how to answer this question without upsetting the delicate balance of logic over duty. Steve could easily squander thousands on it. The sea air will have done its worst so it’s bound to need a new chassis, maybe a bulkhead. As we all know, that would just be the beginning. Add to that new springs, shock absorbers, brakes, steering components, wiring, engine overhaul, gearbox rebuild, new exhaust and an MOT. Unable to do the work himself I can see little change out of five grand from even the most reasonable of independent specialists and he will still only have a scruffy old Series 2 with a value of about £2000. It would be a labour of love. What? Spent thousands on a useless old Land Rover. Who in their right mind would do that? Form an orderly queue chaps.