Just why do we all love our Land Rovers?
I’ve been trying to work out exactly what it is that fuels this undying love we have for our Land Rovers when there are, quite plainly, other vehicles that do much the same job better.
It is a certainty that wherever you park up there will be the inevitable meeting with another owner. On a recent run down to Cornwall in my Carawagon this happened to us at every stop. Firstly, in a campsite near Taunton a lady sauntered over with the familiar opening line “Excuse me. I couldn’t help noticing your Land Rover”. Not us. We could have been Martians with two heads and green slimy skin, but the familiar outline always prompts a story of a past live. In this case a 109 inch owned some years ago that was sold to make way for some modern hatchback. She now hankered for a Lightweight to fulfil some childhood fantasy.
It is, as impressionable children, that we fall foul of this particularly English addiction. I found this picture amongst the shoe boxes that make up my past photographic collection. Taken at a Peak and Dukeries trial in about 1974, there are no less than 11 children perched in the back of this unknown Series 2 and I bet all of them would still remember the occasion and a few, now in their 40’s, have Land Rovers of their own. Some may even be reading this! It is my guess that these brief moments trigger emotions that result in us buying our own Land Rovers or going through the rest of our lives harbouring fantasies of owning one. In my own case it was my school teacher, Mr Kirby, who gave up his weekends to take groups of us camping in Warwickshire, bouncing around in the back of his 80 inch, that laid the foundations for future ownership.
Once down Cornwall we found ourselves parked in a queue with two very well prepared 110’s waiting to board the Plymouth to Santander ferry. The were owned and run by two teachers from Kingsbridge Community College in Devon. Both were loaded with camping equipment and grinning teenagers off for an adventure in the Picos de Europas mountains. They seemed happy to endure the discomfort of being squashed in the rearmost seats, knees up under their chins, just for the chance to ride in the Land Rover and not on the coach that was taking the rest of their party. We were soon engrossed in conversation with the two teachers, both of whom were firm Land Rover fans and told us of their last trip to Iceland with a similar group. They had done some very real adventures with these kids and, in these days of teaching being such a stressful occupation, it was great pleasure to see that the type of enthusiastic teacher I remember from my school days in the sixties still exists today.
My most high profile ‘Excuse me is that your Land Rover’ moment came back in 1999 when I was in Libya with a group of Archaeologists. David, the Professor in charge of the project, had been invited by the British Ambassador, Richard Dalton, to give a talk to a group of ex pats on our work in the desert. We duly arrived at the gates of the Ambassador’s residence in an opulent suburb of Tripoli and were ushered in by the immaculately dressed staff and offered drinks in the hall. Richard Dalton greeted us in a friendly and informal way and after a few minutes he made his way over to me with a quizzical look on his face and came out with the now familiar line. He said, with great enthusiasm, that they had a Series 2, 88 inch back, in England and all three of his children had learned to drive in it. He reasoned that if they could drive the old Land Rover , with its vague steering and brakes that needed a pump, they would be able to drive anything! When I bumped into him again a year later he said the clutch was slipping and it was very difficult to get it sorted out when he was abroad so much. It is probably still slipping now and awaiting the attentions of grandchildren.
From such a high profile enthusiast to a lorry driver waiting to catch the same ferry in Plymouth who came over to tell me he’d bunged 24 volts from his lorry battery through his Land Rover’s starter motor and was surprised to find he’d burnt it out! It just proves what a multi cultural, multi class vehicle it is we enthuse about and it has the added advantage of being able to go anywhere at any time.
1st August 2006