What's the story?
Tony Lucey has been involved with the Ex-Military Land Rover Association for as long as he can remember.
‘The thing was,’ says Tony, ‘the FFR wasn’t really my cup of tea. What I really wanted was a Lightweight gunship. There wasn’t going to be much chance of getting one of those, but I was talking to Colin Voss, who’s been with the EMLRA since for ever. He suggested that I should have a look at doing a Para recce vehicle.’
At that stage, Tony didn’t know very much about the Para recce Lightweights, but he liked the idea of creating one from his existing FFR model, not least because he’d be able to keep some of the radio equipment that he’d collected for it. So he began to ask around to see what he could find out about the Para recce vehicles.
As the name suggests, these Lightweights were used for reconnaissance duties by the Parachute Regiment. They would be airlifted forward (but not air-dropped, as far as Tony knows) and would then set off on whatever reconnaissance task had been assigned to them. However, finding out more about them wasn’t easy. ‘The best I can discover is that there were about eight made in all,’ says Tony. ‘All of them were unit conversions, and they were done by 10 Airborne Workshop, REME, which was attached to 16 Airborne Brigade. They were all different, though. That’s the attraction for me – there’s so little known about these vehicles.’
Our favourite bit?
‘The owner wasn’t keen to sell, but his girlfriend wanted it out of the way.’ he says. ‘So we hauled it out from behind this garden wall by crane, and I shipped it back to the mainland.’
What he’d bought was 60 FK 81, an FFR Lightweight from a large batch delivered in 1971 and 1972 under contract number WV10318. It was one of the final Series IIA types, still with the instruments in the centre and no synchromesh on first gear, but with the later configuration of headlights on the wing fronts. ‘The top of the bulkhead was Series III,’ says Tony, ‘and the big ends were knocking a bit. When we took the engine apart, I discovered two of the pistons were cracked. There had been a bad repair to one of the front dumb-irons, too.’
And the verdict from LRO writer James Taylor?
One of the traps that restorers of military Land Rovers so often fall into is loading the vehicles with every possible piece of equipment, and then a few more. Restoration it isn’t; wishful thinking would be a better description. But talking to Tony Lucey makes it clear how this can happen: if there isn’t a defined specification to copy, restorers have to interpret the available info and do the best they can. I’ve always believed there’s no substitute for proper research, and I reckon Tony has done as good a job as it’s possible to do. But if any readers know better...
For the moment, though, he’s created a thoroughly interesting vehicle, as he discovered during our photo shoot when it was surrounded by small boys. And bigger ones too…
Model Series IIA 88-inch FFR Lightweight
Engine 2.25-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission Four-speed manual, selectable four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer box
Suspension Semi-elliptic leaf springs