After my Series IIA’s partial rebuild last year, I felt confident enough to commit to a crack at the Alps. I’d be travelling in convoy with LRO’s Sam Watson and Ben Stowe (blackpaw4x4. com), who would lead the way in his 80in Series I (see p109).
I wasn’t confident for long, though: an age-old ‘tacktack’ noise from the gearbox developed into a morbid death rattle on my way to the Ripley Spring Adventure. Before the end of the day Ben and I had agreed a price for a replacement gearbox, and a date was set to fit it, 10 days before departure.
‘I’d rather swap your box now than have to fix it on the side of a mountain,’ Ben said.
He’s frank like that...
Ben would also fit a Fairey overdrive, which I’d need if I was to keep pace with his tweaked 2.0 petrol and 3.54:1 Range Rover diffs.
I didn’t take much to the Alps, just the basics in a stack of Wolf boxes (one full of spares) and two WW2 ammo boxes, plus two jerry cans, Hi-Lift jack, toolbox, and a spare wheel ratcheted to the bulkhead.
As the gleaming outline of the Alps came into view I was pleased to discover that my 2.25-litre petrol could keep its momentum up the long climbs with overdrive engaged, despite my 235/85 R16 tyres.
Nights were spent in a tent or under a tarp hooked to the roof gutter, and camping brought a relaxed flow of gin and pleasingly inappropriate ‘Allo ‘Allo gags.
Mostly from Sam.
Ben also revealed an obscure technique for assessing the quality of cheap continental plonk, involving a small caressing motion that daren’t be printed here... seems to work, though.
Problems? Just my fuel lift pump (a non-genuine item), which got the jitters when running super-hot on mountain climbs. For a quick recovery I left the tow rope on the bumper (not good for the rope), and Ben rebuilt the pump multiple times at the side of the road, but a new diaphragm was needed.
Removing the bonnet cured the issue, but I didn’t dare attempt the trip’s dramatic climax – a treacherous climb to a 10,000ft Alpine pass – so I wedged myself into the back of the 80in, and held on for what was a truly magic drive.
In low box, second gear, Ben negotiated a long chain of tight switchbacks, rock and snow all around, as the rugged little Series I clambered endlessly upwards into the fading evening light that glinted off the jagged mountain tops with an everdeepening glow.
Series Land Rovers. You just can’t beat ‘em.