Dave is tempted to buy a unique Series II… but decides he already has enough problems with his other two Land Rovers
I’VE ALWAYS had a soft spot for Series Land Rovers. My earliest Land Rover memory is of being given a lift to school on a very rainy day by a local farmer. It would have been either a Series I or a Series II – I was only six or seven-years old at the time and I didn’t count rivets back then. I probably wouldn’t have been able to find them, anyway, as the whole vehicle was covered with a veneer of mud, oil and dust (which smelled exquisite, by the way).
A Series has been on my wish-list ever since. I love them, but I have so far managed to let my head rule my heart. They are pretty impractical for modern motoring and I haven’t got room for a third Land Rover. They’ve also become rather expensive in recent years.
But I still heaven’t ruled out the possibility of buying one and, this month, I was very, very tempted.
My mate Nigel Hammond, Land Rover mechanic extraordinaire, has decided to slim down his own fleet. With a One Ten, a Series III, a Discovery 2, a Range Rover Classic and a Series I project at the back of the garage, he reluctantly decided he would have to let his beautiful Series II recovery truck go.
It will be a painful parting of the ways, because Nigel and that truck go back a very long way – all the way to the early 1970s, in fact, when he was a regular visitor to Norfolk’s Snetterton race circuit and the distinctive blue truck was on standby to pull stricken racing cars out of trouble.
It was owned by a local transport company, who bought it new in September 1979. After they took delivery, they had the 109 inch wheelbase truck cab converted into a recovery truck, complete with a crane operated by a hand winch.
That truck stayed with the Wymondham company until it closed down two or three years ago. The building was being demolished to make way for a Morrisons supermarket and somebody noticed the forlorn Land Rover abandoned in the corner. It could so easily have ended its days in a Norwich scrapyard, but a friend of Nigel’s got to hear about it, tipped him off and Nigel snapped it up.
He was delighted to find that it was totally original and even had the bottle jack it was supplied with. Inside, the seat material was tatty, but again all original. The chassis was sound for its age, the 2.25 petrol engine ran sweetly and the odometer read just 59,000 miles. There’s
no way of proving the mileage is genuine, but Nigel reckons that would be about right for a recovery truck that spent most of its long working life on standby.
The only visible change is the signwritten phone number on the side of the vehicle, which was altered back in the 1980s when Wymondham numbers were extended from four to six digits.
It hasn’t done many miles since, either. It’s not the sort of vehicle for everyday motoring and Nigel has only taken it to a few East Anglian country and vintage vehicle events, just to show it off. He has turned down several offers for it, but he has now decided to sell it – and I was getting first refusal.
I was sorely tempted, but then things started to go pear-shaped. One morning on the way to LRM’S Bedford HQ, my 1984 300Tdi-powered Ninety suddenly died. The tell-tale puff of smoke from under the bonnet made colleague Steve Miller decide it was a fuel pump failure. I got on the phone to Nigel, who narrowed it down further to a burnt-out solenoid on said pump. And, good mate that he is, he set off on the long drive from Fakenham to Bedford to replace it with a new one, from Britpart.
It was a fiddly old job, which involved Nigel lying across the engine to reach the offending part, which he had to remove and replace blind. But the new item did the trick and soon the Ninety was roaring along nicely. The only problem was that later that day, when I returned home, that 300Tdi engine wouldn’t stop roaring, even with the key removed from the ignition and the secret isolator switch switched off too. The only way to stop it was by deliberately stalling it. Just as well it wasn’t an automatic, then.
It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do, because a few days later I dropped off my Discovery 1 at Nigel’s workshop for some welding. The rear was badly corroded close to the body mounts and it needed some serious surgery to get it through its MOT. Nigel made a great job of it, as you can see in the photo taken by his wife Sally, on her mobile phone.
It was good to get the Disco back on the road for another year. I’ve owned it over 11 years now – the longest I’ve owned any Land Rover – and it is like a member of the family.
I had driven across to pick it up from Nigel’s in my Ninety, which I left with him when I drove off in the Discovery. He is now sorting out the mystery of the 300Tdi engine that keeps on running even when the power is switched off. I could see him scratching his head in my rear-view mirror as I drove off.
Just after I got back home in Northamptonshire, a couple of hours later, he called to say that it appeared to be caused by a wire behind the dashboard that feeds the fuel pump. The insulation had melted – probably on the day the solenoid burnt out – and it was now shorting and somehow allowing power to get to the pump even when everything was switched off. At least that was his theory and he was about to examine the loom to see if it had caused even more damage.
At that stage, with the possibility of another big bill looming (sorry about the pun) I decided the Series II was definitely off the agenda. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have persuaded Nigel to sell it to an LRM reader. He’s placed an advert in this month’s Classifieds (see page 172). He hasn’t put an asking price on it, but he’s throwing it open to offers from enthusiasts.
“I’m more concerned that it goes to a good home – someone who will appreciate its originality and respect its history. I would hate to think of it being tarted up by someone with more money than sense,” he said. That’s the sort of man Nigel is – and that’s why he’s my mate.
Above: repairs to rear of Discovery. Below: Ninety’s new and old starter solenoids