A few months ago I acquired my first Land Rover, a 1983 Series III short wheelbase with a rag top, a 2.25-litre petrol engine and lovely straight bodywork.
It's a late model, as you can see from the unpainted headlight bezels and the wide spacing of the rear lights. This shows that this vehicle's build time overlapped with the introduction of the One Ten in 1983.
Immediately surprised by the sheer brutality of driving the beast, I thought I'd better join a club to toughen myself up.
Little did I know that joining the Series III & 90- 110 Owners Club would show me that the hardened exterior of Land Rover ownership has a much softer underbelly than the usual image.
I met up with the club for the first time at its annual rally at Newark Showground. It was billed as an off-roading weekend suitable for all levels of experience, so I was looking forward to testing the waters and using the Land Rover for what it was built for.
I arrived with the kids and my wife Ann, and we were greeted by lots of lovely Land Rovers and their various encampments. Not really knowing what to do, we ambled over to a group briefing and were met by some serious-looking Land Rover owners dressed for action in an assortment of camouflage gear, rigger boots and Aussie-style leather hats. I felt a bit out of place, but not for long.
As soon as they clocked that I was a newbie, we were assigned an instructor called Gary to show us the ropes. He was really patient and helpful, and we spent an hour following him around, getting to know the gentler aspects of the course and avoiding all the 10-foot-deep mud holes. Then, after a break for lunch (and frankly to recuperate) we headed back on to the course for some more off-road fun.
But before long, after going up a hill and then ploughing through a mud-hole, the steering just stopped working. No big bang, just loss of turning action. i went to flag down a marshal, but as soon as everyone spotted I was in trouble about half a dozen Land Rovers appeared and lots of guys jumped out to point, laugh, and work out what to do.
A couple of them, Phil and Kevin, were clearly experienced chaps who quickly assessed that one of the track rod ends had sheared off. They swung into action, making lots of radio calls, and hatched a plan...
Phil expertly negotiated the off-road course in his low-loader and recovered the vehicle to a nearby field where Kevin endeavoured to spanner it back into action, amid a gaggle of interested Land Rover owners all poking around and laughing.
It turns out that fixing people's broken vehicles is part of the event, and everyone looks forward to it!
What was great was how eager everyone was to help. I felt a bit embarrassed but all the guys (and a few girls) told me it would be fine and they'd have it up and running in no time. I admired their optimism but didn't really believe them.
While Kevin set to work I was kindly taken on a tour of the local motor factors and garages looking for a new track rod end - but without any luck.
On our return Kevin was a star and offered to donate the complete spare track rod assembly whcih he kept in his 110. All I had to do was buy him a replacement when I could.
Two hours later it was all fixed, and they all shot off to help a Defender 110 that had sheared off its brake caliper. I hadn't done anything but I was knackered with the worry. Everyone else had a great time.
What an epic bunch of people. None of them knew me but they all helped without being asked and without wanting anything in return. It was a shame we weren't staying over so that I could at least have bought them a round.
I'll definitely make up for all their help in future though.
Originally featured in the October 2013 issue of Land Rover Owner International. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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