Dunsfold Diaries

Philip looks back on a busy few weeks: the Dunsfold Col­lec­tion Land Rover Show, fol­lowed soon af­ter by the Se­ries I Club na­tional rally in Ire­land

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents - With Philip Bashall

From the Dunsfold Col­lec­tion Land Rover Show to the Se­ries I Club na­tional rally it’s been a busy few weeks

SO THAT’S that for another two years. Our tra­di­tional Open Weekend, now chris­tened the Dunsfold Col­lec­tion Land Rover Show, has been and gone; and, fin­gers crossed, ev­ery­one seemed to like it. Thou­sands of peo­ple came to talk Land Rovers and yet it has main­tained that low key feel that I think is so im­por­tant – not a hi-vis vest in sight. With­out want­ing to get above my­self, I think our show is like the Good­wood Re­vival in that re­spect: you know the peo­ple in author­ity are there, but they’ll be wear­ing a tweed jacket rather than some­thing yel­low and flu­o­res­cent.

What’s re­ally amaz­ing is that the whole site was re­stored back to its usual park­land state in just two days af­ter the event. On Tues­day evening I pulled my car­a­van out and shut the gate. Hav­ing a spell of dry weather made a huge dif­fer­ence, not least be­cause it meant that all the Col­lec­tion ve­hi­cles could be put away with clean tyres. If it rains, they end up dirty, and that spoils any photo ses­sions that may hap­pen in be­tween th­ese bi­en­nial shows. Get­ting them out for the weekend is also a good time to pho­to­graph new ac­qui­si­tions and our Friend of the Col­lec­tion, Nick Dim­bleby – who has been an of­fi­cial Land Rover pho­tog­ra­pher for decades – was out and about tak­ing pic­tures for our ar­chive.

One of the ve­hi­cles that Nick snapped we ac­tu­ally bought at the show. A dealer was of­fer­ing a 50th An­niver­sary edi­tion Freelander 1 [pic­tured at the bot­tom of the fac­ing page] as a breaker for spares. How­ever, since it was Mot’d and had just had the K-se­ries petrol en­gine’s head gas­ket re­placed, it seemed worth sav­ing and we did a deal at 500 quid!

Once the Freelander had been given a quick wash down, it looked quite pre­sentable (de­spite that ghastly fac­to­ryin­stalled body kit) and so we stuck it at the end of one of our line-ups of Col­lec­tion ve­hi­cles. In­evitably, when I was mov­ing it into po­si­tion, the front wheels started spin­ning on the grass and a quick look un­der­neath re­vealed that the rear prop­shaft had been re­moved, doubt­less to im­prove fuel con­sump­tion… yeah, right! I’ve yet to in­ves­ti­gate whether it’s the IRD or the vis­cous cou­pling that’s at fault but ei­ther way I’m not re­ally both­ered. For £500, you can hardly com­plain, can you?

Get­ting the ve­hi­cles out for the Land Rover Show is also a good op­por­tu­nity to rec­tify any faults be­fore they go back into stor­age. I had to change a cou­ple of brake cylin­ders this year, one on Ninety num­ber one and another on our Se­ries III hy­brid, but very lit­tle needed do­ing. Even all the P38 Range Rovers started and ran prop­erly! Apart from a dodgy re­lay that needed swap­ping on an air sus­pen­sion sys­tem, they gave no trou­ble at all.

Much more wor­ry­ing was a prob­lem that reared its ugly head for the first time

this year: diesel fuel that had gone off dur­ing stor­age. We all know the prob­lems that stale petrol can cause, due to the ethanol con­tent of mod­ern fuel, but this was the first time that we’d had the same dif­fi­culty with diesel. As I’ve said in this col­umn be­fore, some of our diesel Land Rovers have fuel in them that’s 20-years old, and they still run per­fectly.

This year, how­ever, we found that the in­jec­tor and lift pumps on two ve­hi­cles, a Se­ries III and a vir­tu­ally new EX-MOD Ninety which has just 600 miles on the clock, were not pass­ing any fuel. Be­cause we were pressed for time, we sim­ply put new pumps on, bled the sys­tems and they both fired up straight­away. Th­ese were ve­hi­cles that had both had fresh fuel within the last five years.

When it did ap­pear, the diesel had a very yel­low­ish ap­pear­ance, al­most like lemon curd. It’s a wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment, be­cause if it can block up com­par­a­tively sim­ple diesel pumps, how is it go­ing to af­fect mod­ern com­mon rails? What can you do? Drain­ing the sys­tem is not prac­ti­ca­ble for us, with so many ve­hi­cles to look af­ter, so I try to run up the more re­cent diesels on a reg­u­lar ba­sis for half-an-hour or so. That also helps to keep the bat­ter­ies topped up – jump­start­ing mod­ern ve­hi­cles, with their com­plex elec­tron­ics, can be a pain.

For the fu­ture, we’re go­ing to have to in­ves­ti­gate us­ing some kind of ad­di­tive or spe­cial fuel for stor­age. A mate of mine swears by a high-oc­tane stor­age fuel – it ba­si­cally seems to be Av­gas – for his World War Two Jeep and Dodge weapons car­rier. He parked them up for the win­ter, and when he came to get them out in June they started straight up as though they had only been turned off yes­ter­day.

For­tu­nately, I didn’t have any prob­lems with the Land Rover that I took to the Se­ries I Club na­tional rally in Ire­land, less than two weeks af­ter our Land Rover Show. I wrote about VAC 265, a 1956 Se­ries I 86in Sta­tion Wagon that was fit­ted in pe­riod with a pro­to­type 2.25-litre en­gine, in April’s LRM, but at the time it wasn’t quite fin­ished. This trip to Ire­land was to be its first ma­jor ex­pe­di­tion, af­ter a brief shake­down run in Yorkshire.

I’d bet­ter con­fess now that I didn’t drive the Se­ries I all the way to Wales to catch the ferry; a gammy an­kle means that I’d be suf­fer­ing af­ter five hours be­hind the wheel. And trai­ler­ing it to Pem­broke meant that, should some­thing catch my eye in Ire­land, I had a con­ve­nient way of get­ting it back home after­wards…

So, my good mate Roger Jones, who looks af­ter the his­toric ve­hi­cles in the Army’s REME col­lec­tion, and I drove up late on Thurs­day through Ire­land to­wards the rally in County Wick­low. My prepa­ra­tion for this kind of event is laid back, to say the least. I’m do­ing well if I’ve re­mem­bered to throw some clothes into a bag be­fore set­ting off, so I was pleased that I’d thought to bring my trusty AA road at­las with me. As we drove off the boat, I passed it to Roger and asked him to work out a route.

What I hadn’t taken into ac­count, of course, is that South­ern Ire­land isn’t part of the UK, so it’s not cov­ered by the AA at­las… We hadn’t a clue where we were go­ing, so we started fol­low­ing signs for Dublin and hoped for the best.

We stopped at a lo­cal con­ve­nience store but it didn’t sell maps. “I’ve got some­thing that will help you boys, though,” said the shop­keeper. “Last week’s Sun­day Times magazine came with a free map of Ire­land and I’ve still got some wait­ing to go back.” So we spent the whole weekend of the rally driv­ing around with a free­bie map out of the Sun­day Times!

It was a great event, much of it spent in the com­pany of two other fine Se­ries Is [pic­tured op­po­site]: An­drew Bul­las’ ex-nor­we­gian Fire Ser­vice grey 86in hard­top, and Pete Stringer’s very orig­i­nal 88in soft-top. I think we were sup­posed to do a green lane at some point, but I’m not very good at fol­low­ing road books; I tend to get dis­tracted and end up at a pub. At one point over the weekend we were six-up in VAC 265, which caused her to snort a bit, car­ry­ing six fat bug­gers to yet another pub – I was cer­tainly glad there was a two-and-a-quar­ter up front.

It was in­ter­est­ing to note the num­ber of 107s and 109s at the rally – they re­ally do seem to be gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity – but I didn’t see many Irish-regis­tered Se­ries Is, which was sur­pris­ing. The upside of that was that I didn’t end up tak­ing any of them home with me, which has to count as a re­sult of sorts.

Left and above: Freelander 50th An­niver­sary was bought for just £500 dur­ing the Land Rover Show

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