We’re a group of friends from Finland who share a passion for Land Rovers and adventure. Living next to Russia gives us the opportunity to travel regularly off the beaten track. We did this one-week trip to the Kola Peninsula in north-west Russia a few months ago.
The 1968 Series IIA 109in (owner Janne Marvola, co-driver Suvi) started life as a mobile welding rig servicing heavy machinery in peat fields in Finland. Twenty years later, Janne rescued it and restored it to a camper van. It’s now got a 2.5 n/a diesel engine, and One Ton shackles. The 2004 Defender 110 Td5 (owner Lauri Paivola, co-drivers Marko and Eero) is Lauri’s everyday commuter car. It has a 2in lift, heavy-duty driveshafts and a raised air intake, but it’s otherwise standard.
Mine is the 1976 Series III 109in (my friend Mikael was co-driving). It’s got parabolic springs, One Ton rims and spring shackles with bolt-on extended spring hangers at the front (for extra ground clearance), a new galvanised chassis, a 200Tdi engine (without turbo) and Defender front seats. All the cars were shod with 255/85x16 mud tyres.
On July 25 we loaded the cars on an overnight train from Helsinki to Kemijarvi, and after a good night’s sleep we crossed the border the next day at Salla in northern Finland. The adventure started from the mining town of Kirovsk, near Apatity.
We knew that we’d do some serious off-roading, but we struggled to find the time to prepare the Series Land Rovers for the trip. In the end, Janne’s Series IIA didn’t have a raised air intake, and my Series III didn’t have a winch, but they were at least running. The makeshift air intake from my car was, when needed, transferred to the Series IIA in order to get it over the deep water crossings.
The route took us over the Khibiny Mountains, through the Umbozersky pass to the north-west shore of Lake Umbozero, then back up into the mountains. From there we travelled down to the north shore of the same lake and, after some wading and rocky terrain, finally arrived in the town of Revda. One highlight was spending all night winching our three vehicles across a rocky river bed, where I broke a front spring, and the front propshaft came loose, almost holing the sump.
Later, up in the mountains, we found some old abandoned drilling equipment scattered around on the slopes: it had been used by Soviet geologists searching for minerals.
The distance we drove from Kirovsk to Revda is only about 60 miles but it took us five days to complete, as we wanted to have time to enjoy the amazing scenery and solitude, cook some nice food, take a bath in our tent sauna and sit by the campfire. What else could you wish for?
Despite a few breakages, the Series vehicles suffered nothing that couldn’t be repaired with some ratchet staps, a wooden block and the odd piece of metal. The Defender’s ECU box was nearly drowned, but after a quick dry-out it survived. Ironically, back home, the Defender developed a misfire after a wash of the engine bay.
We’d like to thank Svante Eskelin from Svante’s Garage for all the support he’s given us – because of him old Land Rovers refuse to die in Finland! We also want to thank Vesku Heikkila, a seasoned off-roader, for help with the route planning.