What's the story?
The heat and humidity was ferocious, the rain Biblical. Ahead of the 16 teams on the 1985 Camel Trophy lay a 1000-mile adventure on abandoned logging trails, over collapsed bridges and through swollen rivers, deep in the tropical rainforest of Borneo, alive with wildlife. A big adventure, then.
Out of the 1000-mile route, the Camel Trophy teams were only able to drive, slide and hack their way through a total of 314 miles; a massive flood surrounded them and stopped them in their tracks.
Unable to continue onwards or retrace their steps, the organisers chose to rescue the convoy; air-lift the entire expedition by helicopter and then continue the journey. The only problem was that the available helicopter wasn't able to lift a fully laden Land Rover Ninety. The Land Rovers were emptied of kit, and doors were removed prior to the lift, one vehicle at a time. The doors were all labelled with each team's name in red marker pen so that the correct doors could be bolted back on to the right vehicle.
The stunning Ninety I've travelled to Cologne to see is known as 'Belgium II', as it bears this name on the edge of its driver's door. Member number 18, Jochen, a 42-year-old engineer living in Cologne, has a wealth of knowledge on the Camel Trophy and owns several Camel vehicles - a 110, a battle-scarred Disco 1 and a now-unique 127 double-cab - but the 1985 2.5 n/a diesel Ninety is the crown jewel. So how did he find it?
'I'm not too sure when I first heard about the vehicle, but it was through the Camel Trophy Club,' says Jochen. 'The club's researcher told me about a Camel Trophy Ninety for sale in Belgium, but he didn't have any contact information.' Eventually Jochen traced the Ninety's owner and raced over to Brussels to view it.
'We went into the warehouse below his home, it was between 500-600 sqaure metres and packed with Camel Trophy stuff. Rene told me that if I wanted to buy the Ninety, I had to take all the Camel Trophy stuff that filled his warehouse too. There was no room for negotiation, the price was the same with or without the spares. For the price asked, I could have bought a new Land Rover.'
Our favourite bit?
In the 10 years that Jochen has owned this vehicle, he's resisted the urge to restore it, much preferring its original character and history to remain. 'The only new panel is the short section of sill on the driver's side because the German TuV (moT testers) said it was too sharp and must be replaced. I've done no major mechanical work on it at all. It's had all the fluids flushed out and changed. All it needed was a new timing belt and a new oil cooler. The old one was marking 'his' territory by leaving spots of oil on the floor.
'I replaced the Discovery rims and old tyres it arrived on for these 235/85 BFG ATs on LWB steel rims.'
The vehicle looks fantastic.
And the verdict from LRO assistant editor Mark Saville?
Jochen's Ninety is in stunning condition. It's got great presence on the road, and is still able to turn heads as it trundles around the outskirts of Cologne. Spend a few minutes looking at this Borneo Survivor. I don't think even the coldest-hearted, non-car person could fail to be stirred by it.