What's the story?
In terms of childhood dream vehicles this must be near the top of the list. It's a unique six-wheel-drive 1983 Series III Stage I V8 fire tender fitted with sirens, fire hoses and a loudspeaker that shouts at pedestrians when you're reversing.
Leicestershire Fire Service commissioned it to protect parts of local forests that full-size fire engines stood no chance of reaching. thanks to its six-wheel drive and torquey V8, the Series III coped easily with this terrain, though, sitting in it now, it's easy to se why the firemen had a far tougher time.
The unusual desing of the crew's cabin makes it a ridiculously uncomfortable place to be. Instead of having a regular cab in the front and storage in the back, this vehicle has a 70-gallon water tank in the middle, sitting slightly forward of the centre axle.
It means the fire crew's cabin is at the back, over the third axle. The seats are painful enough when running over a pothole, never mind anything more dramtic - when venturing off-road the fully kitted firemen must have been smashed about the cabin like ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
Despite these flaws, the tender saw eight years of active service before, presumably, the fire crews finally threatened mutiny. In 1991 it was repurposed for fire prevention work before becoming an educatinal display at village fetes and school visits.
The first civilian owner, Robbie Sloane, bought it and started the restoration process. Unofrtunately, he passed away before completing the task, passing the torch to a second Land Rover nut, Tony Barker. Tony played an important role in returning the tender to its former glory, overhauling the engine, the gearbox and the transfer box. Consecutive owners called the tender 'Robbie', commemorating the excellent original work of Mr Sloane.
Our favourite bit?
Today, 'Robbie' is in rude, good health. Its 3.5-litre V8 breathes perfectly now that the carburettors' restrictive plates have been removed, offering Range Rover performance... sort of. The vehicle resides in the Champagne region of eastern France, owned by avid Land Rover collector Sebastien Conte. He has more than 100 vehicles in his vast warehouse, complete with historic military variants, fire tenders and ambulances. As proof of his dedication Sebastien doesn't own a regular car or a modern Land Rover - his daily driver is an 88-inch Series I.
And Jerome's verdict?
It is a big red Land Rover fire engine! What could be more like a big kid's dream than driving this? Given the choice between the fire tender and a shiny red Lamborghini Countach, the 6x6 wins hands-down. If I owned it, the sluggish performance, poor braking and dreadful fuel economy wouldn't concern me as it's not the sort of vehicle I'd plan to drive that often. I would keep it for special occasions, knowing that every time I get behind the wheel, I'll feel like the king of the hill.
Model: Series III Stage I V8 6x6 fire tender
Engine: V8, 3.5-litre petrol
Transmission: Four-speed manual
Axles: Stage I
Tyres: Michelin XZY 7.50 R16
Suspension: Stage I
Chassis stretch and extra axle: Hotspur Cars Ltd
Where can I read more?
This feature appeared in the May 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