Talk­ing Frankly

Land Rover Monthly - - Upfront - Frank Elson

“Is it a book about Land Rovers, or a book writ­ten by a me­dia celebrity called Ben Fogle”

Af­ter a friend loaned me the book Lan­drover: the Story of the car that con­quered the world by Ben Fogle, I was plan­ning on writ­ing a full review of it here.

That would have taken me back a long time to when one of my so-called nor­mal news­pa­per jobs was book re­view­ing. I guess I wrote hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of book reviews.

I’m not go­ing to do that now though be­cause, quite frankly this book isn’t wor­thy of a proper review. Let me ex­plain. Hmmm, now there you go. Writ­ten, page af­ter page, in a book de­voted to telling the story of Land Rover, we see the words “Let me ex­plain”... well, yes, go on then, get on with it for good­ness sake.

Do you ever get an odd feel­ing when you see a book cover where the au­thor’s name is as prom­i­nent as the ti­tle or sub­ject?

I won­der, when I see that (I’m talk­ing about non-fic­tion now, of course) what is it that the pub­lisher is hoping to sell? Is it a book about, say, Land Rovers, or is it a book writ­ten by a me­dia celebrity owner called Ben Fogle?

Back to the book. The second sen­tence of the Pro­logue, about Soli­hull, reads: “The brick walls are still cov­ered in cam­ou­flage paint to dis­guise the fac­tory from Ger­man air raids.”

A hand­ful of pages later I read: “Look closely at the red brick walls of the of­fice block at Land Rover’s fa­mous fac­tory in Soli­hull, on the out­skirts of Birm­ing­ham, and you can still see traces of the cam­ou­flage paint ap­plied dur­ing the 1939-45 con­flict.”

Wasn’t I just told that ? And are they “still cov­ered” or are there “traces”?

Not well writ­ten and not well edited ei­ther. And I’m only just on a chap­ter en­ti­tled “The His­tory of The Land Rover Part One”.

A bit fur­ther on we come to a chap­ter list­ing fa­mous early Land Rover ex­pe­di­tions, such as Colonel Le Blanc who drove to Ethiopia in 1949 and Bar­bara Toy who drove just about ev­ery­where in 1955. Then, af­ter the Ox­ford and Cam­bridge 195556 Ex­pe­di­tion to Sin­ga­pore, we move to one of Mr Fogle’s “favourite ex­pe­di­tions, vis­ually”. Eh? Does he mean he’s seen the video of the Joint Ser­vices Ex­pe­di­tion where four 101s were driven West to East across the Sa­hara?

He doesn’t give us a date for this trip (it was 1975, of course) and he writes “it was the su­perb per­for­mance of the ve­hi­cles on this ex­pe­di­tion that led to the Land Rover be­ing taken up by the Bri­tish mil­i­tary”. I bet that was news to both Land Rover and the Bri­tish mil­i­tary. Mmm, I won­der what ve­hi­cles the Army et al used un­til 1975!

I would rather like to pass quickly over the chap­ter where he writes about Blash­ford- Snell. He first met him at the age of 14 and then at Buck­ing­ham Palace (“but that sounds like brag­ging so I will move on”) and calls him “Blash­ers”. It’s skin-crawl­ing em­bar­rass­ing (as is much of the book to be hon­est), but I did rather like the lead up to the Darien Gap and this sen­tence: “Two brand-new Range Rovers were sup­plied by Land Rover, and were care­fully driven from Alaska to Panama...” Yep, he does use the word “care­fully”!

All through this book I keep com­ing across odd words, or, rather, words used oddly. The Range Rover de­vel­op­ment ve­hi­cles – he calls “pro­to­types” - were, we are told, badged Ve­lars as a “de­coy” for when they were seen on the road. I won­der does Mr Fogle, or his book ed­i­tor, know what the word de­coy means?

I’m afraid I couldn’t fin­ish this book. To my mind it’s a cash-in of a fa­mous name (he’s on the telly ap­par­ently) and I wouldn’t rec­om­mend any­one to buy it.

That doesn’t mat­ter though, be­cause you will have it bought for you by a (prob­a­bly fe­male) rel­a­tive, like my friend was. That’s what the cover is all about, in my opinion.

The same friend also loaned me an old book of Jeremy Clark­son’s, es­sen­tially a com­pi­la­tion of his ar­ti­cles. The dif­fer­ence was like chalk and cheese, Clark­son could write with hu­mour, with sense and with in­tel­li­gence. But then un­like Fogle he comes from the mo­tor­ing press. It is sad to go back to the days be­fore he wor­ried about Richard Ham­mond be­com­ing more pop­u­lar as he be­came a clown on the telly. He was a very, very good mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist. Was...

I no­ticed that one of my rear light clus­ters was filled with con­den­sa­tion. I took it off and at­tempted to dry it out. Not a chance, the de­sign is such that I couldn’t get prop­erly in­side it. I had a think, and asked around and then I drilled – care­fully – a 2mm hole in the very bot­tom of the clus­ter, plus another in the very top, to en­sure air trav­elled through. Two days later the con­den­sa­tion was gone. Two more days, as I write, and it hasn’t come back. Fin­gers crossed it stays that way.

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