Dave is tempted to buy a unique Se­ries II… but de­cides he al­ready has enough prob­lems with his other two Land Rovers

Land Rover Monthly - - Writers' Rovers - DAVE PHILLIPS

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

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