Evok­ing ex­pec­ta­tion of speed, com­fort and sports car han­dling? Not re­ally, folks. This cool camper is based on a 1978 Land Rover Se­ries 3 and doesn’t quite do that.

Its qual­i­ties are mostly prac­ti­cal and cute and its ac­tu­ally named ‘Fet­tal’ as a play on its rego and a need for reg­u­lar ‘fet­tling’. I loved it at first sight at the Land Rover 70th an­niver­sary event held re­cently at Methven. Campers are not un­usual in NZ but this one is.

We have many Se­ries Landies ex our NZ Army but ex­am­ples from overseas mil­i­taries are rare here. There’s a hand­ful of ‘lightweights’ (for air trans­port and para­troops) and ‘101s’ (the chunky for­ward-con­trol model) but lit­tle else. NZ’s Army am­bu­lances gen­er­ally used larger ve­hi­cles. Our Air Force had a small num­ber built onto mod­i­fied clas­sic Range Rovers.

Hang on a minute!

This one was found by a friend of the cur­rent cus­to­di­ans. Ap­par­ently, when en­quir­ing at a British dis­poser of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles, he asked if they had many Land Rover-based am­bu­lances avail­able. The dealer said “hang on a minute,” as he punched a few but­tons, fol­lowed by “there’s about 600 listed, the best are in the cor­ner over there”!

The 2.25 petrol mo­tor was swapped for a 200 TDi and Rangie five-speed man­ual. When it came up for sale later Chris and Brenda bought it and fit­ted Rangie diff heads to boost the ra­tios for bet­ter 100km/h cruis­ing and econ­omy. “Oh, and quiet­ness,” said Brenda. Part-way up Mt Hutt on the Land Rover 70th event their elec­tric ra­di­a­tor fan failed ne­ces­si­tat­ing a re­treat to Methven where a new one was found and fit­ted.

The mo­tor and tranny mods must have trans­formed it in many ways, more power, more gears, bet­ter econ­omy. Bike racks and a roof pod help keep the in­side un­clut­tered. There’s a bed cross­wise be­hind the seats. Big rear doors open right around to clip to the sides – out of the way com­pletely, or use­ful as wind­breaks.

Not too long or too high

The tail­gate is unique and folds down to a wide, ro­bust, dou­ble step. When closed it is near the height of a stan­dard Landy tail­gate and, along with the an­gled tail, main­tains an ex­cel­lent de­par­ture an­gle (very un­usual for 4WD-based campers). I fig­ured the ex­tra body width could be a has­sle on nar­row Kiwi tracks but there are many fea­tures that well com­pen­sate for a need to be care­ful some­times. It’s not too long or too high and the Land Rover’s orig­i­nal ap­proach and ramp-over angles are un­changed.

A fea­ture I re­ally liked is the Fox Wing awning. It rolls out from the roof left side and piv­ots around the rear cor­ner to span 270 de­grees of the left side and rear. It seems an im­mensely prac­ti­cal and speedy item for shade or rain pro­tec­tion.

As Brenda writes: “Within the first year, we stripped the back out, re­lined, and rewired for the mod cons. In the process, we got cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as self-con­tained, with the in­stal­ment of a sink, waste­water hold­ing and a fold-up toi­let. Our best find was the Cze­choslo­vakian first-aid boxes that have be­come our kitchen stor­age. We cook on a ta­ble that folds down off the back door, pro­tected by the awning. We re­painted Fet­tal in our drive­way with rat­tle cans and a roller. We could faintly see the orig­i­nal crosses un­der the worn paint­work, so we re­in­stated them with an al­ter­na­tive colour.”


It’s an in­spired paint job that is laid back but sup­ports the ve­hi­cle’s mil­i­tary his­tory which was ap­par­ently in Europe with the British Army. The orig­i­nal am­bu­lance con­ver­sion was by Mar­shalls of Cam­bridge (UK) – now Mar­shall Aerospace and Defence Group – a large, cen­tury-old com­pany.

Those Czech first aid boxes are a nice and un­usual fea­ture. Their built-in draw­ers have wooden fronts and brass han­dles so are much more user-friendly than you’d ex­pect from their ex­ter­nal sten­cilled, mil­i­tary-drab, ammo-tin im­age.

Four slid­ing side win­dows are big enough for light yet small enough for pri­vacy and high enough for se­cu­rity and there’s oth­ers in the rear doors. All have blinds and mesh. Roof breathers vent to a Land Rover Sa­fari style in­su­lated roof with a cargo rack.

It’s a ca­pa­ble, prac­ti­cal and cosy off-road camper; per­fect for ex­plor­ing New Zealand.

Chris and Brenda on the way to Kahu­rangi.

Plenty of prac­ti­cal space in­side. Photo by the own­ers.

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