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