It was time to get to the bottom of things.
There comes a time in every chaps live when the inevitable can be put off no longer. When it becomes simpler to go out and buy a new spanner, cable tie, or can of WD40, than find the one you know you have lurking in that eternal abyss - the garage - it’s time for a clear out! For me, the day came when a pal asked if I knew where he might find a steering column bracket for an 80 inch Land Rover he was building. I knew I had one somewhere in the garage in good useable condition. But where was it in the various boxes and crates of old junk that I have accumulated over the last 40 years?
My son, Will, had a vested interest in clearing out the garage too, as he is about to rebuild the engine on his ‘Frog eye’ Sprite that has been sitting in there for a year now, where I would quite like to keep my Land Rover. With a clear weekend ahead of us, we enlisted the help of pal, Ian and his eager young son, Casper, who was on the promise of a Mini Moto, if we could find it. The four of us contemplated the job over a cup of tea and a slice of toast and worked out a strategy. We would use my 1948 Land Rover as a skip to take things to the tip and have to be utterly ruthless when it came to what should go and what could stay. The yard in front of the garage could be used as a holding bay to make these important decisions and the Land Rover could sit in the gateway as the last stage of the process.
We waded in, unsure of what gems we would uncover. It had been a good ten years since the last clear out and the excitement of finding things we had forgotten we ever owned was stimulating our enthusiasm. The two motor bikes were easy. We simply wheeled those out onto the road, likewise various bicycles, closely followed by a new set of tyres for my Jeep that had arrived during the week. Those big items out of the way made access to the real core of the problem easier.
Quite how many dried up cans of old paint we shifted I’m not sure, but that made up the base layer in the back of the Land Rover, with old paint brushes to fill in the gaps. It was easy to sentence half empty cans of brake fluid to the tip as well. Being hygroscopic, brake fluid has a very limited life, once opened. There is always room for a collection of old rags to wipe oily hands on etc., but we seemed to have kept them, long after they had passed their useful life. The same with old scraps of Sprite trim that must have been there 10 years, at least. By lunchtime we were making good progress and stopped for cheese and pickle sandwich's and more tea.
We had finally made it to the rich seam of old Land Rover parts. A general mish mash of bits that may or may not be useful one day, but were certainly too precious to throw away. Ian could not quite understand why a selection of old steel rods, that I knew to be the hand brake linkage for an 80 inch Land Rover was worth keeping, but he wouldn’t - he drives a Peugeot 206! Clearly, these parts needed sorting and putting in some logical order in the bins I had, so I made that my task for the first hour after lunch. Six bins of assorted Land Rover clutter came out, revealing a set of high compression pistons for my 2 litre engine. There were six, kept following the dismantling of a Rover 100 engine about 35 years ago. I’m confident I shall never use them, but it’s nice to know they are there - just in case! I also found gearbox and transfer box housings and some internal bits from a 1948/9 Land Rover gearbox - the model with the freewheel drive to the front axle. I have this gearbox on my 1948 model, so that had to stay.
With some judicious editing I managed to categorise all the Land Rover parts from six crates, down to four, and found the steering column bracket that had sparked the whole process off, and the Mini Moto, that showed some promise of starting when we put fuel in it. Following a second outing to the tip, we put everything back in, and although the overall appearance was little changed the garage now had a sense of order and when the Sprite is done, maybe my old 1948 Land Rover can regain its rightful home.
Copyright Toby Savage