What's the story?
Long-term LRO readers with a good memory will recognise this vehicle, because we featured it in July 2004. Back then it was owned by John Messer of Derbyshire, and before that it was his older cousin Rob’s work vehicle in Sacriston, County Durham.
John asked LRO to investigate after he noticed a few unusual features: a short-wheelbase Series III Stage 1 V8? A handful were made, but almost all were exported; only the long-wheelbase went into production. But 10 years ago we proved this Land Rover was hand-built at the company’s Drayton Road special projects workshop. What happened to it next? Nothing. John drove it into a garage and shut the door.
Back in Sacriston in 2010, Chris Herbert was looking for a project. However, after seeing a Lightweight in Newcastle his thoughts turned to a Land Rover: ‘A friend told me Rob’s old Land Rover might be for sale. I’ve known Rob for years, but back then I was only about 16 – just hanging around on the edge of the group.
‘I went down to Derbyshire with a trailer and John pulled it out of the garage. We did a deal and I trailered it back. But John had never mentioned its history, and I didn’t know much about it until Rob said it had been in LRO.’
Next came a rebuild. Throughout the project Rob was on hand with advice, and to share some stories. ‘There was a place in Sunderland then called the Blockyards, where people met to show off their cars. They’d do burn-outs and go flying up and down. I think some of the cars must have been nicked – they used to crash into each other. People came from all over. The Land Rover was good – people liked it. I could spin all the wheels when setting off. If I pulled away quickly with the wheels at an angle, it bounced up and down until I stopped. The racing engine was too powerful, really.’
Our favourite bit?
Today the Series III’s wild days are over, but we thought it would be fun to evoke burn-out memories , so we took it to Teesside Autodrome at Middlesbrough (teessideautodrome.co.uk, 01642 231117) and asked some drifters for help.
Drifting is a bit like saloon car racing without the boring bits. After several runs down the track, our drifters suggested a four-car burn-out as a finale. Problem was, no one wanted to be left out – so there was a multi-car burn-out of epic proportions instead.
And the verdict LRO’s Peter Galilee?
Chris’s historically significant short-wheelbase Stage 1 V8 is back, and beautifully rebuilt too. All it needed was a welcome-back christening – and thanks to Teesside’s drifters it got one. But it will be a while before the smell of burning rubber disappears...
Vehicle: Series III Stage 1 V8
Date of manufacture: Not recorded, but first registered on March 3, 1981
Chassis number: V8 88in LR 32 (no VIN plate fitted)
Engine: Rover 3.5-litre V8 petrol, Holley carburettor, tuned for racing
Transmission: LT95 permanent four-wheel drive Wheelbase: 88in
Track width: 51.5in