I was out in my 88in 'bitsa' with my brother. He knew I was actively looking for another old Land Rover and directed me to an abandoned one in a field near Kingsbury. There were horses in the field, so I checked it out from a distance with my binoculars. I spotted a vent in the nearside wing and dismissed it as a Series III - not what I wanted.
A year later, I passed the same field. This time, no horses - so I pulled over, nipped into the field and had a closer look. It was then I spotted that the windscreen hinges were plates on the sides of the bulkhead and realised it definitely wasn't a Series III.
Then I stuck my head into the cab (the vehicle had no door tops) and saw all the extra switches and stuff on the dash.
More clues followed: under the bonnet, and eight-bladed fan - typical military spec; an oil cooler; extended spring dumb-irons and shackles. Military hook-ups on the back of the tub added even more weight to my theory.
I wanted it but I had no idea who owned it, never mind how to make contact. Eventually, after a couple of fluky conversations in the village, I met the owner's dad. Apparently, he bought it for his son, then aged 10, so he could learn to drive by pootling around the field in it.
I was in luck! The son, who by this time was 18, wanted to sell - so I paid him £100 for it.
That was three years ago, which is when the real detective work began. In fact, it's still going on. So far, with the help of AULRO - an Australian Land Rover owners' forum - I've found out exactly what it is. It's a CKD (completely knocked-down) vehicle assembled in Australia. At some point, after as little as three years with Australian armed forces, I believe it went tothe New Zealand military. It was the Kiwis who named these 88s 'Skippies' because of the way they bounce along the road.
Later still, it was imported into the UK, possibly by Leavesley International from an auction in Singapore, in the mid-to-late 1980s. Leavesley was selling ex-military 109in Land Rovers for £2500; but you had to call to get a price for the 88s. Sadly, Leavesley International's records of the time no longer survive. Originally, it was a soft top with a different brush guard and front wings, with headlights in the centre panel.
My plan is to do it up, get it MoT's, taxed and registered and then drive it exactly as it is, battle scars and all. A full restoration back to its original spec would be very expensive.
Maybe one day though?
Originally featured in the April 2014 issue of Land Rover Owner International. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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