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