What's the Story?
A normal rebuild that starts off as a straightforward job can easily turn into a load of trouble. But there’s nothing normal about this vehicle. ‘The Land Rover that’s on top, that’s more or less a standard thing. But the stuff underneath, the Cuthbertson running gear, well…’ Mark Griffiths scratches his head and searches for a suitable word. ‘The running gear, it’s just very big. And you wouldn’t believe how heavy those bogies are!’ Mark is referring to the triangular tracked units, one at each corner of the Cuthbertson. ‘It takes two people to move one – just drag it along, not lift it. There are four of them. Then there’s the axle units and all the rest – the Cuthbertson subframe, as I call it. Then you’ve got a 109-inch Land Rover on top.’ But you’ve also got one of the rarest Land Rovers – about 40 were built, 13 survive.
Cuthbertsons were used by the British Forestry Commission to traverse swampy land. The British military bought others, reputedly to deal with booby-trapped locations. Cuthbertson Land Rovers were a Rover Company ‘approved conversion’ through the ’60s, but their massive turning circle and slow speed must have limited usefulness. Not a vehicle for nipping down to the shops, but not a vehicle to pass by either, if the chance arises.
‘It all started seven years ago,’ Mark remembers. ‘I was browsing eBay and the Cuthbertson popped up. I work at Huddersfield Land Rover Centre, buying and selling Land Rovers, so I know a lot of people. I knew the seller and asked him how much he thought it would make; he told me a figure and that’s what I offered. It was a project for me personally, not the Land Rover Centre.
‘It had been standing outside, but didn’t look bad – everything seemed to be there.’ And so the massive machine was disturbed for the first time in 16 years – undergrowth was ripped away, clods of earth fell, cobwebs were brushed aside. The Cuthbertson was dragged on to a low-loader and moved to a disused mill at Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield.
Our Favourite Bit?
‘I was moving house, about a year ago, when we got notice to move out from Oldham. We were snookered – the Cuthbertson was in bits and we had an Atkinson Borderer in bits. The Cuthbertson had become a bit of a millstone, so I put it on eBay and it generated a huge amount of interest. A discerning US collector rang up, wanting to buy it, so I sold it to him for what it was worth in bits, plus the cost to restore it. At that point everything began to make sense, because I could bring in Arthur…’
Arthur Nasey is another friend of Mark’s from the Huddersfield area – retired, with plenty of spare time and a great track record of Rolls-Royce restorations. The Cuthbertson had to be moved for the third time and delivered piecemeal to Arthur’s home workshop.
‘Working with Arthur made a lot of sense,’ Mark explains. ‘The customer would pay for the work to be finished – you couldn’t expect Arthur to do months of work for nothing – and with him, it would make progress. ‘We finished off the Land Rover itself first. Then we brought the bogies down to Land Rover Centre and spent a day working on them. Two were seized – we had to use gas burners and a pile of bricks to heat them up before they’d come apart! Then they went to Arthur’s for paint and reassembly.
‘You might not notice, but those tracks stick out a bit more at one side than the other. The longer bits go on the outside. I’d put three tracks on before I noticed that – I’d got all of them wrong! We built up the whole thing in Arthur’s garage. It’s got quite a low door, but I worked out the Land Rover should go through without a windscreen. It did – but only just!’
And the Verdict from LRO?
Driving a Cuthbertson all day would be exhausting. But doing it just a bit is brilliant! By now, it should be on its way to America.
‘Will I miss it? Maybe, in a way,’ muses Mark. ‘There’s not a lot you can do with one, though, except look at it. It was a challenge, but I’m glad I did it. And how many people can say they’ve restored a Cuthbertson? We can't help but agree.
Vehicle Cuthbertson conversion Series II 109in
●Manufactured 1959, chassis number
● Engine 2286cc petrol fourcylinder
● Transmission Four-speed,
synchromesh on third and top gears, two-speed
transfer box, selectable two/four-wheel drive
● Configuration Tracked pick-up with truck
● Tracks 12 inches (0.3m) wide, 40 steel
track shoes per track, riveted to nylon/cotton
reinforced rubber belts
● Dimensions Length
15ft 1.1in (4.6m); width 6ft 0.8in (1.85m); height
8ft 2.4in (2.5m)
● Steering Hydraulic assisted
● Climbing ability 1 in 1
● Speed in second gear low ratio (rough ground): 4mph
● Maximum speed 35mph
● Side stability controllable 30°
● Tipping angle 45°
● Ground pressure 1.9psi unladen, 2.3psi laden
● Payload 10cwt (508kg)
● Unladen running weight Approx three tons (3048kg)
Where can I read more?
Read the full story in the June 2016 issue of LRO. Current and back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Or order a printed issue by calling 01858 438884. Please note, we only hold stocks of the last three back issues.