What's the story?
For the Series I purist, setting eyes on this vehicle for the first time may well induce a state of shock. What started life as a 1958 Series I 107in Station Wagon retains only a fraction of its original parts. And if its outward appearance is liable to cause palpitations, just wait till you see what's under the bonnet...
Beaten-up and cobbled back together over the decades, it somehow keeps soldiering on, and current owner Erich Neal has done his best to preserve all of those fixes that don't actually present safety issues. The idea is to keep the Land Rover in a sort of suspended state of decay, because restoring it would destroy everything that makes it special.
The chassis and body have been 'adapted' over the years, often with immense amounts of ingenuity. The original front wings, for example, disappeared long ago, replaced with fabricated panels made from galvanised steel sections of heating and air-conditioing ducting.
The casual observer could be excused for thinking that this vehicle is on its last legs and destined for the scrap heap. How wrong they would be. Fact is, it was actually saved from the scrapyard in the 1990s, since when it has undergone a transformation into a functional, reliable daily driver. Today it embraces the essence of Land Rover adventure, having survived to tell its tale...
Little is known of its early years. Erich believes the vehicle was originally delivered to Argentina in 1958 as a left-hand-drive station wagon. In 1978 a group of Boy Scouts began a trek north in the 107. Starting in Argentina, the Scouts criss-crossed South, Central and North Americas, each destination being recorded with a black dot on the outside of the driver's door. The Scouts' goal was to drive from the southern-most to the northern-most road in the Americas. Unfortunately, the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay was a private highway in those days so the expedition got as far as Fairbanks before they had to head south again - which was when disaster struck. The Land Rover was involved in a road accident that left it in a snow bank with most of its front end twisted and buckled. The Scouts sold the Land Rover for scrap to raise the money for flights back to Argentina.
It is Erich's goal to finish the last leg of the Scouts' original journey - drive the Dalton Highway all the way to Prudhoe Bay, once it's complete.
Now, those of you who have driven a long-wheelbase Series I will appreciate the 'novelty' of having little more than 50bhp available - hardly the thing for modern freeways, certainly in the US. So a more appropriate Detroit iron lump was called into service. The four-pot was replaced by a rather more powerful Chevrolet four-bolt 5.3-litre (327ci) V8, with 10.25:1 compression. This engine develops about 400bhp and 375-400 lb ft at around 5000rpm.
The Series I now has another new lease of life. It's still a dependable workhorse, and work it does: hauling tons of firewood, heading out for multiple hunting expeditions, a daily commute of 70 miles and an average of 35,000 miles per year.
Our favourite bit?
The engine, transmission, axles, brakes and suspension have all been superseded with modern high-performance replacements, mostly non-Rover. According to Erich, he wanted to have modern power and performance, yet retain the visual appeal and character of the original Series I. The result is truly remarkable.
And the verdict from LRO writer Steve Hoare?
This truck is a living (and still working) legend.
Model: Series I, 107in station wagon
Engine: Chevrolet four-bolt 5.3-litre (327ci) V8
Power: 400bhp approx
Torque: 375-400 lb ft at 5000rpm
Transmission: Chevrolet SM-465 four-speed main gearbox
Transfer box: Land Rover Q Case LT230, selectable four-wheel drive
Tyres: 38 x 12.50 x 15in Super Swamper
Where can I read more?
The full story is in the July 2013 issue of LRO. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.