Your Clas­sics

Fir­ing on all six, with ex­tin­guish­ing fea­tures

LRO (UK) - - Contents -

John Munro’s re­mark­able Aus­tralian Bush Fire Unit 109-inch Se­ries IIA

My day job in­volves us­ing six-wheeldrive, ex-mil­i­tary Per­en­tie Land Rovers to ferry vis­i­tors out to view re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal art sites. I’ve been into Land Rovers since I was a nip­per, though, and ac­quired my 1972 Se­ries III 109in Bush Fire Unit about eight years ago.

When I got it, it had a seizedup mo­tor – it had been wrecked after be­ing drowned cross­ing a river. It took eight years of hunt­ing, but we even­tu­ally found a rea­son­ably good, orig­i­nal six-cylin­der en­gine. It came out of a 1971 Se­ries IIA, which had a rusted-out body and chas­sis. It had been used on the beaches at Car­pen­ters Rocks in the south-east of South Aus­tralia for

‘When I got it, it had a seized-up mo­tor – it was wrecked after be­ing drowned cross­ing a river’

launch­ing fish­ing boats, which ex­plains all the rust.

We got the IIA home, poured some petrol into the car­bu­ret­tor, put a fresh bat­tery in it and it sparked up straight away, even though it hadn’t been started for 15 years. Two of the valves were a bit ‘choofy’ so we pulled the cylin­der head off, did a com­plete top-end re­furb and now it runs like a Swiss watch.

The cab and wings of the donor Se­ries IIA have gone back to South Aus­tralia – a young 16-year-old lad over there was restor­ing one as a school project, so I told him if he picked them up they were his – no charge.

I still have the fire en­gine’s orig­i­nal block and one day will pos­si­bly tank it in a caus­tic so­lu­tion and try to sal­vage the lot be­cause it would be good to have all the num­bers cor­re­spond­ing.

Hard work in hot spots

The ve­hi­cle was orig­i­nally the Wyn­d­ham Mount Dar­ragh Bush Fire Unit in New South Wales. These units were used as a first­strike unit and would carry three men; they were equipped with fire rakes, shov­els, a fire­lighter and an axe. They would drive the moun­tain trails as far as they could, then two men would walk to the fire and con­tain it as best they could – very dif­fi­cult work in the ter­rain they op­er­ated in.

The driver would stay with the unit and put out any small spot fires. He had to be care­ful with wa­ter – it was their only life­line!

I pre­sume the diff ra­tios were stan­dard, be­cause it seems to be happy cruis­ing on-road at about 45mph. Other than the tray and fire unit on the back, the main unit was a stan­dard 109in. It was fit­ted with VHF ra­dio and a red flash­ing bea­con, but no siren.

When I ac­quired it, the slip-on back was miss­ing but, after be­ing at the Cooma 70th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions this year, we de­cided to go back to the area where the unit was orig­i­nally based. As we headed fur­ther west to­wards a lit­tle town called Cath­cart, we stopped to ad­mire a few old trac­tors and Land Rovers in a farmer’s yard. After a brief dis­cus­sion and a quick trip up the road to the old lo­cal fire sta­tion, we’d got our­selves the slip-on fire unit, built around 1969 but used right through to early 2000. Now my 109 is com­plete.

The Se­ries III has only 9874 miles show­ing and, ac­cord­ing to the bri­gade logs, this is very ac­cu­rate; it left the ser­vice with just over 7000 miles on the clock.

In Novem­ber, we in­tend to be at the Lake Gold­smith Steam Rally – they’re in­cor­po­rat­ing a ‘70 years of Land Rover‘ week­end in con­junc­tion with the Land Rover Own­ers’ Club of Vic­to­ria, of which I am a mem­ber.

Not a ve­hi­cle you’d chal­lenge to a burn-out...

Re­place­ment six-cylin­der en­gine came from a IIA

Sub-10,000 miles is gen­uine Hot seats for three brave fire­fight­ers

It’s the reel thing

This one re­ally stepped up to the plate

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