Gary Pusey

Gary muses over what makes a Land Rover Leg­end

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There’s an old say­ing that goes some­thing like “you should never meet your he­roes, be­cause you’ll only be dis­ap­pointed”. Well, I have been meet­ing some of my par­tic­u­lar he­roes from the world of Land Rover, and I have found it to be the most won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. I cer­tainly haven’t been dis­ap­pointed!

When our es­teemed ed­i­tor came up with the idea that we should run a se­ries of fea­tures un­der the ti­tle Land Rover Leg­ends I have to say that I was de­lighted, be­cause I have wanted to do some­thing like this for a very long time. For me, the Land Rovers that we are all so en­thu­si­as­tic about are more than just ve­hi­cles. They only ex­ist be­cause of the vi­sion, the in­spi­ra­tion, the cre­ativ­ity and the dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion of the peo­ple that brought them into be­ing, some­times against all the odds as the com­pany lurched its way through a roller­coaster of ups and downs dur­ing the Bri­tish Ley­land years, the ill-ad­vised Bri­tish Aero­space pe­riod, the Ger­man holiday un­der BMW, and then the Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture with Ford, be­fore fi­nally achiev­ing what we all hope will be on­go­ing sta­bil­ity and global growth with Tata. The very fact that the com­pany’s peo­ple man­aged to keep their eyes on the ball at cer­tain times, with all that un­cer­tainty and up­heaval, is to my mind quite re­mark­able.

I think that too many of the stan­dard ref­er­ence books don’t re­ally ex­plore in de­tail the peo­ple side of things, be­cause they re­ally do lit­tle more than nam­ing names in terms of who was re­spon­si­ble for this, or who did this, that or the other. Me, I want to know a bit more about the peo­ple that made the Land Rovers we love, and what was ac­tu­ally go­ing on in the com­pany at the time, and why they did what they did, and this is what I have set out ex­plore in my con­tri­bu­tions to the Leg­ends se­ries.

I am also hugely in­spired by the sto­ries of how peo­ple have used Land Rovers to ac­com­plish great things, whether as well­known ex­plor­ers and ad­ven­tur­ers, or as or­di­nary men and women who have been able to live out their dreams, to visit places they would per­haps oth­er­wise not have vis­ited, or to ex­pe­ri­ence cul­tures they would oth­er­wise not have en­coun­tered. Sure, they could have done it in a Toy­ota or, for that mat­ter, on a don­key, but some­how it is the Land Rover an­gle that in­spires us, even if the ve­hi­cle was merely a means of achiev­ing what they set out to do.

The peo­ple and their sto­ries bring the ve­hi­cles to life and that’s why I was so en­thused by the idea of meet­ing and in­ter­view­ing some of th­ese le­gendary peo­ple. Some I have met be­fore, and some I know well enough to con­sider them to be friends, but oth­ers I don’t know other than as names in the Land Rover his­tory books, and I am there­fore meet­ing them for the first time. I look for­ward to shar­ing their sto­ries and per­spec­tives with you.

In this month’s is­sue we are pub­lish­ing the third Leg­end in the se­ries. Our first was Geof Miller, who spent over 30 years with the com­pany and was in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment and launch of the Range Rover in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Geof fur­ther con­trib­uted to Range Rover his­tory in his re­tire­ment years, when he was one of the small group who set out to track down and hope­fully save as many of the pre-pro­duc­tion Ve­lars as they could find.

Our sec­ond Leg­end was Mike Foster, who re­lied on Land Rovers for his day-to- day sur­vival, and the sur­vival of the par­ties he was lead­ing across the Sa­hara and Ténéré deserts. Al­though he was never a Rover em­ployee, it was Mike who led the fa­mous dou­ble cross­ing of the Sa­hara in late 1969, when two En­gi­neer­ing Pro­to­type 100-inch Sta­tion Wag­ons were put through their paces as part of a dura­bil­ity test­ing pro­gramme.

When Pa­trick first asked me what I thought about his idea for this se­ries, my first re­ac­tion was to ask: “What ex­actly is a Land Rover Leg­end?” In other words, how do you de­ter­mine who should be fea­tured, among the many thou­sands of peo­ple who have worked at Rover and its suc­ces­sors, or used Land Rovers to ac­com­plish some great achieve­ment or ad­ven­ture, or spent their lives us­ing them and driv­ing them, or re­search­ing them, or pre­serv­ing them, or restor­ing them, or writ­ing about them, or pho­tograph­ing them? Well, it cer­tainly isn’t easy to draw up a list, and af­ter I drew up my first one I made a sec­ond, and a third…

And then I told Pa­trick that in my view a Land Rover Leg­end is some­one who has com­mit­ted a sig­nif­i­cant part of their life to the cause. Some­one who has pushed the fron­tiers. Some­one who had vi­sion and fore­sight and led the bold in­no­va­tions that moved the com­pany into new mar­kets. Some­one whose life has de­pended upon, or re­volved around, Land Rovers. Some­one who cares enough about them to have spent time and money sav­ing them, long be­fore it was fi­nan­cially jus­ti­fied. Some­one whose passion for Land Rovers has shaped and struc­tured their lives.

I reckon my third list has barely scratched the sur­face, but in the mean­time, I hope you are en­joy­ing the se­ries.

Gary Pusey is co-au­thor of Range Rover The First Fifty, trustee of The Dunsfold Col­lec­tion and a life­long Land Rover en­thu­si­ast. What this man doesn’t know, isn’t worth know­ing!

“A Land Rover Leg­end is some­one whose life has re­volved around Land Rovers”

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