Deep in the Myre.
A scrap Series 1 presents a mucky opportunity for some useable spares in the 1970ís
Looking for some photos of something else recently, I was catapulted back to 1975 when these emerged from the tea chests that are my archive. I had, by then, owned my 1948 Land Rover for a couple of years and it was in many pieces enjoying the first of three rebuilds, with a view to doing some trialling when it was finished. At around the same time my younger brother, Justin, bought an ex RAF 80 inch built in 1952, but registered in 1968 when it was retired from active service. Between us we had the need of a source for spare parts. I had acquired a Rover 60 engine, but needed a decent gearbox and my steering box had the traditional two inches of play before any change of direction occurred. Justin needed a tilt, hood sticks and door tops as he was using mine whilst I didn’t need them.
We had a pal, John Littlejohn, who worked in Coventry and had spotted what he thought was an old Land Rover in a field. Further enquiries revealed it was an 80 inch, but a tree had fallen across it and damaged the bodywork, but it was only £25! A deal was struck and we hired a suitable trailer and went to collect it one chilly Saturday morning, towing the rig with Justin’s ex Raf 80 inch. Arriving at the field - and I forget exactly where it was, what nobody had mentioned was that the land owner had kept pigs in the field for the last few years and the Land Rover was deep in the stuff. Thankfully he had sawn up the tree but we were presented with quite a challenging recovery to get our purchase onto the trailer and away!
To find any Series 1 Land Rover like this in a field would be rare these days, but lets not forget, in 1975 this one was only 23 years old, so a modern comparison would be finding a 1986, 90 in the same state. It is therefore understandable that we didn’t bite the guys hand off at £25, (over a weeks wages). We pointed out the difficulties of extracting it from a sea of pig shit and beat him down to a tenner!
We unhitched the trailer and drove into the field scattering pigs in all directions. First task was to haul an old Ford Prefect out of the way, then move the bigger of the logs from around the Land Rover. Justin's 80 inch had my 7.50 x 16 Michelin XS Sand tyres on, which proved woefully inadequate in mud so there was a great deal of slipping and sliding as the mire became increasingly churned up and wet. The pigs showed enthusiastic interest in all the activity and wanted to get as close as possible to the action. We must have looked a comical sight and smelt foul, but after a couple of hours we had the Land Rover out and had managed to avoid sitting in the stuff!
It was a slow and smelly run home with the bog standard 2 litre engine gasping as it hauled its own weight again, plus the heavy trailer, but eventually we made it and hosed down both ourselves, the trailer and the Land Rover ready to assess it’s potential the next day. Looking over our purchase in the morning we guessed that the mileage of 43000 could be genuine. A towing crane was in the back and breakdown trucks seldom venture further than the edge of town. With the bent bits removed, the chassis appeared undamaged and in good nick. All the bits to make it run seemed to be there so we popped a battery on in, poured petrol into the tank and pressed the button. I wish I could report that it started on the button, but after an undisclosed time standing in that field this did not happen. However, after cleaning the plugs and pouring some neat petrol into the carburettor it did cough into life and even moved under its own steam with a reassuring lack of nasty noises. We’d done well!
With a bit more work we had it running smoothly, then began the simple process of pulling it apart. Justin had the hood sticks, but kept my tilt, as I bought a new one. I had the gearbox, transfer box and steering box, all of which were far better than my existing ones. I put the engine away at the back of the barn for future use. That day finally came about ten years ago when I slipped it into my 80 inch, where it runs to this day and has clocked up roughly 10,000 miles trouble free miles. If I look and sniff hard enough though, I can still be transported back to that field outside Coventry in 1975!
Toby 1. Justin inspecting our purchase, hemmed in by a Ford Prefect, countless logs and guarded by inquisitive pigs.
Toby 2. Toby’s pal John applying the hand brake on the scrap 80 inch watched by Justin and a very young Matt Savage already picking up tips for a career that was to follow 30 years later.
Toby 3. The complete rig must have weighed about 3.5 tons. A big job for the standard 2 litre Series 1 engine, not helped by 7.50 x 16 tyres.