Land Rovers have a special place in my heart - which they've held for a long time. I was brought up on a farm on New Zealand's North Island, where I used to watch my dad drive back and forth to his second, larger sheep and cattle farm at Huiroa.
For a time, he used an old Vauxhall and trailer for the 21-mile round trip. And then, in 1957 when I was eight, he bought a Land Rover to replace both this and the converted wartime Jeep he used on the farm.
The Land Rover was one of the last Series I 109s, brought into New Zealand as a chassis-cab and numbered 1227-03764. Moller Motors in New Plymouth supplied it, and dad had the body constructed to his specifications by a specialist in nearby Stratford.
The basic style was what the New Zealanders call a flat deck body, a multi-purpose wooden tray with low sides. But on that daily trip between the two farms, the dogs would go along too. To accommodate them, the specialist made two bespoke 'dog boxes', one on each isde below the wooden deck. Essentially wooden cages, they ensured the dogs could be transported safely in the otherwise open vehicle.
And it was those dog boxes that meant I recognised dad's old Land Rover standing derelict in a paddock decades later. He sold it in 1993 when I took over the farm at Huiroa, at which point it disappeared from my life.
Then, while practising in 2002 for the Round Lake Taupo cycle race, I stopped for a rest and there, behind a gate, I saw it. I've long thought about the amazing coincidence of choosing that very spot to take a breather.
Anyway, there was no way I could just pedal off and leave it there. I did a deal with the owner there and then, and returned with a trailer to bring the Land Rover back home.
Restoration began in 2005, starting with a complete stripdown. The chassis outriggers were shot, but the main members were solid. Bodges had kept the vehicle going over the years, and these would have to be rectified. The wooden back body was, sadly, past its best.
New parts came from the UK, located through the Series One Club, I even found the correct grey 'elephant hide' material for the seats. The chassis was repaired, the engine was rebuilt to as-new condition, and slowly the 109 was built back up to the way it would have been when new.
Just the back body remained to be done, so I recruited a friend with joinery skills. The body was remanufactured in rimu wood (formerly known as red pine, this is from a tree indigenous to New Zealand), and I added some beautiful lining-out. As a personal finishing touch, I painted the name of the family farm on the doors.
Last year, I retired from farming, and now live at Lake Taupo. Of course, I've brought my collection of Land Rovers, which includes a 1949 80in that needs to be brought up to scratch. And just to keep my hand in after a hip replacement operation last year, I built a Series I Toylander for my grandchildren. Well, it's important to pass the message on to the next generation, isn't it?
Originally featured in the October 2014 issue of Land Rover Owner International.Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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