Farewell to an old friend.

Farewell to an old friend. An unusual end to a 50 year old engine.

An unfamiliar sound drifted down the road the other day. Not the first cuckoo of Spring, but a long, baritone, cry of ‘Rag and Bone’. Imagining some Steptoe and Son scene I dashed out, still in my pyjamas. Three men were standing by an old Transit pick up collecting scrap. A site I’ve not seen in 20 years. Perfect! I’ve had the remains of an old Rover 60 engine getting in the way for months. I had been intending to scrap it, but just never got round to it.  They agreed to take it and proceeded to stack a thousand old bike frames even higher to make room for my engine, while I slipped into something a little more suitable. (Purists. Please don’t write in. It was really scrap!) As they drove off I was gripped with remorse at giving such an ignominious end to an engine that had served me so well for twenty odd years.


Digging around in my vast box of old photos reminded me of just what that engine had achieved in it’s 52 year life. Back in 1954, some tweed clad, middle England, middle class, middle aged gentleman, in Watford had strolled into his local Rover dealer, tapped his furled umbrella on the sales desk and bought a new Rover 60. The smallest model in the range that included the 75 and 90, but his prudence was later to be my gain. After a succession of suburban owners the old Auntie Rover was getting a bit long in the tooth and I bought it in 1975 for fifty quid, driving it home in style and comfort.


A Rover 60 engine was de rigueur  for a competition Series 1 back then. It had the same 2 litre ‘F’ head block, but with the bonus of an aluminium head, S.U. carb and a higher compression ratio. It seems a terrible shame now, but I scrapped the car having robbed it of it’s heart.



Replacing my original 1948, 1600 engine (Heaven knows what happened to that..... sorry!) with this more powerful engine, transformed my 80 inch.  I was competing in trials and comp. safaris with the Peak & Dukeries at the time and actually won the coveted Bill Hopkinson trophy in a comp safari, my new engine storming its way through the course. At the time the Land Rover was also my daily transport to and from work and used for towing various classic cars around the country with a mate of mine who did them up. Heroic tows included collecting a Jaguar XK 120 from Wales, then a lovely 1920’s Lancia Lambda.



Always on the look out for scrap old Landies for spares, we spotted a derelict 80 inch in a field of pigs near Coventry. A tree had fallen on the poor Land Rover amidships like a karate chop. I bought it for thirty quid and our first job was to extract it from the mire. The farmer sawed the tree up leaving us to drag the remains of the Land Rover to the gate.  I drove the 80 inch into the field and we hitched a rope to it and started to pull. It had been there for a couple of years and had virtually taken root. Scrabbling for grip the front wheel sent rooster tails of the sloppy stuff up in the air showering my mate, my brother and the farmer!


Eventually we released it from it’s temporary grave, loaded it onto the trailer and dragged it home. It stank! Every component we removed stank, but it yielded a good supply of parts for the future. After a lull in the Eighties when my 80 inch lay in many pieces, I resurrected the old girl with the same engine, largely untouched and began competing again. This time with the Viking 4WD Club in Leicestershire. The poor old Rover engine was using a fair bit of oil by now and cleaning spark plugs became a pre and post trial job to ensure it was firing on all four cylinders. When it reached the point where local environmentalists were demonstrating outside my house and oil was being consumed at a similar rate to petrol, it was time to replace it with a better one.



Although it still had a vague whiff of pigs, I had one in stock! I transferred the aluminium head from the old Rover 60 engine, gave it a decoke and away we went again. Though neither rag nor bone, that old lump had the last laugh. As it rested under a heap of bike frames, it coughed up its dying breath of old oil. A thin stream trailed in the wake of the Transit for me to clear up. Farewell and adieu old friend.




A brief stop on the return from Wales with an XK120 Roadster in tow.


A wasp waisted Toby having a bad day at a P&D Trial in the seventies.


Happy now with the Piggy 2 litre engine with Rover 60 head.



27th April 2006