What's the story?
‘I’d known about this Series I 80-inch for a long time. It belonged to a friend, George Snowdon – he’d used it as his everyday car from 1974 to 1977 and kept it as a retirement project, but in the end just didn’t have time.
‘So he gave it to me, but with a proviso: it had to be properly restored, and finished in his lifetime. But that’s what I wanted to do anyway. It had been standing outside for 20 years and it was in a right state.’
The Series I didn’t look too bad at first glance, but underneath the faded green paint there was a horror story waiting to be told. ‘The bulkhead was totally gone,’ says David. ‘All the weight from the windscreen and the doors had made the bulkhead drop – it was being supported by the backs of the wings and that had bulged them out. So they were scrap as well.’
Dirty work went on for weeks – welding, grinding, degreasing. Finally he was able to tidy up and get on with paint-spraying. He sold the hard top, replacing it with a complete kit from Exmoor Trim, which was his biggest expenditure at almost £1000. When finding bits for the restoration George would accompany David all over the country, until during the final six months of the 20-month rebuild, George was kept away from David's garage. One day he was invited over on a pretext, to be suprised with the finished vehicle. The mood was suitably celebratory.
Since completion the 80-inch has embarked on a second career as a show exhibit – a career that it has excelled at, clocking up 11 first prizes and two second prizes to date. When George passed away, his old Land Rover was there to say farewell. On top of the coffin was a photograph they had taken when he came to see the finished car.
Our favourite bit?
We first saw this 80in a few years ago at a Spring Adventure show at Driffield, East Yorkshire. It was beating everything so easily, ringmaster (and LRO columnist) Jerry Thurston insisted it should do everything backwards. Reverse was no tall order for this marvellous machine. The beautifully restored 80-inch was still faster than all the other competitors, even backwards. So, in the minds of LRO staff, this will always be the Land Rover that managed to shut up Jerry Thurston.
And the verdict from LRO writer Peter Galilee?
‘As David floors the pedal and the 1940s 1600cc engine gets to work, we get some rattling and leave a slight trail of smoke – but the little 80-inch certainly gets up and goes.’
Engine: 4-cylinder 1600cc inlet-over-exhaust petrol l Transmission: Permanent four-wheel drive with freewheel l Configuration: Canvas tilt