New Zealand Classic Car - - Front Page - Words: Ash­ley Webb Pho­tos: Adam Croy

Imag­ine, if you will, four Otago Uni­ver­sity mates pool­ing their stu­dent loans 15 years ago to pur­chase a Land Rover, quickly chris­tened ‘The Landy’. The trusty ve­hi­cle helped the four Scarfies cre­ate a whole se­ries of life­long mem­o­ries as they shared count­less ski­ing, fish­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, row­ing and tramp­ing ad­ven­tures through­out the South Is­land. The Landy quickly be­came very much a beloved part of their ev­ery­day lives.

Fast for­ward to 2014, when the heart­break­ing de­ci­sion had to be made to part with the Landy and, re­luc­tantly, a list­ing was placed on­line of­fer­ing the beaten and bro­ken 1957 Se­ries I Land Rover for sale. The ad­ver­tise­ment in­cluded images that de­picted the part the Landy had played in their many ad­ven­tures, and any­one read­ing the ad­vert would have been aware of the sor­row th­ese mates felt at part­ing with their beloved truck.

Those mates — Will, Jeremy, An­thony and James — all thought they were closing a chap­ter with the Land Rover’s sale, but they were wrong, be­cause fate was about to in­ter­vene.

A Cun­ning Plan

The mar­ket­ing manager for Land Rover New Zealand, James Mckee, re­ceives a daily email from lo­cal on­line trad­ing sites high­light­ing the range of Land Rovers and Jaguars cur­rently on the mar­ket. In July 2014, James spot­ted a list­ing and rec­og­nized a great yarn be­hind the sale — and one told very well and re­ally sin­cerely. He also re­ceived sev­eral emails from col­leagues and friends out­side the in­dus­try say­ing things like — “Did you see this?” and “Have a look at this!” or “Check this one out!”

James spot­ted an op­por­tu­nity and to­gether with Land Rover New Zealand’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions agen­cies, Y&R NZ and­camp­bell & Co started plan­ning what should be done with the op­por­tu­nity. James was also drawn to the fact that the ve­hi­cle be­ing sold was a 1957 Se­ries 1 Land Rover, a clas­sic mud-plug­ger which most Ki­wis will have had some ex­pe­ri­ence with at some point or an­other dur­ing their lives.

“This wasn’t a case of any­one hunt­ing for some­thing to do – the op­por­tu­nity just crossed our path, so at that point we said, let’s buy it,” said Mckee. A cun­ning plan was hatched to re­turn the Land Rover back to the four own­ers, fully re­stored, so they could con­tinue their ad­ven­tures. It was such a great story and the team felt this was such a great op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing spe­cial for, in Jame’s words, “a bunch of good kiwi blokes.”

The next is­sue was how they could im­ple­ment their plan suc­cess­fully to buy and re­store the Landy and then find the per­fect mo­ment to hand it back to the four mates. Valen­tine’s Day seemed like the per­fect oc­ca­sion, cre­at­ing the best Valen­tine’s present four blokes could ever want.

Se­cret Ser­vice

The process of buy­ing the Land Rover in­volved a whole se­ries of care­fully-thought-out lo­gis­tics to keep the true mo­tive be­hind the pur­chase se­cret, and ac­quir­ing The Landy ef­fec­tively be­came a covert, mil­i­tary-style op­er­a­tion.

A video pro­duc­tion com­pany was hired to film the en­tire project, and came up with a shrewd plan to send James Mckee to buy The Landy in re­sponse to the on­line ad­ver­tise­ment. Mind you as James is the same age as the four mates, all in their 30s, and as New Zealand is such a small place, es­pe­cially given to­day’s preva­lence of Linkedin, Face­book and other so­cial me­dia, there was a good chance send­ing the mar­ket­ing manager of Land Rover New Zealand to buy the old Land Rover would raise a few eye­brows, so se­crecy was para­mount.

James even had a care­fully con­structed cover story, just in case, po­si­tion­ing the Land Rover rebuild as a per­sonal project of his, that he didn’t want ev­ery Tom, Dick and Harry at work get­ting in­volved with.

The pur­chase went as planned, the four mates just fig­ur­ing James was a guy that wanted an old Landy and it wasn’t long be­fore car was loaded onto a trailer. Of course, the en­tire buy­ing trans­ac­tion and sub­se­quent load­ing of the Land Rover onto the trailer was se­cretly filmed – via sev­eral Go­pro cam­eras,in­clud­ing one that was po­si­tioned in­side the tow truck.

The Restora­tion

The Landy was sent straight to Tony Kat­terns, at Cus­tom Metal Shapers Ltd in South Auck­land, for a full restora­tion. Cus­tom Metal Shapers had been rec­om­mended to Land Rover for its ex­per­tise and ex­ten­sive knowl­edge in restor­ing com­mer­cial and mil­i­tary-style ve­hi­cles.

Un­for­tu­nately, none of the four friends were in any way me­chan­i­cally minded and, de­spite the fact that they had ap­plied their skills, or lack of, to var­i­ous restora­tion at­tempts, The Landy was in poor shape ­— to put it po­litely. But Tony didn’t yet know this dur­ing dis­cus­sions about the restora­tion project with Land Rover NZ, when he learned that the dead­line for com­ple­tion would be just prior to Christ­mas 2014 — which gave the team at Cus­tom Metal Shapers about three full months to com­plete the task. He felt con­fi­dent he had ev­ery­thing in place to tackle the restora­tion, though he knew very lit­tle about The Landy other than what he could glean from a copy of the orig­i­nal on­line list­ing, and a cou­ple of ran­dom pho­to­graphs.

It wasn’t un­til it ar­rived at his South Auck­land work­shop in var­i­ous pieces, much of them rusty, and with­out an en­gine or gear­box, that the enor­mity of the task ahead be­came ap­par­ent. Tony reck­ons, at best, it could have been used as a spare parts ve­hi­cle. In other words, there were pos­si­bly some parts that could have been res­cued. The Land Rover’s fire­wall was com­pletely rusted out, and an early Holden con­ver­sion at some point meant

Dear Landy - This is a painful let­ter to write but un­for­tu­nately

the time has come to say good­bye. It’s not you, it’s us.

that the cross mem­ber had been re­moved and, in this case, had been roughly re­placed with a piece of an­gle iron. Much of the Landy wore the un­sightly scars of many pre­vi­ous and shoddy re­pairs, and the se­verely rusted chas­sis also re­quired much at­ten­tion. The en­gine bay was miss­ing most of its com­po­nents — in­clud­ing the ra­di­a­tor — and the car’s run­ning gear was lit­er­ally a ram­shackle col­lec­tion of var­i­ous mis­matched parts. The rear leaf springs had been ‘ jacked up’ and flares fit­ted to the body­work in or­der to fit sport-type wheels. In essence, Tony had a ma­jor restora­tion on his hands — and very lit­tle time to bring the project to com­ple­tion.

A Ma­jor Task

Tony treated the ve­hi­cle from the out­set as if he owned it, and wasted no time in start­ing the restora­tion. Once ev­ery­thing was com­pletely stripped apart, the first item on the agenda was to tackle the chas­sis — which meant set­ting it up on a chas­sis ma­chine to check that it was true and square. Rusted ar­eas were cut out and new, hand-fab­ri­cated pieces were welded into place. A new gear­box cross mem­ber was fit­ted and, af­ter three or four weeks of in­tense and la­bo­ri­ous work, a com­plete chas­sis emerged, re­turned to orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions af­ter be­ing sand­blasted clean and freshly painted.

Whilst the chas­sis was be­ing re­built, Glenn — Tony’s me­chan­i­cal and Land Rover guru — took care of all the driv­e­train re­quire­ments. The sec­ond ma­jor com­po­nent on a Land Rover that’s sus­cep­ti­ble to rust, next to the chas­sis, is the fire­wall. Once it was acid dipped the ex­tent of the re­pair work be­came ev­i­dent, and about 80 per cent needed to be re­fab­ri­cated. Once the chas­sis and fire­wall were com­plete it was ba­si­cally just a mat­ter of bolt­ing ev­ery­thing back to­gether.

The dif­fer­en­tials were stripped apart to check the crown wheel and pin­ions, and all wheel bear­ings were re­placed. Ev­ery­thing that was as­so­ci­ated with safety — in­clud­ing steer­ing joints, com­plete brak­ing sys­tem and the drive­shafts — was re­placed with brand-new com­po­nents. A later-model Se­ries 3 2.5-litre en­gine was pur­chased along with a full syn­chromesh gear­box, both sourced from In­ver­cargill. The S3 en­gine was pulled apart and fresh­ened up with new rings and valve guide seals and, due to time and bud­get con­straints, a de­ci­sion was made to leave the rest of the en­gine alone apart from re­con­di­tion­ing the car­bu­ret­tor and re­plac­ing en­gine gas­kets. The gear­box was also dis­as­sem­bled and checked, and be­cause the rust and body work had con­sumed a large por­tion of the restora­tion bud­get, Tony was care­ful not to spend money un­nec­es­sar­ily. Once the mo­tor was cleaned and re­painted, along with all the an­cil­lary equip­ment, it was fit­ted

Landy wore the un­sightly scars of many pre­vi­ous and shoddy re­pairs, and the se­verely rusted chas­sis also re­quired much at­ten­tion

onto the chas­sis along with the axles and leaf springs, com­plete with new sus­pen­sion bushes through­out.

The brief from Land Rover NZ was to re­tain as much of the car’s orig­i­nal body work (in­clud­ing the ve­hi­cle’s ‘vin­tage’ dents) as pos­si­ble. Var­i­ous stress cracks were welded and re­paired, and the front guards were ex­tended back to fac­tory height, as they’d been pre­vi­ously been cut short. Any struc­tural cor­ro­sion was re­paired, as were all the hinges and door locks, so they func­tioned cor­rectly.

Once sanded back, the car’s body was re­painted in the colour it had been when it was last on the road — light Land Rover Green. A brand-new wiring loom and new head­lights were or­dered from the UK and fit­ted, along with new win­dow and door rub­bers. The orig­i­nal glass was re­in­stalled.

Fi­nal as­sem­bly in­cluded the ad­di­tion of such items as the ex­act af­ter­mar­ket in­di­ca­tors and tail lights the own­ers had pur­chased and af­fixed many years pre­vi­ously, while wider Land Rover wheels and tyres were fit­ted.

Tony re­placed the old Nis­san bench seat with newly fab­ri­cated pe­riod-style seats, up­hol­stered by Clas­sic Up­hol­stery in East Ta­maki. The dash com­po­nents were cleaned, checked and re­fit­ted along with a Se­ries 3 steer­ing wheel and col­umn. A tool kit was in­stalled, com­plete with the orig­i­nal crank starter, small items that weren’t in the orig­i­nal brief, but niceties that Tony thought would add a fin­ish­ing touch to the restora­tion.

Once The Landy was com­plete, the team wanted to road test it, and they took it back to the South Is­land. Adorned with its orig­i­nal stick­ers (a com­plete set had been painstak­ingly re­pro­duced to make The Landy look just like it did when the four mates owned it), the car was taken on a brief whis­tle-stop tour of its spir­i­tual home, Cen­tral Otago, to re­live some of the orig­i­nal ad­ven­tures that had been show­cased in the on­line ad­ver­tise­ment.

That trip took in some of the ex­act spots where those orig­i­nal old pho­to­graphs had been taken — for ex­am­ple, there was an old pho­to­graph of The Landy parked out­side the Cardrona pub, one on an old bridge and an­other of The Landy go­ing through a river, and all th­ese his­toric im­age were recre­ated.

The Landy was taken on a brief whis­tle-stop tour of its spir­i­tual home, Cen­tral Otago, to re­live some of the orig­i­nal ad­ven­tures

that had been show­cased in the on­line ad­ver­tise­ment

The Gift

In the mean­time,an­other cun­ning plan was be­ing hatched in or­der to give The Landy back to the four mates. Con­tact was made with Claire Rad­ford, Will’s wife, who hadn’t a clue at that stage what was go­ing on. Claire was told that Land Rover NZ had pur­chased the car and was fully restor­ing it and asked if she would help them de­vise a plan of how to give it back to her hus­band and this three friends. Claire was on­board from the get go and she also thought that the pro­posed Valen­tine’s Day gift idea was be the per­fect sce­nario and she quickly pitched in to help. The plan was to or­gan­ise a get-to­gether at Claire and Will’s prop­erty in Kumeu and in­vite the two other New Zealand based own­ers (one of the four re­sides per­ma­nently in Syd­ney). Claire de­vised a story about a friend of hers who was back from Canada and was com­ing over for a BBQ as the rea­son for the get to­gether.

Whilst Will was at work that day, The Landy was de­liv­ered to his house and hid­den in the garage. Go­pro cam­eras were placed all around to cap­ture the hand-over cer­e­mony. By this time, TV One cur­rent af­fairs pro­gramme, Seven Sharp, had jumped onto the story and were also on­board and a tele­vi­sion crew, with cam­era’s, was hid­den away in the bushes at Will and Claire’s prop­erty. Claire man­aged to co­erce the three mates in front of the tele­vi­sion on the pre­tence of an in­ter­est­ing pro­gramme they should watch – but what they saw was some­thing that looked re­mark­ably like their old Landy, driv­ing through the South Is­land. Y&R NZ had ac­tu­ally pro­duced an ad­ver­tise­ment specif­i­cally for them util­is­ing footage take dur­ing that whistlestop tour of the South Is­land. The three friends quickly re­al­ized that it was in­deed their old Landy go­ing through the South Is­land – and the short film ended with the voice-over say­ing “Happy Valen­tine’s Day lads, from Land Rover, Claire has the keys!”

Over­come with emo­tion and ex­cite­ment, they all rushed out to the garage, opened the door, and there sat their beloved old Landy in pris­tine, re­stored con­di­tion. The team from Seven Sharp then sud­denly jumped out from be­hind the bushes to in­ter­view the vir­tu­ally speech­less own­ers.

Since all the ex­cite­ment of that day, the car’s four share­hold­ers — Will, Jeremy, An­thony and James — have elected to keep The Landy and, for the mo­ment, it re­sides at Will’s place.

Hav­ing been re­united with their me­chan­i­cal mate, th­ese four friends are al­ready plan­ning a road trip to be taken at some point in the near fu­ture — talk about re­cap­tur­ing your youth!

We’ll keep you posted on the boys’ on­go­ing ad­ven­tures with The Landy.

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