Series I, HEP 160, spent three years travelling overland from the UK to Australia and back. En route, it was crashed, rebuilt on a secondhand chassis and repaired with a scavenged Series II front axle. Steering components were tied up with wire, an engine mount was replaced with dog chain and the cracked block was bodged with cataloy paste, yet it still made it home - and then went straight back to work towing a trailer. It was rebuilt, and is still on the road today! Here, current owner David Leigh and Mary Poulton (involved with its later life), tell us the incredible story.
Mary: 'Gordon (the previous owner) took HEP through to India, round Australia, back up through Africa, starting in 1969. But that wasn't his first trip. He'd originally had a Ford Zodiac, but got disqualified from driving. That's why he bought HEP - he thought people wouldn't notice him driving if it were a different vehicle! But when Gordon got it, he was already thinking about doing a trip. He got as far as Turkey the first time. Then he went to Spain. All that was before the three-year trip. After the big trip, he was back in Bradford.'
David: 'That's when I was working for him. He had a half-share of a car-sales forecourt. Gordon was towing a trailer with HEP, fetching cars from auctions. His brother John had a four-car garage; that's where I used to weld up his cars. I'd drive HEP occasionally, but I couldn't really get used to it.'
Mary: 'Every year, September to March, he was running safaris out of Nairobi. He'd just go there, put adverts on hotel noticeboards, buy a long-wheelbase Land Rover or a VW camper and go off with tourists. While he was away he'd leave HEP - just dump it at a garage.'
David: 'While he was back in England the Land Rover would be in use again - back to the auctions with the trailer to buy a few more cars.'
Mary: 'I met him in 1989 when we were living in Huddersfield. The LAnd Rover was at the foot of the driveway, just rotting away. Then somebody must have told him about that "Search For A Legend" competition being run by Land Rover. I don't know if it was the idea of winning the prize, but I think he'd been thinking about getting HEP back on the road anyway. Whatever the reason, that's when it all started.'
David: 'I got a phone call. Gordon said, "I've got a project for you. We're getting HEP back on the road!" We towed it to my storage unit and stripped it right down. Typical Gordon - wouldn't spend anything. He'd got another Land Rover for spare parts - everything we put on HEP, we'd either mended it or fabricated it or it was secondhand. When we'd finished, Gordon asked, "How much do I owe you?"I said I could never charge him. So he said, '"All right, but when I die you can have the Land Rover."'
Mary: 'They finally got it going at two in the morning on the day of the competition - just a local heat at Copley Motors in Halifax. HEP won that heat, but got knocked out inthe Yorkshire regional heat. After that, we used it at weekends to go out into the Dales, things like that. Then we bought a place in Spain - Gordon drove HEP to Portsmouth, ferry to Bilbao, down to southern Spain. He was using it to tow a sailing boat. When Gordon died, we tried to get it back for the funeral, but the transporter broke down three times, so HEP didn't make it.'
David: 'The car transporter eventually arrived at my place of work. HEP was a bit of a mess. I had to jump-start it. I thought, "Bloody hell, Gordon, what have you left me here!"
'But now that I've got used to it, I really like it. The other weekend it was full of tooold; I was out helping install some railings. It's still on the original 2.0-litre diesel engine, the one that Gordon mended in Africa with cataloy and Bar's Leaks. To think it survived all that - it's still on the road. And I'm driving it!'
Published in the February 2015 issue of Land Rover Owner. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.
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