Life a er retirement
After spending 53 years working on an estate, this Series I was given some much-needed love and is now enjoying her free time with new owner Alan Falconer. Bob Weir investigates
After spending 53 years working on an estate, this Series I is now enjoying a new lease of life
Alan Falconer has been a big fan of Land Rovers since the late 1980s, when he bought a secondhand Ninety to use during the winter months. “I didn’t know anything about Land Rovers at the time, and in hindsight I landed on my feet and bought a right belter,” he recalls.
“There was no sign of any rust, as it had spent all its life working on one of the Scottish estates. This meant that the 4x4 hadn’t suffered from the effects of the road salt the councils use during winter. This can play havoc with a vehicle’s metalwork. Looking back it wasn’t until I sold the Landy and bought a 110, that I realised how fortunate I’d been.”
Although a self-employed joiner now, during the 1990s Alan started working on Land Rovers in his spare time, and soon acquired a local reputation for refurbishing the vehicles. He reveals: “I’ve always been hands-on and enjoy a challenge. Early Land Rovers are fairly straightforward to repair and I started experimenting with other set-ups. These included fitting a Daihatsu 2.8-litre diesel into the Ninety, which certainly improved the vehicle’s performance.”
It also sparked a passion for the brand in general, with Alan going on to own a Range Rover P38 and a couple of Classics – more recently he has bought a two-door, which is still very much a work in progress.
But I’m here to talk to him about his 1955 86-inch Series I. The 2.0-litre [serial no: 170601943] model was originally bought by a Mr Frank Allen of Lumphanan by Banchory on December 6, 1955. The dealers were Rossleigh Ltd, based in Aberdeen. Mr Allen drove the car on a regular basis for the next 53 years, and had it serviced and Mot’d at a local garage.
Alan acquired the SI in December 2008, but remembers it was a bit of a bumpy ride. “MSA 165 was one of five Land Rovers still working on Frank Allen’s estate. The other four were all 90s, and were about to be sold to a car dealer. The dealer had also been offered the Series I, but the older Land Rover wasn’t his type of thing. He knew I was on the lookout for one, however, and got in touch. One thing led to another and I drove up to Banchory with my trailer to meet Mr Allen.
“It quickly became obvious that he still had a soft spot for MSA 165 or ‘Missy’ as I’ve since re-christened her. Frank told me some great stories about the vehicle, and how it had been very much a part of his family. Missy was his second Series I, and he told me how the Land Rover had been invaluable for getting around the estate during the winter months.” Snow is a regular occurrence in rural Aberdeenshire, and the only other vehicle that could handle the conditions was the estate’s tractor.
He goes on: “He also told me that even though he subsequently bought several modern Land Rovers, he refused to let Missy go. The Series I was still used regularly on the estate, first by the estate manager, and then the gamekeeper. When Mr Allen finally retired, he even requisitioned the Land Rover for his fishing trips.”
According to Alan, Frank’s daughter and son-in-law were now running the estate, and they were looking to dispose of MSA 165 as part of a general clear-out.
“It was obvious that Frank was still attached to the Series I, so I suggested he ought to keep it for his own personal use,” Alan says. “Then the son-in-law turned up demanding to know what I was going to offer for his Land Rover. The conversation got a bit heated when I pointed out that Frank was the real owner, and if he wanted to hang on to the vehicle that was his business. I don’t think my words were well received and I decided to withdraw from the sale and drive back to Dundee.”
Although Alan was very disappointed, there was still a twist in the tale.
He said: “Frank rang me a few days later, thanking me for my time and consideration. After further reflection he had decided to go ahead with the sale, so I drove back up to Banchory to conclude the arrangements. Despite my willingness to pay fair value for the Series I, he insisted on selling me the vehicle for its original price. A true gentleman, if ever there was one.”
Having sealed the deal, Alan trailered the Series I back to Dundee. He then started planning the Land Rover’s restoration. “Although the vehicle had a valid MOT, it was looking the worse for wear,” he recalls. “The footwells and
“As is typical with most restorations there was a lot more work involved once I actually got down to it”
rear chassis were both a bit rough, and needed a lot of work. Reading between the lines the local garage would have been aware that the Land Rover was only being used around the estate, and had just patched things up when necessary.
“The first thing I did was strip out the body. I then bought new bulkheads and outriggers from Radford Brothers near Peterhead. They specialise in galvanised body parts for the Series I. As is typical with most restorations, I discovered there was a lot more work involved once I actually got down to it.
“I cut out the parts for the footwells with a plasma cutter, and a friend of mine helped me weld them into place. Once I had finished with the body, I then rebuilt the engine. This turned out be quite an expensive job, as virtually all the parts had to be replaced.”
Having gone to the effort of rebuilding the engine, Alan decided to treat the block to a new coat of paint. He says: “Unfortunately, I ended up using the wrong shade. The existing colour was a standard green. I was told by an enthusiast that the correct shade should be a mixture of blue and grey. I then came across an article in a specialist magazine that stated the correct paint for an engine reconditioned by the Rover Company was in fact a bluish green. Still, you can’t win them all.”
Although he repainted the engine, Alan decided to leave the rest of the Land Rover in its original state. “My father used to say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and it had taken 54 years to get the Land Rover’s patina the way it is now, so I decided to leave well alone.”
All in all, it took two years to restore Missy to her current state. The following show season, Alan started taking the Land Rover to local rallies. Despite the discrepancy with the engine’s paintwork, no one has noticed at the Series One Club events where she frequents. In fact, at the club’s 2014 International Rally, Missy won an award for the ‘the most original Series One’, out of over 100 contestants.
“A lot of the enthusiasts have been around Series Is for years. and they certainly know their stuff, yet nobody has picked up on the paint,” he muses.
Like many enthusiasts, Alan has his favourite rallies. Top of the list is the Scottish Transport Extravaganza, held each July at Glamis Castle.
He said: “Missy’s first outing was at Glamis. I put the vehicle on the Series One Club stand and it was well received. Much to my surprise a couple of elderly gentlemen approached me, and said they could recall driving the Land Rover when it was working on the Lumphanan estate. It turned out they were none other than the former gamekeeper and head gardener. They also told me about a time when the Land Rover’s engine blew up, after it had got stuck in water.
“Three years later I was approached by another gentleman, with connections to the estate. It turned out he was the very mechanic from the local garage, which had looked after the Land Rover for all those years and had replaced the engine. after it had blown up!”
Although Missy is still used on a regular basis, Alan takes good care of the Series I. He says: “She is in retirement now so if we do go out, we don’t do anything too strenuous. Needless to say, I intend hanging on to the vehicle for the foreseeable future.”
Although the Series I had a valid MOT the footwells and rear chassis needed a lot of work
The engine was rebuilt although much of the exterior remains original
Alan’s other love in his life, a Whitbread V8 buggy
Tow bar hints at its former life as a workhorse