My very first day with Shorty began with a phone call to the seller. ‘The Land Rover broke down, Chase. What do I do now?’
So began the on/off relationship I have with Shorty, a 1972 88in RHD Series III. Since that day three years ago, Shorty has taught me about brakes, clutch systems, doors, lights, fuel pumps, overheating, changing radiators, water pumps, temperature gauges… even the engine was refurbished last year.
I’ve put the thing up for sale a few times – but whenever someone expressed an interest, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let go. Land Rovers are in my blood. Shorty is my friend but we don’t always get along.
I grew up in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, not far from Solihull. My parents took us camping across Europe in the back of a 109in, with a tent and sometimes a trailer. It’s just what we did for fun. My brother now owns an older Defender with ongoing health problems, and we commiserate on the phone on a monthly basis.
These days, I live in New Mexico, a place not known for spotting old Land Rovers. However, I’m finding a handful of other Series owners in the area, mostly through Facebook groups and simply when we’re out and about. Shorty takes me and the dogs to the lake, the mountains and the rivers, mostly on day trips; an hour or two at most. I park up, let the dogs loose, pull out a picnic and congratulate myself on finding such a great vehicle over here.
The first summer I had Shorty, I decided we’d drive to the Western National Land Rover Rally in Ouray, Colorado – and it took me five days to drive the 235 miles. First, overheating forced me to stop every hour to cool down (see main pic, opposite). Then there was the fire under the dashboard. Finally, after that was fixed, we got to within 50 miles of our destination – at the beginning of the mountain pass with some 14,000ft peaks – when the clutch gave out. I never did make it to Ouray and had to be towed all the way back to Santa Fe.
Shorty and I have been making friends since then, slowly regaining trust. A recommitment ceremony took place at the tyre shop with a complete set of BF Goodrich All-Terrains.
My brother and his girlfriend were due to visit from England, and I wanted them to drive Shorty, to explore New Mexico with me. The steering was checked, tightened and oiled; tie-rod ends were replaced; new dampers were installed.
Peter, Anita, and I took out all three of my vehicles on to local rough dirt roads and trails – a nice present for Pete, who was celebrating his birthday. We took turns driving each vehicle – Shorty, of course, plus Fiona (a ‘95 Toyota 4Runner) and Drake, my 2011 Suzuki DR 650 dirt bike.
Pete’s verdict after driving Shorty? ‘Nice bit of kit, that; runs much better than my Defender.’
Yes, it’s all going well for Shorty at the moment. He’s healthy and happy, and even working part-time: we collect firewood and help a local lady with her recycling. We sometimes take
the dogs out into the hills
in the early mornings for a free-range romp or an overnight camp. Life is good. Shorty is part of the family and it makes me shudder to think that we almost parted company only a few months before.
The British Car Roundup in Albuquerque asked us to come down for the show. With Thom in his ‘71, and Chris in her ‘74, our trio of Series Rovers drove through the Cibola National Forest across the Sandia mountains, only to arrive 45 minutes late.
I talked to families about Shorty’s travails (took a while…), sitting on the tailgate and eating my sandwiches. At the end of the afternoon, awards were being handed out for the different categories. With little fanfare, a rather nice wooden award and a hug for me, Shorty was awarded Best In Class!
Then we drove home, slowly and steadily back through the city and into the mountains. I’m living the dream, I thought and changed gear once again.
This owner review appeared in the December 2015 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.