Meet my Minerva


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Jake Shoolheifer tells the story of his second Minerva Tout-Terrain

1953 minerva tout-terrain
Power: 52bhp
Torque: 101lb-ft
MPG: 20 (if I’m lucky!)

Jake, aged 10-ish, getting his first Minerva experience in his dad’s 1953 model

Land Rovers have always been a big part of my life. I was strapped into an ex-RAF 90 at just a few weeks old and, like many others, I remember those countless journeys to and from school throughout my childhood. I learned to drive in one, learned how to fix them and they are what started my fascination with engineering, design, fabrication and mechanics. When I was 15, just before my GCSEs, I bought my first Land Rover, a 1952 Minerva 80in TT (Tout Terrain). The 80in Series I was always the staple Land Rover of my childhood with my dad, Julian, having owned many over the years. He had also owned a couple of Minervas. Minerva, by the way, was a Belgian company that built these distinctive 4x4s under licence from Land Rover from 1951-1956, and featured steel bodywork with angled front wings among other differences.

Jake’s first Minerva, a 1952 model, now currently in full-on ‘project car’ mode

Minervas are also by far one of the best ways into Series Land Rover ownership and given their price they are one of the most budget-friendly ways into classic 4x4 ownership generally. Which is why, five years and ten days after I bought my first Minerva, I have found myself with a second. My first is very much in full project mode and despite promising myself I would have it done by the summer for the last three years, I keep finding changes to make and areas to improve. But, it is turning out better than I had planned so I’m happy for it to take as long as it needs. With this in mind and my current Volvo daily driver off the road, when I saw another one advertised on Facebook just a few miles away, I was very interested to go and have a look and, of course, I ended up buying it.

Jake and his brother Finn (left) on the day he got his second Minerva. Finn has recently completed re-commissioning the family’s trialler ‘Zit’ and is using it daily

​​​​​​I am fortunate enough to regularly drive many different Land Rovers all with the various small changes and improvements made to them over their lifetime. So, after 95 miles of driving my new purchase, I had a few areas I wanted to improve out of personal preference and a few things that just needed fixing. As we have found with all the Minervas we have owned previously, it wasn’t a surprise to learn how well this one pulled itself along the road. My other Minerva had been fitted with high-compression pistons which explained some of the performance, but the new one doesn’t appear to have been. Yet it still feels like it needs a fifth gear.

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New tyre day: Camac CG110s from Vintage Tyres

With overdrive units either extremely expensive or hit and miss secondhand, and the common diff swap to classic Range Rover 3.54:1 being a little extreme in my opinion, I chose to instead change the tyres from 6.00-16 to 7.00-16. The 7.00s were a factory option on the 80in and whilst a 7.50 will fit, they can be just a little step too far when it comes to stresses inflicted on the steering box.

They also can limit the steering lock, by hitting the chassis at full swing. After looking around a little I decided on fitting a set of 7.00-16 Camac CG110s. These were supplied by Ben at Vintage Tyres, who recommended Redwing inner tubes, a brand we haven’t used before but they have the large TR15 valve stem needed for Land Rover wheels and are nice quality thick rubber. Our old trialler ‘Zit’ donated its Forward Control rims to the cause as the Minerva wheels were a little on the narrow side for a 7.00, and my set of long-wheelbase rims with 7.50s on had been borrowed elsewhere. With the 7.00s fitted onto the FC rims I attached them to the Minerva using a new set of Series IIA wheel nuts – this isn’t a necessary modification with later wheels, but I prefer them to the smaller, double-ended-type wheel nuts and they seem to fit the holes in the wheels better with the bigger taper they have.

The standard ‘side pipe’ system found on Minervas can be very loud so Jake chose to upgrade to the standard 80in right-hand drive system

​​​​​​Next on my list of minor modifications was the exhaust. As much as I like the Minerva factory side pipe exhaust which exits under the driver’s door, the noise gets extremely tiresome very quickly and no matter where you sit in the vehicle, you end up smelling of exhaust fumes. Fortunately, Minerva still copied the Land Rover chassis design and so everything was in place for the exhaust mountings found on its Land Rover counterpart. This meant that I could install a full, right-hand drive exhaust system to the Minerva reasonably easily using the standard bracketry and an exhaust sourced from Britpart, as they’re well made for the low cost of them.

Besides a few remaining adjustments and small interior modifications, this is about as extreme as I’m going to go on the changes away from factory specification with this Minerva.

The clutch is possibly the next job on the list as the pedal is getting progressively higher and higher and is pretty much an on-off switch currently, but time and driving will tell. I’ll keep you informed.


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