Land Rover restora­tion a labour of love

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - SA­MAN­THA GEE

It’s been a work­horse for a build­ing com­pany, helped to res­cue stranded dol­phins and in ‘‘re­tire­ment’’ has taken chil­dren and their soft toys on sa­fari.

It sat un­used in a shed for years, but now al­most six decades af­ter it be­came part of the Neal fam­ily busi­ness, their trusty Land Rover has been re­stored to its for­mer glory.

Kerry Neal said his fa­ther, Max Neal, bought the 1961 se­ries II Land Rover when it was six months old for £1300. It be­came a work ve­hi­cle for Neal’s Build­ing Ser­vices, to help them ac­cess steep and dif­fi­cult build­ing sites around the re­gion.

‘‘It was pretty unique in those days, there were very few Land Rovers around,’’ Kerry said.

‘‘Per­haps the big plus was the abil­ity to get into risky spots with­out the fear of get­ting stuck.’’

Kerry said he took the Land Rover tow­ing a trailer to build­ing sites from the Wairau Val­ley, out to St Ar­naud, north to Takaka and even D’Urville Is­land.

‘‘There would be no Land Rover that’s had a more in­ter­est­ing life around here than this one.’’

With a hose reel hang­ing from the tail­gate and sev­eral 44 gal­lon drums stacked on the back, the Land Rover was used to spray gorse on the hills in Atawhai.

A six-me­tre boom was of­ten con­nected to the ve­hi­cle which al­lowed con­crete to be poured from a height. There was noth­ing else like it when it came to back­ing a trailer in dif­fi­cult coun­try, he said.

Then in 1972, it be­came a fam­ily wagon and was driven by Kerry’s wife Pam.

When ma­jor earth­works hap­pened around the cou­ple’s Atawhai home, Pam used the Land Rover to take the cou­ple’s three kids to the bus stop.

‘‘The sto­ries I could tell about get­ting stuck in the mud, tak­ing chil­dren to the bus stop in my nightie and dress­ing gown, slosh­ing through the mud,’’ Pam said.

Years later, the kids learnt to drive in it, prac­tic­ing their skills up and down the Boul­der Bank.

Kerry said it as­sisted with many Ro­tary projects around the re­gion, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of the Mara­hau Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre.

It had helped to res­cue sev­eral stranded dol­phins at Atawhai and towed horse floats to nu­mer­ous events.

The Neals even took it on a car­a­van­ning trip to the North Is­land.

‘‘We did a lot as a fam­ily we could never have done with­out it,’’ Pam said.

The Land Rover was re­tired in the early 80s, but even then, parked up in the shed, Kerry and Pam’s grand­kids would pre­tend to go on sa­fari in it.

‘‘They would sit in it for ages with all their ele­phants and li­ons around them,’’ Pam said.

Ahead of Kerry’s 80th birth­day, the cou­ple’s son War­wick Neal took on the chal­lenge of restor­ing the beloved fam­ily truck. It took about a year and was com­plete in time for Kerry’s sur­prise party at Trail­ways, where it was parked up out­side on a trailer.

‘‘For once in his life he was speech­less,’’ Pam said of the sur­prise.

War­wick had re­stored the Land Rover in Christchurch, sourc­ing parts from all over the world.

‘‘Our son has an ob­vi­ous me­chan­i­cal bent, it was com­pletely stripped down to every last nut and bolt,’’ Kerry said.

At one point, War­wick sent through a pic­ture of the floor of his garage cov­ered with ve­hi­cle parts.

‘‘The poor old girl was com­pletely denuded,’’ Pam said.

He said he was go­ing to put all the parts in a bucket, throw it in the air and hope it came back down as a Fer­rari.

‘‘That re­ally of­fended me,’’ Kerry said. ‘‘Who the heck would want a Fer­rari over a Land Rover?’’

But there was one more thing needed to com­plete the restora­tion.

‘‘Please, if any­one can find a tail­gate, we need one,’’ Kerry said.

BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF

Kerry Neal in the 1961 Land Rover that was com­pletely stripped and re­assem­bled with parts sourced from around the world.

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