Ian Arthur could have sold this Range Rover, in bits, for a lot of money. But that would have been unthinkable. He was always going to keep it – right down to the smell
Rebuilt but retains original ambience
In a Classic, life is wonderful. Subdued V8 burbling, a little body lean on corners, and the metallic blue In Vogue slides effortlessly through the scenery. You could almost be in a modern car. Except, the interior screams ‘1980s’. Back then, a chunky three-speed auto-shift gearstick would have looked purposeful, and brown fabric seats were probably the height of cool.
But wait a mo! What about these upholstery stains, varnish flaking off the wood trim, and blistering steering wheel? And what’s that smell? Beautiful paint outside, scruffy inside...
Ian Arthur is the man with some explaining to do. ‘Years ago, my parents Nigel and Pamela Arthur had a Series III 109 Safari with electrical problems. Eventually, my mum had had enough of calling out dad to make the lights work or stop the horn. So my grandad lent them his car – a Vauxhall Cavalier MKII.’ Very generous – but now grandad Leslie had no car. Easily remedied, as Ian explains: ‘He lived in Woburn Sands, so he walked along to Woburn – about five miles – with his Old English Sheepdog. He just went into Woburn Land Rover, the main dealership, and said, “I need a car”. I don’t think he would have cared what colour it was, probably didn’t even care if it was a Range Rover or something else – he just needed a car. This In Vogue was in the showroom, so that’s what he bought. He put his dog in the back and drove away.’ A salesman’s dream – and that’s how the blue Range Rover ended up with Ian’s family.
‘He wasn’t a very good driver in his later years,’ Ian tells us. ‘He must have crashed into every stationary object in Woburn Sands – there wasn’t a straight panel on the car. He became known as the local speed deterrent because he wouldn’t drive at more than 15 miles per hour. Every year when the car went for its MOT, the garage guys had to take it for a thrash, just to get it to run on all cylinders. I remember the Range Rover very well, because I was at school and my parents both worked at the university and didn’t get home until about 6.30pm.
‘I used to walk from school up to my grandad’s house. We’d have what I called “grandad cooking”. He didn’t like to cook, so mostly we had fish and chips, and we’d eat them sitting on the Range Rover’s tailgate.
‘Later, when I was older, the Range Rover failed its MOT and the garage said it wasn’t worth
fixing – this is years ago, of course. I said that I’d fix it, then my grandad died. But I decided I’d still keep my promise, so it went to a big barn where I didn’t have to pay any rent, and I started work.
‘And then... well, my wife Rachael fell pregnant with Nathan, then there was Olivia, and then mortgages, the day job – things sort of took over. Life gets in the way, doesn’t it? I could pop over to the barn and do a bit of work if I had time, and it wasn’t costing anything. But that kind of situation doesn’t make you get on with the job. Really, I wasn’t doing much.’
If it ain’t broke...
Ian’s very leisurely progress with the restoration was about to come to an end, though: ‘The barn came up for re-development. Decision time for the Range Rover – I had to either do it, or sell it. I’d been offered £15,000, just as it was, in bits. A good offer, but I wanted to keep the car. My garage is very small, though, so I needed help. That’s when it went to Mark’s place, for welding.’
Here, Mark Pallett (known to most people as ‘Beefy’) takes up the story. ‘I only have a small engineering workshop and I don’t weld cars,’ he says. ‘I’ve got Land Rovers of my own – an 86inch and a Series II. Mark asked me if I’d weld his Range Rover, and I said no. Then he asked again and told me the family history. I felt sorry for him, so I went over to his place to look.
‘It wasn’t too bad, so I said that I’d do it – passenger footwell, sill, spare wheel well, bottoms of the A-pillars, seatbases. I had to clear the machinery in the workshop, and there was only just room to get a Range Rover in...’
Which was good, but also bad.‘ Beefy finished the welding in just two days. Ian explains: ‘He had to, because he couldn’t do any other work with my Range Rover in his workshop. So it then came to my house. As there’s just no room in my garage, every time I wanted to do any work, it had to be pushed outside.’
All the panels had been damaged, so Ian tapped out the dents and did all the preparation for paint – though the painter insisted on flatting down most of it again. With the panels away he was able to work on the rest. A lot of it was just servicing, because it hadn’t done many miles.
Ian’s approach was logical – if it wasn’t broken, he didn’t fix it. He put in some insulation material and cleaned the interior and seats. ‘But I didn’t clean too much, because there’s a smell I remember from when I was a kid – maybe grandad’s sheepdog,’ he says. ‘The panels came back from painting one or two at a time and I hung them on the car straight away – there was so little space, I had nowhere else to put them.’
From the point where it arrived at Ian’s house, work took 18 months. ‘When I got its MOT, that was just fantastic after all that time.’
‘I’d been offered £15,000, just as it was, in bits. A good offer, but I wanted to keep the car’
Then Now Ian with Nathan, Olivia and wife Rachael carrying on the family dining tradition. Dave Morris (Ian’s dad’s mate), Ian’s sister Marion, a very young Ian and his mum Pam.
Damage caused by crashed Spitfire No barrel means no more lost keys!
‘What’s that smell, daddy?’ ‘Great-grandad and wet dog’