Ripe for restoration.

Ripe for restoration. Where are they now?

As I drive into the city each morning I see, peeping over a hedge, the unmistakable top of a roll cage. It is more visible in winter, when the hedge is bare, revealing a tantalising glimpse of 80 inch bulkhead and rear tailgate.  It has been there since it’s owner and I laid out a trial in about 1992. That weekend heralded retirement for both of us from serious competition as both Land Rovers were in need of a lot of attention. Mine went on to have a rebuild and now enjoys a quiet retirement with the odd green lane run. The hidden treasure is slowly biodegrading. I know of several others suffering the same fate and it seems such a shame that we, as hard core enthusiasts, allow this to happen.

 

The owner in question is aware that I know his guilty secret and I have had the odd go at him to either pass it on, or give it a decent burial. I now intend to drive round to his house in my 80 inch and offer him a go, in the hope it will rekindle a dormant flame of enthusiasm. Given good weather and a spot of flies in the teeth, screen down, motoring, who could resist? If not a secure future for the trialler, maybe it could save the other one he has languishing in a shed elsewhere, along with a mass of new body panels bought for a song in the seventies.

 

It is easy to understand a reluctance to sell our treasured old Land Rovers after many years of fun. Most have outlived house moves, job changes, marriages and families. Many have been dismantled for that elusive rebuild and languish in sheds and garages all over the country. A few have been fully restored and are now only taken out wrapped in cotton wool to be shown off as the finest examples of early Land Rovers. Whilst the ageing enthusiast and ex trialler might shake his head and dismiss this gleaming paint work and new canvas as not being appropriate for a Land Rover, at least they are in one piece and capable of movement under their own steam.

 

Those of us who bought 80 inch Land Rovers back in the 1970’s probably parted with about a hundred quid and got something with some MOT that would get us to, and hopefully from, a club trial one Sunday a month. We’d fit a rudimentary roll bar, a pair of lap belts and bung some sealant around the petrol filler cap. The week after the trial would see us bashing the poor thing straight again ready for the next trial, or in my own case, the daily drive into work. These Land Rovers were considered old then! Now the youngest 80 inch has to be 53 years old so where are they all?  Very few will have been scrapped, some will have been broken up for spares to assist rebuilds. Some are still being campaigned by their original owners. You can easily spot them at club events. Crusty old chaps who have an uncanny knack of making a section look easy and embarrassing the young pretenders who have lashed out thousands on a tricked up 90. The rarest will be well restored and displayed at all the Shows, but what of the rest? How many are like the one I see most days, destined to just slowly rot away, their owners truly intent on sorting the old girl out..... one day!

 

 

I guess money has a lot to do with it. Leafing through the current ads in Land Rover World, I see there is just one 1949 model in ‘excellent’ condition for just under six grand. Ebay research reveals a couple of 86 inch nails, recently advertised, that failed to sell at around £400 and an 80 inch in bits that failed to attract any bids at all, but with an ambitious ‘buy it now’ price of £1500.  From this one can assume an 80 inch, that had a gruelling trials history back in the days of flared trousers and kipper ties, is almost worthless. But there’s more to it than that. We are ignoring the fun element and the fact that a Series One Land Rover laughs in the face of regulation. Like a vintage sports car you can drive with the wind in your hair and the tears streaming from unprotected eyes. You quite legally pay no road fund licence, benefit from classic car insurance, can emit a bit of smoke at the MOT Station and chuck the kids in the back and tell them to hang on for their lives. True, though not really recommended. The child seat laws do not apply to sideways facing seats in the back of old Land Rovers. So. With cheap parts and the legendary ‘meccano’ design we are always bragging about, there is really no excuse for not rolling the sleeves up, making a fresh mug of tea and getting stuck in to that long put off rebuild!

 

Captions: Two classic trials Land Rovers competing in a Comp Safari at Ashover, Derbyshire, with the Peak & Dukeries Land Rover Club in about 1975. But where are they now?

 

 

  Apologies to my old mate, Pete Wilford, who phoned me on the day of publication to remind me I was a ‘rotton old bugger!’ It is his Land Rover rotting in the field and it's still sitting there now – March 2010!