My Series I was owned from new by a dry walling company that used to be based in Minchinhampton, about three miles from where I live. Under the paint you can still make out the word Demonstrator, and its second owner told me the company used it to tow a display caravan to trade shows.
Back in 2002, after a few lazy years of half-searching, I was still on the lookout for a V8-engined Series I when I came across this one near Bristol. The dry wall company had sold it on to the second owner, and - this is the 'criminal' bit - he took his perfectly original Series I and popped in a Rover V8 from a P6, a heavy-duty SII gearbox and a SIII 109in transmission, plus Maestro seats and another BL monstrosity for a steering wheel (which, to my shame, has yet to be replaced).
He was an exhaust fitter and did an okay sort of job of 'upgrading' everything - although he never did the exhaust, of course. But despite all the mods he'd done, he couldn't keep up with his coiler mates off-road.
His vehicle log reads: 'Saturday: wire-brushed Landy. Sunday: painted Landy.' That accounts for the paint job then.
I was running the Bristol branch of Classic Car Club at the time and needed a period ute, which is why I bought it. Our mechanic fixed the foibles, but not the exhaust. When I moved abroad, it stayed with a friend and came back under my roof in 2006.
Since then the paint has flaked off. It's been to a couple of events, but generally gets used for the school run, dog walks and some occasional lanes and pub trips - just a plain old member of the family.
The exhaust still hasn't been finished properly, but fitting larger BFG Mud-Terrain tyres was an early job that transformed the ride on-road and the capability off-road. The springs remain standard and I don't intend to change them while they work so well. I fitted a reconditioned Series III steering box three years ago - it's halved the play in the front wheels, but the steering remains a little advisory.
In my ownership, all the brake slave cylinders and shoes have been replaced along with the front drums. Exmoor Trim front seats look great and the hood was serviced a couple of years ago but it's now on the way out. A new front bumper came from the LRSOC a couple of years ago.
The to-do list is massive, because the kids all want to learn how to drive it. I'll probably change the engine to a 200Tdi if they ever start to do any number of miles, but that's a few years away yet. In fact the engine swap is a tricky question because, although the V8 isn't the best, it's never short on power.
The steering wheel is an eyesore that needs to go. The paint job is getting more of a priority (or less if you prefer the rat look). A heated front screen and a Smiths heater would be nice. Then there are the unsightly holes where the previous owner tried to run a fuel filler through the bulkhead and out through the rear tub. And so it goes on...
the exhaust is the next job, though. The engine's a little smoky (well, a lot) and the fumes are coming up through the floor. It always makes me laugh when anyone suggest putting the door tops back on.
I can't see my family parting company with this old Land Rover anytime soon. The fact that it's now only three miles from where it spent the first 50 years of its life is just serendipity.
Published in the July 2015 issue of Land Rover Owner. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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