Camel Tro­phy Replica

Orig­i­nal Camel Tro­phy ve­hi­cles are im­pos­si­bly rare and pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive, so Alun and Har­ri­son Phillips recre­ated a leg­end of their own

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents - Story: David Phillips Pic­tures: Pa­trick Cruy­wa­gen

Orig­i­nal Camel Tro­phy ve­hi­cles are rare and ex­pen­sive so fa­ther and son recre­ate a leg­end of their own

Nos­tal­gia isn’t what it used to be – it’s much big­ger than that. That’s why the mu­sic world is awash with trib­ute bands pay­ing homage to star acts that have ei­ther split up or de­parted. Abba and the Bea­tles are now his­tory, but it’s a his­tory be­ing recre­ated ev­ery night in con­cert venues all over the world by acts like the Boot­leg Bea­tles and Bjorn Again.

It’s that same rose-tinted yearn­ing for the past that is re­spon­si­ble for early Se­ries Land Rovers fetch­ing such high prices. But what hap­pens when the old Land Rover of your dreams is so rare it is im­pos­si­ble or too ex­pen­sive to buy one? Well, you could fol­low the lead of the trib­ute bands and recre­ate the leg­end.

That’s what fa­ther and son team Alun and Har­ri­son Phillips aimed to do when they yearned for a Camel Tro­phy Dis­cov­ery 1. They call their trib­ute act the Copy­cat Camel – and you can see it here on th­ese very pages in all its Sand­glow Yel­low glory.

The sow­ing of the seed

“The story be­gins a cou­ple of years ago,” says Alun, 50. “Har­ri­son was com­ing up to his 15th birth­day and I thought it was the right time for us to do a fa­ther and son project to­gether. I didn’t know what to do, but Har­ri­son sug­gested turn­ing the fam­ily Dis­cov­ery 1 into a Camel T ro­phy Dis­cov­ery.

“I’d al­ways been a huge Camel Tro­phy fan and in 1990 I met An­dre Darcey, who was one of the com­peti­tors in that year’s Camel Tro­phy in Siberia. He turned up one day in the Camel Disco he would be driv­ing in the event and it blew me away.

“Har­ri­son loved the Camel Tro­phy, too. I’d been tak­ing him to Land Rover shows since he was a boy and he al­ways grav­i­tated to­wards the Camel Tro­phy Club stand and its arena dis­plays. When­ever I looked round, he’d be there with his cam­era, snap­ping away at yet an­other Camel Land Rover.

“I’d of­ten thought of buy­ing one, but they were ei­ther re­ally ex­pen­sive or im­pos­si­ble to find. So when Har­ri­son sug­gested recre­at­ing one, I thought, ‘Why not?’”

The Phillips fam­ily cer­tainly had a head start. Both Alun and Har­ri­son work at in­de­pen­dent parts for Land Rovers sup­plier, Bear­mach. Alun has worked as a Land Rover tech­ni­cian for most of his life and is cur­rently a Project Engi­neer, help­ing to de­sign and put Bear­mach parts through

“My first Land Rover was a 1952 Se­ries I and would be worth a for­tune if I still had it”

their paces. They also hap­pened to have a suit­able project ve­hi­cle: a 1993 V8 au­to­matic Dis­cov­ery 1, which Alun’s un­cle, Harry Davies, had be­queathed to him when he died, back in 2007.

“Un­cle Harry had been a me­chanic dur­ing the war,” says Alun. “In fact, my mother used to say it must have been him that I got my love of all things me­chan­i­cal from, be­cause no­body else in the fam­ily was in­ter­ested.

“When I went to pick it up I had a bit of a sur­prise. Harry had put it in his garage, but the garage wasn’t tall enough and he had crushed the roof of the car in the process. It was wedged tight, but I even­tu­ally man­aged to get it out af­ter I had let down the tyres to re­duce the height.

“It was metal­lic blue and had only done 70,000 miles. It was in good nick, but af­ter a cou­ple of years it started to rust. Af­ter three or four years I had to re­place the rear floor, with pan­els I fab­ri­cated my­self, and I fit­ted new in­ner and outer sills, from Bear­mach. I knew all about rusty Land Rovers. I used to own a Range Rover Clas­sic and in 15 years I must have re­built it three times. By the end, I think the roof was the only orig­i­nal panel left!

“My first Land Rover was a 1952 Se­ries I, which a friend gave me when I was 15 years old af­ter I’d helped him re­build his Re­nault 5. It was an 80-inch and would be worth a for­tune to­day if I still had it. I’ve still got the num­ber plate, though – KPY 413 – hang­ing on the wall of my garage.”

The hard work be­gins

Once Alun and Har­ri­son de­cided to em­bark on the Camel project, they had to move quickly, as Alun ex­plains: “Two years ago I had to have a se­ri­ous back op­er­a­tion, so I did what heavy work I could, in­clud­ing some weld­ing, be­fore I went in for the op. Af­ter that, Har­ri­son had to do all the heavy jobs and lift­ing, while I did the lighter stuff.

“We live up in the moun­tains, with lots of space in the gar­den, so I put up a big gazebo to work un­der.

“The first thing I worked on was the roof, be­cause it was dam­aged. I re­paired it as best I could and then dis­guised the dam­age with a Camel Tro­phy-style spoiler, from Bear­mach. It was im­pos­si­ble to get an orig­i­nal Camel roof rack, but I man­aged to find the cor­rect dimensions on­line and built my own, us­ing a lo­cal bloke down the road to bend the tub­ing for me. Be­fore I fit­ted it, I sprayed the roof in Sand­glow Yel­low. It was the first time I’d ever used two pack paint with hard­ener. I was ap­pre­hen­sive, but it was a breeze and so much bet­ter and eas­ier to work with than the cel­lu­lose paints from the old days. I did a good job, even if I say so my­self.

“The doors were fall­ing apart, so I sal­vaged some more from a scrapped 300Tdi Disco and painted them up, then did the same with the rear door.

“I also fit­ted new wings, in­ner and outer, from Bear­mach. It was around this time that I took the bon­net off to rub it down and re­spray it. I left it propped against the wall of the house while I got on with some other job, but that was a big mis­take. It was a windy day and, up here on the moun­tain, we are very ex­posed. Sud­denly a strong gust picked up the bon­net and blew it into the air. It was badly dam­aged when it came down, a com­plete write-off in fact, so I had to get an­other bon­net. Luck­ily, I found a good one at the Peterborough Show that year.

“The body­work was look­ing good and we turned our at­ten­tion to the me­chan­i­cal side of the ve­hi­cle. Un­for­tu­nately, the 3.5-litre petrol V8 en­gine wasn’t in very good health. It had slipped a cylin­der liner and needed ei­ther a ma­jor over­haul or re­place­ment. One day in De­cem­ber last year I was in the Bear­mach ware­house and spot­ted a brand-new V8 en­gine tucked away at the back, on a pal­let. It had a heavy­duty block and had been built to mil­i­tary-spec. Some­body had taken the carbs and in­let man­i­fold off, but apart from that it was un­touched. I found out it had been des­tined for Turkey, but the or­der had been can­celled, so I cheek­ily asked the boss if I could buy it. He said: ‘Be­cause it’s Christ­mas you can have it for £200’. What a bril­liant Christ­mas present!”

An­other welcome Christ­mas present fol­lowed. The Dis­cov­ery looked great in its new Sand­glow Yel­low liv­ery, so Har­ri­son and his mother, Lisa, con­tacted the Camel Tro­phy Club and bought all the Camel stick­ers needed to com­ple­ment the ex­ter­nal trans­for­ma­tion.

“It was a fan­tas­tic sur­prise!” grins Alun, who cel­e­brated by buy­ing a set of Bear­mach steel wheels and spray­ing them Sand­glow Yel­low, too. Once again it had been im­pos­si­ble to buy the orig­i­nal Camel Tro­phy wheels, but the re­place­ments were a con­vinc­ing match.

Alun reck­oned a stain­less-steel per­for­mance ex­haust

“Al­though the ve­hi­cle looks good, Alun reck­ons it is re­ally a work in progress”

sys­tem would be an im­prove­ment over the mild steel orig­i­nal. It too, came from Bear­mach, along with the vast ma­jor­ity of the me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents used in the re­build, in­clud­ing springs, shock ab­sorbers, steer­ing box, swivel joints and all steer­ing and brakes com­po­nents.

“I couldn’t have achieved what I did with­out Bear­mach – and I was very happy to use their parts, be­cause I know just how good they are. I am in­volved in the re­search, de­vel­op­ment and ex­haus­tive test­ing of th­ese parts. That’s my job, dayin, day-out. Ev­ery­thing is scru­ti­nised and risk-an­a­lysed. All our com­po­nents have to be built to last a min­i­mum of three years.”

The start of a new ad­ven­ture

When you’re work­ing to a bud­get, the value of af­ter­mar­ket parts is also an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion. Even so, Alun ad­mits he found him­self spend­ing too much at times.

“Lynne Phillips [no re­la­tion] who works in Bear­mach’s Ac­counts, made sure I didn’t over­spend and said she’s put a stop on my ac­count,” he laughs. “She also threat­ened to tell my wife how much I was spend­ing!”

One area where the fa­ther and son didn’t have to spend much time was the ve­hi­cle’s electrics. “They were very good,” says Alun. “Land Rover electrics were ex­cel­lent in the 1990s. You don’t very of­ten hear of elec­tri­cal prob­lems on a Dis­cov­ery 1, be­cause they were done prop­erly, with good, solid Lu­cas con­nec­tors. My Dis­cov­ery still has its orig­i­nal ECU and the alarm sys­tem works, too. That’s not bad for a ve­hi­cle al­most 25-years old.

“Re­cently I have built a bull bar, be­cause that was what was on the orig­i­nal Camel Tro­phy Dis­cov­erys. Again, I couldn’t find an orig­i­nal, so I looked at draw­ings and pho­to­graphs and fab­ri­cated it my­self. But I still haven’t de­cided whether to put it on the ve­hi­cle or not, be­cause I don’t like them. I’m not even sure if my in­sur­ance com­pany will al­low it.”

For un­der­body pro­tec­tion, Alun has bolted on a Bear­mach steer­ing guard. He plans to add an alu­minium tank guard in the near fu­ture. The snorkel is from Man­tec.

In­side the ve­hi­cle, there is a cen­tral in­stru­ment pod and Alun fab­ri­cated the mount­ing panel so that it is ex­actly like the orig­i­nal. At present, the in­te­rior colour scheme is the early Con­ran pale blue. “Some peo­ple say it’s hor­ri­ble, but I quite like it,” says Alun. “I was go­ing to change it for the brown ver­sion, which would bet­ter match the yel­low / or­ange Camel Tro­phy liv­ery, but I didn’t act quickly enough. There used to be loads of early Dis­cov­ery in­te­ri­ors at ev­ery au­to­jum­ble, but they’ve sud­denly dried up. I’ll keep look­ing, though.”

Al­though the ve­hi­cle looks good, Alun reck­ons it is re­ally a work in progress and they will update and tweak it in the fu­ture. At present, though, the new en­gine has cov­ered barely 1000 miles and isn’t even run in.

“It was great fun,” says Alun. “I sup­pose the most dif­fi­cult part was the fab­ri­ca­tion of parts that were im­pos­si­ble to find.

“Har­ri­son is into mo­tor bikes at the mo­ment, but once he’s passed his car test he’ll be able to drive it. I’ll even al­low him to take it off-road, so long as he doesn’t wreck it. My own of­froad days are over, be­cause of my back in­jury. I wouldn’t be able to take the jolts and shocks.

“But the most im­por­tant thing was that it was a great bond­ing ex­er­cise for Har­ri­son and me. We’re both very proud of the end re­sult.”

Alun and his son, Har­ri­son, are ex­tremely proud of their ef­forts

For un­der­body pro­tec­tion Alun has bolted on a Bear­mach steer­ing guard Stain­less steel per­for­mance ex­haust is an im­prove­ment over the orig­i­nal

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