A lifetime passion


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Tim was only 16 when he bought L03 for £200 in 1974 : credit: © Tim Dines
Tim Dines’ passion for Land Rovers goes back to the winter of 1963 when he was five-years old, and shows no sign of weakening…

Almost every Land Rover enthusiast I’ve interviewed over the years has had a story to tell about learning to drive as a teenager in a Land Rover owned by mum, dad, a relative or a family friend. Tim Dines has jumped to the top of the leaderboard, though, because he first took the wheel of his uncle Barry’s Land Rover aged five, although he confesses that he wasn’t doing much more than steering it through the woods, given that his feet couldn’t reach the floor, let alone the pedals.

“My lifelong love of Land Rovers began in 1963,” Tim tells me. “We lived in Kent and in the ferocious winter of 1963 we were snowed in for a couple of weeks, and the first vehicle to get through to us was a Land Rover driven by uncle Barry. I was five-years old and hugely impressed!

“Some years later I had a school friend who was a couple of years older than me, and he had acquired a Land Rover and started trialling, and I decided this was something I was going to get into as well. My parents had bought an old school on Dartmoor and were doing it up with a view to it becoming their retirement home, and our family holidays were spent in the West Country.

16-year-old Tim changing the swivels in the rain on Dartmoor

“I was 16-years old when I managed to buy an 80 that we’d spotted in a farmer’s barn near Chagford. He was a bit of a car enthusiast and the Land Rover had been family transport and a working vehicle for many years but had been sidelined when he bought a newer vehicle. We went to look at it and it had chickens living in it, but was otherwise in reasonable shape. The farmer knew exactly what he had and told me that it was Land Rover number three, which he told me was the original demonstration vehicle.

“At that time, an old Series I cost around £30 but the farmer wrote to me asking £200 for it, saying that he appreciated this might be beyond my means. It was, but I’d set my heart on it. Whether he plucked this number out of thin air because he didn’t really want to sell it, I don’t know, but my older sister Nic agreed to lend me the money and in August 1974 I became the proud owner of pre-production Land Rover L03.

“We managed to get it running and Dad drove it back to the house, telling me when we arrived that the front swivels were shot, so replacing them was the first job I did on the vehicle, outside in the rain 700 feet up on Dartmoor. We got it through an MoT at a garage in Crediton and drove it home to Kent.

Pre-pro L03 in the Vallvidrera hills, June 1948, receiving some help from the locals on the side slope

​​​​​​“Even then I realised it was a special vehicle and I decided that it was too important to take trialling, which meant of course that I needed to buy another Land Rover, and I suppose that was the beginning of what has been a serious collecting habit involving Series I Land Rovers and, later on, early Rover cars. The second Land Rover was another 80in, LYM 212, and this time it was my Mum who was persuaded to help me buy it, probably because she realised that now I’d passed my test I could drive myself and my sister to school and save her the job.

“LYM became my trialler and I was a keen competitor at AWDC and Southern Rover Owners’ Club events. I also did a lot of touring in it, but I soon realised that an 80 with a 2.0-litre engine rather than a 1.6 would be a better bet.

“Too much time off-road trialling and tinkering with Land Rovers might have contributed to my less than stellar A-Level results, which meant I wouldn’t get my much-desired place at Imperial College in London to study mechanical engineering. There was no choice other than to take a year out and re-take the offending exams, and this is what I did, taking a job with the MoD at Fort Halstead to pay my way. As well as giving me a wage, there were lots of military Land Rovers and workshops where I could do jobs with a bit of help form the experts, so it wasn’t all bad.

Proud owner Tim Dines with just a small part of his current car collection

“After a year I got the A-Level grades I needed and also had enough money to buy PKJ 877, which was a lovely 1953 hard top with a 2.0-litre engine that had been rebuilt by Staff Dovey, although I managed to blow it up while driving through the River Darent at Eynsford.

“After I’d graduated I joined BP as an engineer and my career, marriage to Adrienne, a growing family and a relocation to Aberdeen meant that Land Rovers took a back seat for a while. I still maintained my interest in Land Rovers and was an early member of the Land Rover Register 1948-1953, which was founded by Tony Hutchings in 1976 and was hugely instrumental in tracing the surviving pre-pro and early production Land Rovers. Tony’s book Land Rover – The Early Years was published in 1982 and was one of the first books to investigate the history of the first Land Rovers, and it is largely due to his efforts and the work of other Register members that we know so much that we take for granted today.

“A move from Aberdeen to Weybridge gave me a double garage with an inspection pit, and this and the imminent 50th anniversary of Land Rover stimulated me to restore pre-pro Number Three. Quite soon after buying it, my Dad had encouraged me to write to Land Rover at Solihull to ask if they could tell me anything about L03. Over a year later a large envelope of photographs of early Land Rovers arrived with a compliments slip, but there was nothing that really helped with the history of L03. No one else seemed to have found these early photographs, and Tony used some of them in his book.

Tim and Paco join Roger Crathorne to celebrate Land Rover’s 70th anniversary by driving L03 in the hills around Vallvidrera, near Barcelona

“The breakthrough came when the late Geoff Kent got in touch with me via Tony. Geoff was a Rover car superfan and had a vast collection of Rover cars, bikes, spares, brochures, and anything else to do with Rover. He had found some very early photographs of L03 which he kindly sent to me, although he knew nothing about them other than the possibility that they had been taken in Spain. It was all very intriguing.

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“In 2014 I met my good friend Paco on the Land Rover Series One Club forum. Paco lives in Barcelona and he was as fascinated by the photographs as I was. He is a bit of a super-sleuth when it comes to research, and he soon discovered that the photographs were taken in 1948. It turned out that L03 had been exhibited at the Barcelona International Motor Show in June that year and had then conducted an off-road driving demonstration in the hills around nearby Vallvidrera, driven by Rover’s Lt Col V A Myall and J R B Wright.

“Not content with discovering where and when the photos were taken, Paco was also able to discover several more pictures in an archive in Spain, and then went to the location of the off-road demonstration and found an elderly local who witnessed L03 in action back in the day. Paco’s interview with him can be found on YouTube.

Tim and Adrienne lead the 70th anniversary convoy in Spain

“This led to a cunning plan to celebrate Land Rover’s 70th anniversary in 2018 by driving L03 back to the site of its 1948 adventure in Barcelona, and a group of around a dozen vehicles made the trip, including Roger Crathorne in his 80, and Martin Port, who wrote about the adventure in Classic & Sports Car magazine in October 2018. Paco even managed to secure official permission for L03 to drive up the same track in the Vallvidrera hills that it had used in June 1948.

“When JLR Classic started its Reborn initiative and bought pre-pro L07 which had, astonishingly, been found languishing in a garden in Birmingham, the team asked me if they could examine L03 to help with their patina restoration of L07, which I was happy to do.

“I’ve been a volunteer at the Goodwood Revival for many years, usually driving my red 80 on the airfield to transport visitors who arrive by helicopter, or taking people who have booked a helicopter pleasure flight out to their aircraft. It is a fun weekend.

“In 2008 I was asked if I would like to enter L03 in the Cartier Style et Luxe Concours event at the Festival of Speed, because they had a class called ‘Great Britons’ comprising the ‘Stars of the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show’. Given the exotic nature of the other vehicles in the class, I was very pleasantly surprised to hear that L03 had won! Back then, early Land Rovers hadn’t really become blue-chip classic cars so I never expected to come away with a trophy.

Tim and Adrienne with her replica of the famous ‘Oxford’, built by Michael Geary

“I like to use all my Land Rovers and Rover cars, and L03 is no exception. Adrienne and I drove it to Amsterdam in 2018 for the Series One Club 70th Anniversary Rally, and we are regular participants in Peter Wales’ Land Rover Charity Runs. In fact, Adrienne has her own Land Rover which was a present for a very special birthday, a 1954 86in station wagon that is a replica of the famous ‘Oxford’ of First Overland fame. Michael Geary built it together with a replica of Cambridge, specifically to repeat the 1955 expedition, although for various reasons that didn’t happen.

“As well as L03 we also own a Defender 50th, which I managed to buy second-hand and had to have because it is Number 3 of the limited edition, and a 1998 Wolf 90 which was revamped by Nene Overland. There is also a 1952 80in soft top, LBT 415, which is a favourite at the Revival, mainly because it is painted red and when I am telling people where to find me it is a lot easier to tell them I’m in a red Land Rover, because saying you’re in a green one doesn’t usually help. I sold LYM 212, the 1951 80 that I’d used for so many of my early trialling activities, in 1977 and instantly regretted it, and I was pleased to be able to track it down and buy it back in 2017.

“There’s also a 1942 Jeep and a few Rover cars, including Adrienne’s 1939 P2 Sports Saloon and 1947 Rover 12 Tourer, and a Rover P3 75 that our son, Kieran, and I own. It was finding out that difficult-to-find parts for very early 80in Land Rovers are common to Rover cars of the period that initially stirred my interest in Rover cars, but it has now developed into a parallel obsession all of its own.

Latest addition to the collection is the 1971 Motor Show Rover P5B, now awaiting recommissioning

“A neighbour passed away earlier this year and bequeathed to me a 1971 Rover P5B that he had in his garage. There was huge excitement when we discovered that it was actually the 1971 Motor Show car and has only 24,000 miles on the clock. It has joined the queue for eventual recommissioning, and we plan to renovate it as a patina vehicle.

“Meanwhile, the focus with L03 is what we might do with it in 2023 for the 75th anniversary celebrations. It’s very tempting to drive it back to Barcelona and the Vallvidrera hills, but this time we’d take more time to enjoy the journey. Land Rovers have given me a lot of fun and adventure over the years, the opportunity to go to places I wouldn’t otherwise have visited, and to meet many great people who share the passion.”


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