What’s the story?
The air is thick with acrid smoke. Flames have engulfed the Land Rover, and despite burnt-out tyres it starts driving away from the source of the fire in a desperate attempt to save itself. It finally comes to a halt at the side of a car park, safe but gravely wounded. Could it be saved?
That’s the scene that met Axel Jany on a brutally cold February morning in 2012. He had parked his WMIK (Weapons Mount Installation Kit) Defender XD in his car park at work and a colleague had parked his Opel next to it.
The Opel’s fuel pump had overheated trying to deal with the -21ºC temperature, setting fire to the car – and as soon as flames took hold, it wasn’t long before they made the short leap to the PVC covers on the Defender.
Axel had left the Land Rover parked in gear; and when the ignition switch melted, the contacts touched, causing the starter motor to spin and making the Land Rover drive off.
‘It was a bit surreal,’ remembers Axel. ‘The fire crew were dowsing it down to get the fire under control, when all of a sudden the lights came on, the horn sounded and it started to drive away.’
But the intense cold that played a major part in causing the fire was also the Land Rover’s salvation. The flames drew cold air under the vehicle, which saved the axles, chassis and gearbox from heat damage – even the flexible brake hoses survived. But everything above the chassis was toast.
Our Favourite Bit
Back in Germany, Axel soon had the engine running, but fitting the front wings was held up by a faulty heater motor – impossible to get to with the wing fitted, it needed to be remedied first. Then, with everything fitted, Axel prepared it for the TÜV, the German equivalent of the MoT.
So as not to scare the tester, he fitted the windscreen and full PVC foul-weather covers, including fabric doors. It passed and the XD 110 was back on the road, 951 days after the fire.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Turning up with a vehicle festooned with guns – replica or not – was never going to go down well with the TÜV tester, and getting the initial certificate also meant leaving off any sharp edges. So, after the test, the sand ladders, jerry cans, bergans and aerials were attached to finish it off.
And the verdict?
Although rebuilt, Axel has still made little upgrades to the ambulance. It already had an uprated Allisport intercooler and silicone intercooler pipes, but he replaced the cumbersome and difficult-to-use rear step with one from a German military ambulance.
It’s the only right-hand-drive vehicle of the three, but does mean he can drive right out to the edge of mountain roads on regular camping trips in the Alps – which the 130 is ideal for.
‘It’s got a 4.8kW heater and is fully insulated,’ he says. ‘It’s ideal for wild camping all year round and matches the rest of the vehicles perfectly – it’s the most beautiful camper ever built.’
It has already returned to the UK and Axel has toured Sardinia in it, so it’s really earning its keep.
Fate is a funny thing and although Axel was forever tinkering with and evolving his 110, would he have bought the 90 and 130 if it hadn’t caught fire? We’ll never know, but I’d like to think he would...
This feature appeared in the March 2016 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.