What’s the story?
'It's been a year, this has,' says Kyle Smith of Andover Land Rover, patting the bonnet of a gleaming Land Rover. Mind you, he has to reach up to pat the bonnet, because this Land Rover isn't the usual sort of thing. 'Started off with me and the painter, then it was me and the apprentice. It's been a long time, but we've been doing it in between other work.'
'Forward Controls... well, you don't see many about, do you?' he continues. 'I want to do some shows, and just wanted something on my stand that would attract attention. So I thought about this...'
You have to admire his thinking. No matter how dense the crowds, a Forward Control will tower above them. No matter how many nice Land Rovers show-goers might pass, most will be unable to walk past a Forward Control without stopping for a closer look.
'It's to show what we do,' Kyle explains. 'Rebuilding bulkheads; I've been doing them a while. Complete vehicle rebuilds are also part of our work. So I thought we'd do something to show all of that.' Sounds sensible.
Just one thing, though - the Forward Control doesn't seem to be finished. As in, no back bodywork... 'Ah,' he says 'That was a bit sad - someone nicked the back-body. Scrap metal prices, you know. There's a Forward Control back-body to go on it, came from Ireland, I think.. But i think it's more interesting without the body.'
Kyle doesn't know much about this FC's history, but one point of interest is the engine. The 2.25-litre diesel was Rover's lowest-powered engine, the Forward Control its heaviest vehicle, so performance was, to put is politely, embarrassing.
What is known is that it was in a bit of a state. 'You should have seen it.' Kyle grimaces. 'The front corner panels, those wheelarches over the front wheels, bottom of the driver's door, roof - all bashed in. But we didn't replace anything, it was all beaten out - these are the original panels, just with a very thin skim of filler. The engine wasn't bad - we were lucky there - and it's only been overhauled.'
As for the chassis, that didn't make the final build; what you're looking at is a replacement from Richards Chassis. Didn't know they made an FC chassis? 'They didn't,' says Kyle, 'until I asked them. I was looking on the internet and I stumbled across a set of blueprints...' Armed with a sample chassis and those blueprints, Richards said it could do the job, and the results speak for themselves.
The bulkhead was rebuilt and galvanised - no problem for Kyle, who's been rebuilding bulkheads for years. The rear light panels had to be built up - the originals were past saving. There was a lot of careful panel-beating, some paint and, finally, re-assmebly.
Our favourite bit?
A Forward Control minus back-body is fascinating. You get a clear understanding of the top-heaviness and you're able to see the engine and transmission, which are usually buried from view. It's worth crouching down and checking out the upper chassis below the cab - bulkhead outriggers and all, just like on a standard model, only higher.
And the verdict from LRO writer Peter Galilee?
Lovely to look at, and interesting to examine closely, it's definitely one to look out for at shows.'