Twisted Land Rover – Yes, it is.

Whilst doing time for Her Majesty in the Queens Royal Irish Hussars during the mid 70’s I had the fortune to be selected for an expedition to Afghanistan, the journey to be undertaken by road from Paderborn in West Germany using the veritable Army spec Land Rover 109 Series III.

Landrover Series III
9000 miles in one of these

The total round trip was around 9000 miles, there were three LR’s, each with a very heavy military grade trailer and three people in each vehicle.  The only modifications to these were the addition of a custom made roof rack and  purpose made outriggers slung from the sides that carried three jerry cans each.  Together with the trailers full of supplies including three months of army ‘compo’ rations, you may assume that their 4 cylinder 2.25L petrol engines were a little under powered.  We must have annoyed countless motorists toiling in convoy up even the slightest incline.  Downhill, with the overweight trailers trying to overtake, was even more challenging, particularly when the brakes overheated.

Pink Landrover
I wanted this one!

So the point of all this pre-amble, if you are still with me, is that I have covered quite a few miles in Land Rovers and I still have fond memories of them.  This has surfaced in the desire in recent years to aquire a Defender, short wheelbase, to use as a second vehicle.  Those of you in the audience thinking about the financial implications of running a second car, please go and join my wife at the back of the room, out of sight.

I am under no illusions about how a Defender is an awful car in everyday use, they are noisy, cramped, uncomfortable and unable to challenge a modern four wheel drive car in road manners and handling.  But I still want one.

Landrover V8
Image courtesy of Autocar

Just a few months ago I nearly plumped for an old 4Lt V8 version, a much sought after special edition, but commonsense prevailed, sadly.  When the lottery finally pays out then maybe one of the new limited edition Defenders will fit the bill.  The new Defender Works V8 produces 399bhp and 380lb ft, eclipsing the output of the discontinued standard Defender, which made just 120bhp and 266lb ft.

It was therefore a very nice experience to be able to drive a Twisted Land Rover the other week so that Number 2 Son could take some photographs for his University project.

Portrait of the author as a show off

We drove the car out of town and up on to the moors for some very good photos, but I must say, the difference between the original that I drove in 1976 and this one is incredible.  The sound insulation that Twisted have added has made the most enormous change, the engine is quite responsive and the gearchange was slick and easy with the clutch being lighter than I recall.  You could tell that the coil springs have improved the overall feel of the car from the medieval cart springs of old.  As for the interior, there was a Sat Nav, with leather and luxurious trimmings aplenty.

Twisted Interior
New!
Old Interior
Old!

However, the car is still quite uncomfortable, cramped and seriously out of date and almost undriveable for anyone over 6 foot.

An icon? Certainly.
A replacement for your daily driver at 12000 miles per year? No.

Of course if you want the ultimate Defender then Harry does it best!

As someone remarked with understated sagacity, “You can’t polish a turd.” to which the swift reply was, “No, but you can roll it in glitter.”

NORCs to you all

NORCs to you all

That’s Northern Off Road Club.

It is curious how focused ones mind becomes in moments of great stress or fear.  The moment that is the subject of this missive is when I was upside down in a rotating modified Land Rover awaiting the inevitable crunch and pain of a hard landing that was just moments away.  The actual thought was along the lines of “what the chuff am I doing here?”

Some while previously I had agreed to buy a short wheel base Land Rover that had been used in ‘comp safari’, a form of racing against a clock on a tortuous cross country circuit.  I had been a spectator of one of these events some weeks earlier and it had fired in me a desire to compete in motorsport, and this seemed to be a slightly cheaper way.  This particular vehicle was a well used example, but in quite good condition and equipped with an Alfa Romeo 1.9 OHC engine, a four speed box from a Land Rover fire engine and two Jaguar LSDs (Limited Slip Differentials).  As part of the arrangement the seller agreed to drive the first circuit with me as co-driver and after that I was on my own!

Now as a spectator, the cars didn’t seem to travel too fast, lots of noise and mud and dust, but due to the extreme track surfaces and holes and ditches progress seemed to be fairly restrained.  The start was controlled by a set of traffic lights that looked as though they had been ‘borrowed’ from some nearby council roadworks, we were strapped in, helmeted and ready to go.  The lights turned green.

We took off like a startled rabbit towards the woods just yards away, a sharp right turn along a deeply rutted track and the car side swiping against the trees as we sped along at what was seemingly an insane speed for the conditions.  Out of the woods and the track opened up into a space about 50 yards wide and several hundred yards long, into top gear and bouncing along this open part of a disused quarry.  I glanced at the vendor, he was wrestling with the wheel, trying to keep a straight course but just along the left side there was a huge rock and no matter what inputs were made to the steering, we were headed towards it at maximum velocity.

Well of course we hit it, just a glancing blow, but enough to cause the vehicle to somersault, arse over tit (which where we came in).  I know we turned over twice at least, my memory is a little vague, but I recall most vividly that the fire extinguisher between the seats came loose and seemed to just hang in mid air whilst we rotated around it.  The car hit the deck on all four wheels, there was dust and smoke all around us, the fire extinguisher obeyed the laws of gravity and hit me in the chest.  Silence.  I looked across at the vendor, expecting him to dazed, unconscious or dead; he reached out to the dashboard, pressed the starter motor, the silence was broken by the roar of an Alfa 1.9 and we were off!

I don’t remember much of the rest of the course, on our return I inspected the Land Rover but apart from a cracked windscreen little damage was visible.  The vendor agreed to replace the screen and the lusty little machine was mine.

Range Rover Saga

NORC

Back in 1990 or there abouts I used to be a member of the Northern Off Road Club (NORC for short) and race a modified short wheel based Land Rover round a timed circuit.  It was great fun but a little pricey to compete competitively.

The Racer
The Racer

There were several classes and my vehicle was in the smallest engined class, up to 2 litres.  The engine was an Alfa 1.9 litre OHC, a sweet little thing, attached to a four speed box taken from a Land Rover fire engine and running through a couple of Jaguar diffs.  It was looked after by a great and talented mechanic, Richard, who could mend it no matter how much I could bend it!  Fozzy, my brother in law, was the co-pilot and race weekends were passed in a haze of petrol and beer.  Racing always was on a Sunday, boozing was always on a Saturday; I am sure I could have performed better without a perpetual race day hangover.

Anyway, the point of this story is about one of our journeys to a race meeting.  At the time I had a V8 petrol Range Rover and towed the vehicle on a large 4 wheeled trailer, complete with tools, spare wheels and parts.  The combined rig was quite weighty.  One busy bank holiday weekend we were on our way to a course and travelling along the A1 near Selby Fork and the car just suddenly decided to give up the ghost, all power lost and although the engine still ran, it would not rev and there was insufficient oomph to move the car and the trailer.  Fortunately we had stopped just near a lay by that had a cafe on it but we had to stop short by about 50 yards on the A1 nearside lane.  I called the RAC who said it would be over an hour before they could get to me.  Fozzy went to the cafe, bought a couple of teas and we sat in glorious sunshine on the back of the trailer to await rescue.  The traffic was horrendous, not helped by the Range Rover and trailer blocking one carriageway; it backed up as far as the eye could see.  Most cars that crawled by were shouting abuse at us, they seemed to think that we had deliberately stopped there for a cup of tea!
The chap who ran the cafe came down the carriageway to investigate, he had a diesel Sierra that he claimed could easily pull us off the road into the lay by and despite our reservations we agreed to let him have a go.  Because we were stopped short of the lay by he had to drive off in the opposite direction, turn around and come back towards us in the traffic; that took a little while.
So, we hitched the Range Rover with a very hefty rope to the back of the Sierra and this good Samaritan took up the slack with his car.  Then he let out the clutch and revved the nuts off, smoke billowed from the exhaust and soon after from the bonnet too.  Slowly, inch by inch the Range Rover, trailer, race vehicle, spare wheels, all the spare parts, tools and I started to move, but the noise from the Sierra was a cacophony of tortured metal, of an engine being stretched way beyond manufacturers specifications.  We made it of course and we thanked the man by buying further teas and waiting for the RAC, but I’m sure his car was jiggered.
The RAC chap duly arrived and after a bit of investigation discovered that the connection on the RR’s control unit had become detached.  How so?  Well in Land Rover’s wisdom they had put the unit under the passenger seat and Fozzy decided that he needed to move his seat back just enough to pull the cabling out and incapacitate the car….

Nice cup of tea though!