Post War choices.
The emergence of the 107 Station Wagon as an Overland favourite.
There are so many things we take for granted in our cosseted and comfortable
life in the U.K. today. Even in the, so called, financial crisis there is always food
and drink in the shops, fuel is available 24 hours a day and many new cars,
big and small, have an option of two or four wheel drive. I am slightly worried
that many of these things have happened in my own lifetime! My mother often
reminds me that meat and eggs were rationed at the time of my birth and car
ownership was considered a luxury. And I’m not talking that long ago. My birth
coincided with the last of the 80 inch Land Rovers and the birth of the 86 and
107 inch variants. The ‘export or die’ policy was working well for the Rover Car
Company with their Land Rover selling well throughout the Globe as a more
practical option to the ubiquitous ex-army Jeep.
But what was available for the likes of us? Those with a sense of adventure, or
a need to travel off the beaten track to far flung locations on a limited budget? I
guess if I had been born 40 years earlier and planning an expedition I would be
looking at either a robust car remembering that most of the pre-war expeditions
used 2WD trucks and cars, or I might be tempted by an ex-army Jeep. The
Jeep would be most capable off road, but the car would offer far greater comfort,
speed and security for supplies and equipment locked inside. One person facing
exactly this dilemma back in 1959 was the young English archaeologist, Charles
The first Expedition to study the Archaeology of the Fezzan in 1959 Charles Daniels (with camera on left) and
five companions on the beach in Dover.
Daniels was starting on an exciting project in the Fezzan region of Libya. His
logistical problem was getting his team from Durham University 2500 miles south
to their destination in the middle of the Sahara Desert on a limited budget. ‘Old’
Jeeps were plentiful, as were dedicated trailers and for the first trip they set off
in two heavily loaded Jeeps (called Clarence and Augustus) with one trailer
carrying their equipment. They travelled overland via France, a ferry to Tunis,
down through Tunisia, turned left and followed the coast to Libya. Then they
would have had to drive south from Tripoli to Fezzan. Having been associated
with a very similar project for the last 14 years I have completed the same
journey often. It is a long, rather straight and very dull stretch of tarmac with
the occasional ramshackle town to break the monotony. Back then it was just a
dusty track of rough gravel with the occasional stretch of soft sand. You can still
see the old track running next to the new ‘black top’ in places to this day.
The journey must have been long and very uncomfortable, but they were a
bunch of young and enthusiastic Brits with no other means of getting there with
nothing better to compare their transport. Imagine their delight a few years later
at being offered the use of two ‘new’ Land Rover LWB Station Wagons. Whilst
they would not have been much faster, the comfort and security would have set
new standards. Room for at least four passengers and all the equipment inside
the vehicle, a roof rack on one of them for camping equipment and a heater for
the chilly winter nights. The ride would have been good on the rough track too.
With half a ton of luggage and probably four or five people those big leaf springs
would be excellent and performing at their best. So successful was this basic
suspension design that it lasted well into the mid 1980’s and the last of the
3’s. The 2 litre engine must have been found wanting a bit on the hills, but in its
prime would have maintained a steady 50 - 55 mph on the flat.
Both LWB Land Rovers parked in the courtyard of the Fort at Muzuq in 1968 with what looks like a Dodge command car.
I do not know where these Land Rovers came from, but the Arabic writing on
the door suggests they were part of an agricultural project in Libya. Wherever
they came from the option to cover the vast distances involved, in the comfort of
the Land Rover must have given the same thrill then as being offered a pair of
new Defender 110’s now. The formula appeared to have worked well, as in later
photographs spanning much of the 1960’s there is usually a LWB Land Rover
lurking in the back of the picture.
Then new, this 107 must have driven over 700 miles to reach Muzuq Fort, itself the subject of an attack by The Long Range Desert Group 17 years beforehand in January 1941
Photographs reproduced courtesy of The University of Leicester, curators of the
Charles Daniels archive for the Society for Libyan Studies.