Working classic 101 FC
Andrew Fordham Brown’s 101 isn’t just a working vehicle – it’s a complete lifestyle
Restored 101 is drystone waller’s workshop and home in the majestic Yorkshire Dales
Here at LRO, we don’t recall ever seeing a Land Rover that’s better suited to its job. That’s a heck of a statement – regular readers will know that over the years we’ve featured some spectacular working vehicles. At first glance, this 101 Marshall ambulance doesn’t seem to be particularly special. But when you look closer, and understand what it’s being used for, you soon become lost in admiration.
This isn’t just a four-wheel drive that will get its driver to the work that needs doing, and help him do it – no, it actually changes the way that the job gets done.
Every modified Land Rover is an expression of its owner, so the best way to understand this huge rectangular beast is to understand its owner, Andrew Fordham Brown. Back in the day, like many of us, Andrew was trapped in the mainstream of normal life – house, employment, commuting and all the rest. ‘I’m from Essex originally,’ he tells us. ‘I like the countryside and I used to have a job in mapping – we did work for Ordnance Survey, National Trust, people like that. It was interesting, but it was still eight hours a day in an office.’ Waving a hand across a glorious vista of North Yorkshire’s high countryside, he smiles: ‘This is much better!’
Like many who love the countryside, Andrew had a background in Land Rovers, starting with a diesel Series III and progressing to a Tdi Ninety. But how did he swap an office job in Essex and a short-wheelbase Land Rover for all of this? ‘It all started when someone asked me to do a drystone wall for them,’ Andrew explains. ‘I said yes without thinking too much about it and soon found that building drystone walls isn’t as easy as it looks. But it was interesting, so I wanted to do more...’
Out in the countryside, working with his hands, Andrew realised he had been barely tolerating his office-bound working life. It was time for a change. ‘When I started doing walling, people said it wasn’t a proper job. They meant not a structured job, like working in an office or a factory.’
But he was determined not to return to that kind of life ever again. Short-wheelbase Land Rovers were left behind – Andrew needed something bigger, something he could live in as well as work with.
Think drystone waller and you probably imagine a burly bloke who talks in grunts. Andrew seems the exact opposite. Softspoken, with a laid-back demeanour and a ponytail, he looks more like a poet or an artist. But that makes complete sense, because drystone walling does need creativity – an artist’s eye, the artist’s ability to envisage the finished work when nothing but raw materials are to hand. And that same ability to see possibilities has shown up in the old Marshall ambulance. ‘I’ve had it for about 17 years,’
Andrew tells us, ‘and I kept finding things about it that I felt could be improved. So I kept making changes and it’s gradually evolved.
‘The original chassis is a terrible design, full of rust traps where mud can get in and stay. I’ve remade the rear crossmember myself but apart from that it’s all standard, though I treat it once a year with Waxoyl. The engine is now a 300Tdi. I’ve had both Tdis and in my opinion the 300 is a much better engine than the 200 – quieter, less vibration. It makes a really good replacement for the V8, but it’s a tight fit. A front damper mount is very close to the timing chest – you have to be careful, because there’s only about 5mm clearance.
‘On the other side, the exhaust downpipe just squeezes between the starter and the chassis rail. This engine is a conversion carried out by Motor and Diesel Engineering (mdengineering.co.uk) using an old 300Tdi block bored out to 2.8 litres. Its internals come from the 2.8-litre Brazilian version of the Tdi – the only changes are pistons, crank, turbo, and exhaust manifold. The pump is still Bosch, but a different specification. The engine and turbo modifications add about 25% power and 50% torque – you don’t half notice it!’
Next up, that other piece of 101 unhappiness – the ‘it’s behind you!’ gearlever. Along with removing the bulkhead between cab and rear compartment, and creating a much easier-
access engine cover, Andrew has done a neat modification that relocates his gearlever to a position an average human being can easily reach. ‘For the gearlever conversion I used all the original parts I could,’ he tells us. ‘Then there’s the forward extension, which is made from a piece of box-section steel. It’s not complicated – but it is quite difficult to get the angles right.’ Well worth the effort, though – as well as making for stress-free driving, it nicely de-clutters the 101’s interior.
As for that interior, Andrew has managed to cram in all manner of neat and useful improvements – yet, somehow, the inside of this 101 exudes a calm and even spacious feel.
‘A Marshall ambulance body already has something like one-and-a-half or two inches of insulation,’ Andrew reminds us, ‘so they’re already good in that respect. But I lined the interior with carpet to stop any condensation. I use the Land Rover all year round, so I’ve had to think about keeping it dry in winter. The engine’s coolant is piped all round the back, through the cupboards – that stops any dampness. It also goes in a copper pipe through one of the water tanks, so that gives hot water after only about five minutes’ driving. In fact it’s almost too hot; about 90ºc.
‘I’ve made a little door at the bottom of the right-hand back door – when you’ve got a Sankey trailer on you can’t open the back doors, but with this I can get in and out. There’s a sink, and I’ve made a shower too.’
Charcoal jerry can
Outside, Andrew opens up compartments to show us the air compressor, toolbox and winch kit – and surprises us with a frontmounted jerry can that contains charcoal. Various storage boxes are secured to the roof, as is the awning, a very necessary addition: heavy work in hot sunshine needs regular breaks for relaxation and re-hydration. ‘The canvas was made for me by a local sailmaker, the rest is just steel sections,’ Andrew explains, sitting down to coffee while surveying a glorious landscape.
’A lot of my work is fancy garden stuff, but I do field walls as well – I’m doing about three miles on this farm. It’s slow…’ For more about his work, see: afbrown.com.
Of course, trips back to base from remote locations are time-consuming, and if there’s a short break in bad weather you can’t make use of it unless you’re on site. So Andrew often stays put: ‘I can live in the 101 and sometimes do, out on a job for three or four days at a time. When the weather is nice it’s heaven – especially if there’s no phone signal!’
Besides being on-site accommodation, this Land Rover is a perfect working tool. Clumsylooking, its true abilities are soon revealed as we clamber up a steep and lumpy hillside – a locking rear diff makes a huge difference, according to Andrew. The old Marshall leans spectacularly, but never seems in danger of rolling. It’s nimble, with a wonderfully cushioned ride – perhaps we should have expected that from a battlefield ambulance. On the job, it’s a perfect anchor for Andrew’s electric front winch, easily pulling huge blocks of stone into position. With the 101 alongside a wall, Andrew can pull out his awning and keep working in bad weather. And this is one 101 whose front-mounted pioneer tools actually get used!
All these modifications have transformed how Andrew can build walls. With the 1-Tonne as a comfortable base, he can do far more than would ever be possible with a simple pick-up. And when the weather’s just too bad? What could be nicer than sitting in the back, reading or just staring out at some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe?
A working Land Rover, at work – but not as most of us know it.
‘I live in it three or four days on a job. When the weather is nice it’s heaven – especially with no phone signal!’
Side-awning shelters Andrew at work too
On the pull – Andrew’s winch gets a lot of use
Not a jerry can – it’s where Andrew keeps his charcoal
Hot-water shower is also handy for washing boots
Air supply, tools, recovery kit
Use that roof space! Andrew’s 101 equivalent of a dormer…
A must for keeping in touch Ð and navigating