24 June 2022
Expert restorer Ray Adams is undeniably a perfectionist and his collection of Forward Control 101s is probably the best in the world…
In life, great things can sometimes grow from humble beginnings, and the remarkable collection of Land Rover vehicles created by Ray Adams is a case in point. There were none of the typical family associations with Land Rovers as Ray was growing up in London in the 1960s and 70s. His father, Les, was a more than capable mechanic but it would be fair to say that this was true of many men in those days, because if you wanted to run a family car you had to be able to maintain it and fix it. Ray grew up helping his dad do just that, with regular weekend servicing and repairs on the street outside the family home. As a result, Ray developed an interest in mechanics and engineering at a young age.
“I’d always thought that when I left school I would take an apprenticeship in engineering,” says Ray, “but by the time I was old enough to apply, Maggie Thatcher’s policies meant there were virtually no traditional apprenticeships left to apply for. I’m one of the Thatcher ‘lost generation’! I decided instead to apply to British Rail and I passed all the tests and received a job offer, but that was withdrawn because of cuts and bans on recruitment. I ended up working in a warehouse for a while before I was finally able to join the railways as a second man in 1985, and three years later I became a driver.
“I took my driving test as soon as I was old enough and my dad left it to me to decide what to buy. His only advice was to go for something cheap and easy to run, so he was a bit surprised when I came home with a 12-seater Series IIA 109! That was in late 1982 and it was the first Land Rover our family had ever owned, and my dad became quite enthusiastic about it.”
Father and son had begun a journey together that would see them becoming leading lights in the Land Rover Forward Control world and culminate in Ray owning what is undoubtedly one of the most important 101 collections in the world today, and remarkably he still owns the Series IIA nearly 40 years later.
Series IIA was Ray’s first land Rover, bought in October 1982 and rebuilt several times since then
“It was a runner when I got it,” he recalls, “and I’m embarrassed to say that I immediately started to modify it so that it looked like a more modern Series III. It was what we all did in those days but during the several full rebuilds it’s had since I bought it, I’ve gradually returned it to standard, although it still has a Series III plastic grille.”
“It’s first rebuild happened only a few months after I bought it, when we discovered the chassis was suffering from terminal rot. Dad managed to find a brand new chassis and he really led the rebuild project. I learned a great deal from it all and we did everything ourselves, including rebuilding the engine and gearbox. Working at weekends and in the evenings, we finished the job in just over a year, and I discovered how much I enjoyed doing as many things as I could myself, no matter how difficult they seemed to be. I guess I enjoy seeing the fruits of my own labour!
“I had a good mate called Dave and he really liked my Series II, and one day he turned up with a 1954 Series I 86 inch fitted with a hard top and side windows. Eventually he got fed up with it because he couldn’t get it through the MoT, so I bought if off him for £400. It had the registration ACK 751B which I knew was not right for the age of the vehicle and it always looked wrong, so when I heard via the Series One Club that the DVLA was introducing aged-related plates I took the car down to their office in Ruislip and they gave me LSK 902.
Series I 86 inch LSK 902/38BP38 dates from 1954; matching Brockhouse cable-laying trailer is a work of art
“I was going to turn it into a trialler but this coincided with me starting my new job with British Rail, which involved a lot of shift work that allowed me plenty of time at home to work on the Series I, so I decided to do a proper job by restoring it in Bronze Green with a canvas tilt. It took me two years and I was quite pleased with it, but when I started taking it to shows and events there were plenty of people who would tell me what was wrong, like the cappings I’d painted with silver Hammerite and the fact that it had a 2¼ Rover car engine!
“I think this was when I became much more interested in factory specifications and getting the details right on my vehicles, and I found a correct 2.0-litre engine that had been used as a training aid, rebuilt it and it’s still in the vehicle today.
“Later on I discovered that the vehicle had been delivered new to the British Army so it was quite a coincidence that I’d rebuilt it with a canvas tilt and painted it Bronze Green. It was sold by the MoD in March 1964 which is how it came to have the ‘B’ registration. I found an original Brockhouse trailer in Scotland which I have restored to its original cable-layer configuration. It was a huge job to find all the right gear for it, but it does look good behind the Series I, and always attracts a lot if attention.
“I’ve always liked big engineering, which is probably why I’ve ended up spending almost my entire working life on the railway. It’s also why I became more and more interested in adding a Forward Control 101 to my collection. Dad and I went to the Earl’s Court Motor Show in 1987 and I bought a 101 handbook, and then it was only a matter of time before we started looking around for a suitable vehicle to buy.
KLP 21N/75FL71 was Ray’s first 101, bought in 1988
“After a couple of false starts we went to see a guy called Ian Middlehurst in London, and that’s where I had my first experience of a 101 when I drove a radio truck around the streets of Finsbury Park! I was smitten, but sadly the radio truck was beyond my modest budget. Ian suggested we drive to a yard he had in Essex where he would show us a 101 that he said I could have for £3300, although at that price he said it would have to be a left-hand drive example. He also said that at that money I couldn’t have the mid-mounted winch, but I didn’t realise how significant this was until I tried to find one to buy later! KLP 21N wasn’t drivable but I bought it anyway and it was delivered to us behind another 101.
We had it running in no time and started taking it to shows. They were still quite a rare sight in those days and it always drew a crowd.
“The 101 Forward Control Club and Register was founded in 1988, the year I bought my first example, and dad and I both joined. In fact, I am member number 5! Dad was a very active member and was vice chairman for a number of years, and then took on the role of club historian.
What’s not to love about a 101? RGK 502P/69FL15 dates from 1976 and was Ray’s fourth Land Rover
“I was still paying off the three-year loan I’d taken out to buy the 101 when I spotted another one for sale in a Land Rover magazine in 1990. What I really wanted was the winch, but the owner quite reasonably wouldn’t sell the winch on its own! RGK 502P was a right-hand drive example and looked quite tidy. The only issue was that it had been fitted with a 2.5 Nissan diesel, although the original V8 was available. I ended up doing a deal with the owner to buy it and return the Nissan lump to him and keep the V8.
“So I now had what I wanted: a right-hand drive 101 with a winch. But the left-hooker had proved to be so reliable that I couldn’t bear to part with it, so now I had two 101s. They are not the easiest of things to store! We decided to renovate RGK 502P and this ended up taking us three years, with dad and I doing all the work. It was one of the first example to be restored in gloss Bronze Green rather than matt camo, and it attracted a lot of interest at the time.”
Beautifully restored cab showcases Ray’s workmanship
It is a testament to the quality of Ray’s restoration work that RGK 502P still looks stunning today, if gently patinated, and remarkably it won the Best Restoration class at the Land Rover National Awards at Land Rover Legends in 2018, 25 years after the restoration was completed!
“Two Forward Controls seemed to be quite enough,” laughs Ray, “but then dad received a letter from a club member that he’d helped over the years, asking if dad would like to buy his 101. This was an ex-RAF vehicle that had served at Brize Norton and was fully restored and immaculate, so dad decided he’d have his own 101. We were living in West London at the time and 101s in the front garden did not endear us to the neighbours, and we had vehicles in store all over the place. Things became easier when we moved to Oxfordshire and we had space to build proper storage on site.
Attention to detail is evident everywhere
“We were showing a couple of our vehicles at the Land Rover show at West Wycombe in 2001 and Philip Bashall was there with a 101 radio truck with an interesting history. He knew I hankered after a radio truck and spotted me looking at it. He threw me the keys and I took it for a spin around the local roads. It drove very well indeed and, although we really didn’t need another 101, a deal was done and we now had our fourth Forward Control!
“TPA 49R was an unissued vehicle which meant it had never had the radio kit installed and hadn’t been allocated to an operational unit. Philip had bought it from Keith Gott in 1994 with just 800 km on the clock, and then sold it to a telecoms company who painted it limestone and operated it in Zambia. When it returned to the UK it was in store and ended up being flooded to a depth of several feet.
Winch gear is hard to find and very distinctive
“It was reviewed in Land Rover World magazine in April 2001 and was described as ‘neither rare nor collectable; only its condition and its low mileage make it noteworthy’. Obviously the writer was not a Forward Control fan! I bought it on a bit of a whim and haven’t really done much with it. My plan to restore it was derailed by the 101 that is my current project, Prototype Number One.
“In around 2004 I’d had a call from Philip to see if I was interested in 101 Pre-pro Number Five, and I went down to Dunsfold to have a look. Philip sat me in his Range Rover and drove off into the wilds of Surrey to a hidden storage shed. I thought I should have had a black hood put over my head like they do in the spy films! I had a good look at the Pre-pro and said I’d think about it. I called him back a day later and rather surprised myself when I told him that I didn’t think there was that much difference between a Pre-pro and a vehicle built to production standard and told him I’d pass on it. Maybe I’d finally reached the point where I had enough 101s!
Everything in Ray’s collection is as clean underneath as it is on top!
“But Philip knows me only too well and immediately suggested an alternative, which was Prototype Number One. I went back down to Dunsfold and there it was on a trailer in Philip’s yard. Now this really was an interesting vehicle and perhaps the ultimate example for a 101 enthusiast to own. I was quite humbled when Philip said he’d decided that dad and I were the right people to take on the restoration, and I bought it.
“It is the jewel in the collection, really, but the restoration has been the most challenging by far because there are so many unique features on the chassis and bodywork, and it was in a pretty bad way. Dad and I had settled into a way of working over the years and the only things we put out to specialists were the sandblasting of big components such as the chassis, and the galvanising and specialist machining work like re-bores. Everything else we’d do ourselves, with dad specialising in the electrics. With Number One, I’ve done pretty much all the work on my own because dad was advancing in years. I had to fabricate significant components for the chassis and make things like the unique doors, and there have been times when I’ve been so frustrated that I’ve had to walk away for weeks or months on end to clear my head before being able to come back to resolve the problems. I learned how to paint quite a while ago, and I’m doing all the painting on my own as well.
Ray’s late father, Les, owned this ex-RAF vehicle which is next in the queue for renovation
“Sadly, dad passed away earlier this year so he won’t see the completion of the project and I’ve really missed his support and involvement. I hope the job will be done by 2022, and then I will restore his ex-RAF vehicle in his memory. But there won’t be any more additions to the collection now. I have Prototype Number One and a 101 from every year of production from 1975 to 1978, and I think that’s finally enough!”
See more LRM Classics restorations here, including a 101 from Malta.