03 January 2023
Fond memories of an SIII in Nigeria 30 years ago inspired Enda McKenna to buy a Land Rover of his own
Enda McKenna had wanted a Land Rover Series III since his 20s, having first used one while doing voluntary work in Nigeria. He finally caved on his 50th birthday and bought himself one as a much-deserved present. ‘‘I’d been looking around for quite a while,’’ he tells us. ‘‘Eventually I found a dealer near where I live in North Yorkshire, who had this beautiful SIII in with a galvanised chassis. It was a bit rough to be honest, but it was very solid. I remember going in to see it, thinking ‘this is nice’, and buying it there and then.’’
The SIII was a ragtop when Enda bought it, although he’s since changed the roof to a hardtop with windows, which he finds far more practical. ‘‘There was a lot of other work done to it since I first had it. It’s had a new galvanised bulkhead, the electrics have been rewired throughout and the engine has been rebuilt, so it’s in much better nick than it was.’’
Enda has also changed his car’s paint from green to Marine Blue, an original Land Rover hue. ‘‘When it came to re-spraying it, my wife said there was no point painting it green again,’’ he explains. ‘‘She was certainly right, especially after all the work that had been done to it. The new colour suits it far more, especially with the cream top.
Beryl and Enda enjoy a cuppa
‘‘I mostly call her ‘Landy’, although initially we called it ‘Beryl’ as it seemed to suit her. I have no idea where it came from,’’ he laughs. ‘‘She just looks like she’s got personality.That’s what I love about Land Rovers: even though they can look very standard, there’s so much variety in what people do to them that you can add a little bit of personality with every change. I don’t think I’ll change mine any more than I already have though; I do want to keep her looking like the old Landy she is.’’
With two bench seats in the back, Enda’s SIII is especially popular with his two daughters. ‘‘The kids love going with friends in the back of it. So we take them out with the dogs sometimes. Often, we’ll have three dogs and four kids in the back on the bench seats. Even if we only drive for 10 or 15 miles – you wouldn’t want to do much more than that – it’s always a fun day out for everyone.’’
Outings in the SIII are incomplete unless Enda’s three dogs come along for the rid
The SIII is the perfect car to when it comes to walking the dogs, too. ‘‘The extra power certainly helps and they love jumping in and out of the back of it. I’ve got two working cocker spaniels and a seven-stone Newfoundland/Golden Retriever cross. She’s an enormous dog with a penchant for eating our sofa, so it’s certainly useful having the Landy to take her out of the house.’’
Enda’s wife isn’t as keen on taking trips in the Landy, as despite its recent renovation, it can still make for a bumpy ride. ‘‘When we restored it, we took it to a Land Rover specialist who installed new shock absorbers. However, it still drives like an old Land Rover,’’ Enda explains. ‘‘It’s definitely far better since he’s done it up, but it’s a clunky thing to drive because there’s no power steering, so you’ve just got a very big wheel to give you some leverage. You wouldn’t want to take it down to the south of France – it’d take you about three years – but it’s perfect for our lifestyle in North Yorkshire.’’
Enda on top of the SIII he salvaged to help out at a Nigerian college he was volunteering at 30 years ago
Enda’s love for his SIII started with his time in Nigeria at the age of 24, volunteering in a school. ‘‘I was working at a third-level education college called the School of Health Technology,’’ he recalls. ‘‘There wasn’t really any transport for the students there. We could only take a few of them out into the bush to look at basic sanitation and stuff like that, so it could be quite difficult for them to experience new things outside of the college. One day, I was at the Ministry of Health and saw three abandoned long-wheelbase Land Rovers standing together. They’d obviously been in an accident – one had a broken axle and another a twisted chassis, so they weren’t in drivable condition by any means.’’
Having been brought up in the car trade in Ireland, however, Enda knew that Land Rovers were simple vehicles that could be fixed quite easily. ‘‘I had some savings, so I paid a mechanic from the British Consulate to scavenge parts: just enough to get one of them in working condition. He managed to get one of them up and running, although it was a very basic car. There were no electrics in there, so if I wanted to indicate I had to stick my arm out! But it was a solid car that would do the job we needed it to do.’’
With two small bench seats in the back, Enda was able to use the car to transport around ten students at a time, which made a huge difference to their learning conditions. ‘‘We started taking them out on field trips around the area. Another volunteer managed a small game reserve nearby, so we’d go there on day trips and teach them how to build latrines and things like that. All the students were city kids, so they wouldn’t necessarily have known a lot of it. We’d also use the Landy to transport them around hospitals and whatnot. When I left Nigeria, I gave the Land Rover to the caretaker Alex, and as far as I’m aware it’s still there and tootling about.
‘‘The thing about Land Rovers is that they can last for such a long time. There are so many of them, too, so you can get the parts to keep them ticking over for ages. I think that’s why people like them so much. There’s something very basic and simple about a Landy, so there isn’t much that can go wrong.’’
Enda found himself in a couple of tricky situations with the old Land Rover, too. ‘‘Because the electrics didn’t work, I could never tell how much fuel I had in the tank. I broke down twice in front of the military base in Kaduna. The first time it happened, I was surrounded by about 20 soldiers in no time at all; they were all eager to help out and put some petrol in the tank for me to send me on my way. The funny thing was, it happened again three months later in exactly the same spot. I think it was the same guy who sorted it out for me. He told me I had to start carrying a can of petrol in the back after that.’’
We ask Enda about one of his most distinct memories in the Land Rover he owns today. ‘‘I think one of my favourite was reuniting with an old school friend from Dublin nearly four years ago. I hadn’t seen him for 25 years, and sadly I’d just been diagnosed with cancer [aged 52]. Although I’m in a much better place now, the initial diagnosis wasn’t very good, so when he heard about it, he came over from Dublin to see me.
‘‘We spent the day in the Land Rover and travelled from Thirsk to Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire, near the White Horse of Kilburn. The view stretched out for miles. I can remember going up that hill with him in the Land Rover, two dogs in the back and almost a mile of traffic behind us because we could only manage 25mph. It was a beautiful day without any pressure or time limits; our only task was to enjoy ourselves, get some food, go for a walk and drive along slowly in my old Land Rover.’’
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