Series 1 nostalgia trip
I went tripping for a couple of days recently with a bunch of the simplest 4WDs about. Their electronics were limited to ignition coils. Yet, there we were, out past the black stump with a vehicle with no spark! Proof if ever it was needed, that electronics failure is no new phenomenon! The problem was that the obviously ancient distributor rotor was cracked so the sparks were taking their own off-road short cut. Someone took to it with a file and removed much of the carbonised area but the crack remained a problem. Someone else was despatched to a distant vehicle having an appropriate spare and we were soon mobile again. These were Series One ( S1) Land Rovers on a road and off-road trip in the Molesworth area. Two groups met at Hanmer of a pleasant autumn eve – a bunch from the North Island and some from Canterbury. I was invited along. In my Land Rover. It’s a S1 Disco after all. They’d heard that one of course... Many readers will be aware that Landies were known by their wheelbase dimension in inches. That of the first, from 1948, was 80 inches and the motor 1600cc. I’m sure there’s an anachronism there somewhere? 1954 saw the wheelbase extended to 86” while the motors had already expanded to two litres. A long-wheelbase model of 107” was introduced, and in 1956 the ‘shorties’ grew two inches to 88” and the longs to 109” which carried into the later S2 from 1959. This being an S1 event we had representatives of all five earlier models including soft-tops, single cab, full hardtops and ‘safari’ tops as well as a mint ex-farm LWB flat-deck. Some had had full chassis-up rebuilds and some were quite original. Many had accessories – Capstan, drum or hydraulic winches and rear PTOs. With the oldest being nearly 70 I’ll bet they had interesting histories. We headed north over Jack’s Pass in convoy, fourteen oldies, plus a 90 and my Disco, neither of which were strictly necessary. The pass was corrugated as hell as per usual. And dusty, I felt for those with no roof or ragtops open at the rear. Been there! The pace was excellent, hardly less than most people would drive their moderns. Gaps opened to lessen the dust devil. Most vehicles carried PRS, a modern concession, to warn of overtakers or hazards. Being a weekday there was lit tle other traffic. We hesitated in the morning sun for a photo shoot on the pass descent. Soon we paused to enter our off-road route into St. James Station. It’s a DOCadministered run to Scottie’s Hut and put the Landies in their natural element of a rough track in the mountains with creek crossings, though they were seasonally low. A gorgeous still day with great views. The party returned and gathered to a large table in a Hanmer inn for a very sociable meal. Next day we went north again but by Jollies Pass which is a slightly longer and windier route, our first destination Lake Tennyson for morning tea. One driver proudly used his newly scored junk-shop Coleman cooker. I gave him a half-litre of fuel for it – which luckily he didn’t use. I’d been having trouble with mine which was flaring and smoky. I’d pulled it to bits looking for blocked jets or other maladies to no avail. But once home I discovered the fuel bottle contained turps though marked as white spirit! Should have given it the sniff test... From the lake we continued north via the Rainbow Road. This is a ‘Hydro’ road that carries the main trunk power lines from Benmore to Wellington. Permission must be gained from the Rainbow Station, there’s a fee and a DOC access form to complete. We were heading to the Rainbow Skifield for lunch. A couple of minor vehicle issues ran us late so I was sent ahead to warn some of the Nelson 4WD group that were awaiting us at the turnoff. Our run up the mountain was an excellent ( and, for me, unexpected) bonus. We were escorted through spectacular country to the top of the tow and a saddle at about 1750m that looked down on Lake Rotoiti on another beaut clear day. And I was chuffed to inspect a PistenBully groomer
with its tracks and clothes off at the base workshop. Back down we went and continued north to the Wairau Valley where the N.I. bunch turned right for Picton, the southerners headed home and I broke north-west to another event over the weekend. It had been an excellent experience travelling with the old Landies and their very sociable crews for two days of shingle and off-road scenery.
Convoy on Jacks Pass.
Trip organiser drops in.
Brains trust at work.
Top ‘o the tow @ the Rainbow (Skifield).
Rare LWB flat deck.
Powerful Island Pass and Creek.