The majority of ill-treated classic cars out there are akin to your pet dog. One day, it’s going to leave you heartbroken and die – unless, that is, you happen to own a Land Rover.
Not that they are completely impervious to terminal problems. Just like Madonna, cracks can appear that could lead to disasters of career threatening proportions. Sadly, this is exactly what happened to my first car – a 1982 ex-military Land Rover Series III 88in.
When I say ‘my’, what I mean is ‘the family workhorse’ – but in my teenage mind it quickly became mine, as it was the car I learned to drive in. As my father said: ‘If you can drive a Land Rover, you can drive anything.’
We had acquired the vehicle when my father had been left unattended in the forecourt of a Land Rover specialist – who has since found himself in jail for resetting Range Rovers. My father arrived home later with a grin from ear to ear.
It took some time for the Land Rover to turn up, however, and when it did things were not good – the engine didn’t run and the chassis was rotting from the inside out.
Once running with the help of my Uncle Ian – who is responsible for Land Rover addiction spreading like wildfire through the family – the engine would belch enough black smoke to completely camoflage the vehicle itself. But that didn’t stop it becoming a part of the family. At the age of ten I found myself behind the wheel which led to practicing in a field and eventually helping around the family farm.
I could often be found hanging off the roofrack as my father rallied up tracks – something that used to turn my mother’s blood cold. We weren’t overly bothered by health and safety in those days. However, she began to sleep soundly after an incident which snapped the chassis in half, sounding the Land Rover’s deathknell.
Except, in a fit of teenage madness, I point blank refused to let it go to the scrapyard. Instead, it was dumped in the workshed to undergo a chassis transplant. That was 13 years ago, during which time banking systems have collapsed, a couple of royals got married and an Iraqi dictator met his end in a sewage pipe. But for the punished souls who raised me, the biggest news was that I left home, leaving – inevitably – a stripped down Series III Land Rover resting in a barn.
Then, last year, my father stepped in. Perhaps on a wave of nostalgia, he rolled up his sleeves to piece the now mythical family wagon back together.
Quite frankly, he put me to shame. By the time he had sourced a new engine and started the rusted jigsaw from hell, I had dishonourably bought another Series III, longing for the driving magic of my childhood.
However, all the joy experienced in those first gear changes came flooding back upon getting back into the original Series III’s driver’s seat over Easter where, to my complete surprise, it cranked into life and finally ventured out into the sunlight for the first time in over a decade.
The only job dad hadn’t completed himself was the installation of the wiring loom – that was undertaken by a A.G Barr of Lanark. It was an emotional moment, with my dad wearing the same warm grin he donned all those years ago. Then, in true Land Rover fashion, it overheated. A small task I’m sure for the hero who has finished the task I started before life got in the way. My first proper drive would have to wait…