Endless repetition of catchphrases hasn’t diminished the charm of Britain’s archetypal heist movie. Defining the swinging sixties for those of us not lucky enough to have experienced the decade of free love first hand, the film’s journey into cult prestige - with style, class, wit and comedic tics oozing from every on-screen minute - set the tone for the likes of Guy Richie, Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Barber to follow.
Featuring Michael Caine at the top of his game, an infectious soundtrack, a literal cliffhanger and even Benny Hill on full ‘casual sexism’ form, all these attributes alone would make for a memorable caper flick. Yet, The Italian Job is iconic for one main reason - igniting a love affair between the Mini Cooper S and generations of petrolheads.
The Peter Collinson-directed fan favourite may have cemented the Mini firmly in place as a 1960s phenomenon, with the cast of exotic cars – including a Lamborghini Muira, two Jaguar E-types and an Aston Martin DB4 – to back it up, but the Mini Cooper’s shining moment would never have materialised without the blaggers’ trusty Land Rover Series IIA 109".
Featuring a bespoke tow-crane (to effectively ‘steal’ the Sicurezza Bullion Van carrying the abundant amount of gold), thuggish bullbar, front mounted jerry cans, blanked out windows, extended bench seats, relocated lights, fierce mesh window guards and a menacing roof rack, this Series IIA looked the business. You certainly wouldn’t want to mess with this reinforced Solihull tank. Let alone blow its bloody doors off.
Used to charge through the self-inflicted Turin traffic jam and deliver the team to the crime site, after darting through the back streets and courtyards to navigate the Italian city long before the invention of Sat Nav, we last see the Land Rover as it tugs the bullion wagon into a warehouse to be plundered of its cargo. Left behind at the crime scene as the crew scarper with Mini Coopers packed with gold bars in the boot, the Series IIA is often brushed over when discussing the cult-motoring classic.
Yet, it is just as big a player of The Italian Job as the scene-stealing Austin Minis. Require proof? After selflessly locking ourselves away with some pizza, games consoles, a DVD player, laptop and copious amounts of lager we found plenty of evidence.
Besides enjoying a cameo appearance by a pair of Defenders in the 2003 American ‘homage’ (so, that’ll be a remake then) of the same name – despite being set in Los Angeles, the 2001 video game for the original Playstation and Microsoft PC gave the Land Rover two levels of its own and permitted the gamer a chance to drive off the beaten track. Land Rover even got into the game by commissioning an advert based around the opening titles (excluding the fiery car accident, thankfully) for the 2013 model Range Rover, with the ever-so cool Matt Monroe soundtrack covered, too.
But what of the actual Land Rover itself? Sadly, very little appears to be known about its destiny after filming wrapped in early 1969. On a ‘C’ registration, the 1965 Series IIA 109-inch, BKO 686C was driven back to the UK and was last taxed for the road in March 1991.
Various assertions have been made about BKO’s fate, one states that the Series IIA was given back to the garage it was borrowed from for filming, with another claiming a member of the production team bought the Land Rover before selling it on again. However, with a cold trail and no sign or word about the forgotten hero’s whereabouts for more than 20 years, it tragically looks as though the vehicle is no longer with us.
A desolate end to a truly forgotten Land Rover film hero.
If you know better, though, drop us a line at info@LRO.com