When Roger Crathorne retired after more than 50 years with Land Rover he announced: ‘I’ll be taking the ignition key of my old Land Rover off the hook and re-educating myself with choke pulls and double-de-clutching.’ True to his word, he has been using his 1951 Series I 80-inch almost every day ever since.
It’s a special vehicle, and not just because it belongs to the man who became known throughout the company as ‘Mr Land Rover’.
As documented in our January 2014 issue, Roger got the Series I back on the road with help from Phil Bashall at Dunsfold DLR. But he’s left the paintwork in mostly original – heavily patinated – condition. It looks a treat and today he’s kindly chauffeuring me on a drive through the New Forest.
We’re following a route in one of my collection of period Letts motor tour guides. First published in 1970, my Hampshire and Wiltshire issue includes a 70-mile New Forest route that conveniently passes through Lymington
Lymington Harbour: We drive down to the harbour, the exhaust note echoing crisply off the buildings, which look as though they are mostly unchanged since Mr Wilfrid E Rolfe wrote our guidebook 45 years ago. The Series I is running a treat, feeling smooth and well set-up at the hands of an experienced engineer.
I don’t really think Roger had to re-educate himself with double-de-clutching; he’s always been a master at perfecting silent gearchanges.
Avon: There’s been a bridge here since the 13th century, and was widened in 1851. Just over the bridge is the 18th-century George Inn. Roger eases the Series I through its ancient archway to the car park, and we stop for lunch. It’s a bit chilly, but we’re dressed for the great outdoors and enjoy a sandwich by the banks of the Avon.