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Richard’s collection encompasses early and interesting examples of the first four generations of the Range Rover : credit: © Gary Pusey
Land Rover and Range Rover collecting habits can become quite obsessive, as LRM ’s Gary Pusey is all too aware. But it’s good to know he’s not alone…

When does an interest become an obsession? It’s a good question and one that I’ve frequently asked myself, having many years ago fallen into the dangerous and expensive world of the obsessive Land Rover collector. For Richard Hopkins, the line was crossed when he met Julian Lamb, founder of the CVC Register, later renamed the Company Vehicle Collection, and a serial Land Rover collector and restorer himself.

Like so many collectors, Richard can trace the roots of his obsession to his childhood years. “My interest started in the very early days of the Range Rover,” he tells me. “It was in the early 1970s and I would have been about eight- or nine-years-old. I was standing at the bus stop outside the Rover gate on Lode Lane with my mum. She was a school teacher and took the bus to work. I’d wait with her until the bus came and then I would walk around the corner to my school. I was always the first one there. While waiting at the bus stop, I would watch the new Range Rovers leaving the factory gate. I remember thinking how wonderful they looked, and I promised myself that one day I would have one.

“On the days when I walked to school on my own, I went via Knightsbridge Road. I can still remember seeing a red Range Rover parked on the driveway of a house, and I always thought that it would be the motor I’d like to have. I only found out when I bought the book Range Rover – the First Fifty that the red Range Rover I’d seen all those years ago was actually a Velar. It was YVB 166H and the driveway it was parked on belonged to a house owned by Roger Crathorne’s mum and dad.

“A lot of the local lads ended up working at the Rover factory, just as Roger Crathorne did, but I’d always fancied a job as a train driver and that’s what I ended up doing. I started at British Rail’s Saltley depot in Birmingham in 1978 and during my six years there I became a passed man, which meant I was qualified as a driver but needed to gain on-the-job experience. I was sent to London and worked at Euston driving a shunting locomotive, spending my days moving coaches in and out of the station while my senior colleagues would drive express trains to places such as Manchester and Glasgow. In 1986 I moved to Stratford-on-Avon as a driver on local passenger services before going to Wolverhampton as a driver on the Euston mainline. My final years before retirement were spent at Leamington Spa.

Where it all started: the 1973 two-door classic that was sadly written-off after suffering accident damage

“I finally managed to buy my first Range Rover in 1984. It was a 1973 model in Davos White and I kept it for four and a half years. I had so much fun with that car, on- and off-road, and it only came to an end after it was involved in an accident and was written-off.

“As my interest developed, I started to acquire vehicles as projects that I could work on as well as having a Range Rover for daily transport and something that I could use off-road. This was another turning point, and it came about because I bought a 1990 3.9 Vogue SE intending to use it both on- and off-road, just as I had with my 1973 vehicle. The guy who maintained the 3.9 told me off for using it off-road. He said it was much too nice for that!​​​​​​

“That was when I bought a 1971 Suffix A, also in Davos White, and that became my workhorse. I did start removing all the previous owner’s updates and took it back to its original look, and then I decided to use it as the basis for a restomod, and that project is still ongoing.

Masai Red 971 Suffix A was dismantled in preparation for a full restoration which has yet to start

“I then came across another 1971 Suffix A in Masai Red, just like the one I remembered seeing on the Crathorne family driveway when I was a kid. Needless to say I had to have it, even though it was a total basket case that would require complete restoration, although that job is still pending too. I needed another workhorse so I bought a 1972 model in Tuscan Blue that had been modified with a 200Tdi engine and R380 five-speed gearbox. I drove it for a while before rebuilding it, and it is now undergoing its second rebuild in my ownership, although this has now turned into a full nut and bolt restoration.

​​​​​​

EKK 234K nearing the end of its second restoration during Richard’s ownership, with the rebuild of the 200Tdi engine and R380 gearbox soon to be completed

“The 3.9 Vogue SE was broken for parts but with three early Range Rovers in my collection in Masai Red, Davos White and Tuscan Blue, I decided that I now had everything I needed, and I’d stick with those vehicles and nothing more. But that’s not how it ended up…

“Things started going mad when an early third generation L322 Range Rover turned up on eBay. It was registered BT51 EKB and used in the James Bond film Die Another Day. I knew it was an early one and I wanted my good friend Julian Lamb to buy it. He already had a very early two-door and a press launch P38A with the famous CVC registration letters, and I suggested to him that if he bought the L322 he would have a full set of very early examples of all three generations of Range Rover.

“Well, he didn’t buy it, so it was down to me to save it for the nation! I bought it, but I couldn’t get the idea of a full set out of my head. With three classics and the L322 all I needed to do was find a decent early P38A and I would have the set myself. I knew that an early P38 needed to have the CVC registration plate and I set my heart on finding one. This is when my enthusiasm for Range Rovers
developed into a full-on obsession directed at early, factory-registered vehicles whether they were first, second or third-generation models.

“I found M751 CVC on eBay but by the time I discovered from Julian that it had been a factory Police demonstrator, it had been sold. I contacted the seller and he put me in touch with the buyer, who agreed to sell it to me for what he had paid plus the cost of the road tax he’d just bought, so I headed off to Fishguard on the train and drove the P38A back to a friend’s workshop in Earlswood near Birmingham.

“To say it was rough would be an understatement, but I set about stripping it for a full repaint and arranged for a local signwriter to replicate the Police livery it had carried when it was a factory demonstrator. While it was at the paint shop a friend brought me a magazine article that showed the histories of the six demonstrators, and it revealed that M751 CVC had ended up in the Met’s Special Escort Group. There was a photo of it carrying the red stripe livery which I thought looked better than the demonstrator scheme, so I hurriedly called the signwriter to tell him I wanted to change the colour scheme. He wasn’t best pleased because he’d ordered the vinyl to do the original job, but he agreed to make the change.

September 6, 1997, and M751 CVC is serving as control vehicle in the funeral procession of Diana, Princess of Wales

​​​​​​“I wanted to know more and in due course I was sent an email by a guy who suggested I might like to look at the video he had attached. I fell off my chair when I watched it. 751 was the control vehicle in the funeral cortège of Diana, Princess of Wales, and had followed the hearse. The video showed the vehicle carrying yet another Police livery and obviously this was the one I needed to reapply now.

“I took 751 to the Classic Motor Show at the NEC in 2012 and on the day I wasn’t there someone left contact details, and via him I was able to connect with the officer who was in the back of the motor controlling the route on the day of the funeral. He told me what radios it needed, and I spent a long time finding them as well as the correct lights. I was so lucky to find the matrix sign on the tailgate. It is the correct one and I’ve never seen another.

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“I’m very happy with its appearance now and it fits in with so many events: Land Rover shows, 999 days, Police station open days, and so on. Northamptonshire Police have borrowed it several times and have asked to use it for four events this year.

“After I’d acquired M751 CVC you could say that things started to get a bit out of control. It was a bit like being a kid in a sweetshop. I bought a 1980 Russet Brown four-door hoping that it was an early factory-owned launch or pre-production car, but it wasn’t. I bought another 1973 example for spares and still have most of it.

“A year after I bought the Princess Diana cortège control vehicle, the seller contacted me and asked if I wanted to buy M752 CVC as they had bought it to replace 751. I said I wasn’t interested but asked if I could go down to South Wales to take some photos of the two together. They were happy for me to do that and when I was there, they offered 752 at a bargain price, but still I said no. I was quite pleased with my self-restraint. But while it was on eBay it ran out of MoT and I ended up making them an offer which was accepted. It is my current workhorse.

Both vehicles were factory Police demonstrators and were eventually acquired by the Met. M752 CVC serves as Richard’s daily driver and tow vehicle

“Then I found and bought another early four-door, a 1982 model year. This was followed by M535 CVC, a 4.6 HSE factory Quality Assessment vehicle which I bought from another friend, Lincoln Hunt, together with another 1995 HSE for spares. Another basket case of a 1971 came along, so I had to buy that too. I’ll get around to rebuilding it one day.

“When JLR introduced the fourth generation L405 in 2012 it gave me another problem, because of course I now needed one to keep my set complete. I noticed the early cars were using the registration series VX12 O** and I did a DVLA Vehicle Enquiry search on all the registrations VX12 OAA to OZZ – that took a while, to put it mildly – and I found a lot of cars. Some were registered in July, but the majority were in August.

“Eventually a 2012 car turned up on eBay with a private plate. I did another DVLA search and it turned out that this was a July car. I had to buy it just to make the set of four. I later found out from Roger Crathorne that it was a Pre-production Engineering Evaluation Vehicle.

VX12 OJZ is a pre-production L405 that originally served as an Engineering Evaluation Vehicle, while BT51 EKB found fame with James Bond in Die Another Day

“With the acquisition of the L405 I really did think that it was all over, but it’s never over when it comes to feeding a Range Rover or Land Rover obsession. Having M751 CVC and M752 CVC in the collection, both of which are factory Police demonstrators and later Metropolitan Police vehicles, it was probably inevitable that I would become increasingly involved with the Police vehicle preservationists because you really do develop an enthusiasm for them. Well, that enthusiasm led me to an ex-Metropolitan Police 1996 Classic soft dash, which turned out to be the last Classic the Met Police had on its fleet.

The 1975 Carmichael Commando is the most recent addition to Richard’s collection, and is used regularly, although parking it at the supermarket can be a challenge!

“I did buy a soft dash LSE and was getting it restored but found a buyer before I finished it. The most recent purchase is a 1975 Range Rover Commando fire truck, which is another motor that I’ve always wanted. It was built in Worcester by Carmichael for Hereford and Worcester Fire Brigade and all it needed was a light restoration, as the guy I bought it from had kept most of the parts to do an external restoration.

Carmichael of Worcester wanted everyone to know who built the behemoth, and what is was called

Interior is original and complete

“The current fleet stands at 15 Range Rovers: there are nine Classics dating from 1971 to 1996, four examples of the P38A from 1994 and 1995, plus the 2002 L322 and 2012 L405. Three of them won’t see the road again (the 1973 and 1980 Classics, and the 1995 P38A). Six vehicles are currently on the road and I have staggered the road tax payments to make the outlay manageable.

“As things stand, I have no plans to increase the fleet, but you never know… On the other hand, I have been thinking that it might be sensible to reduce the collection to a more manageable size and get back to basics.

There is a certain attraction in going back to where it all began, which would mean keeping only the red, white and blue Classics. Then again, I quite like having the full set. But that would now mean finding an example of the latest fifth generation Range Rover, which might require deeper pockets than mine, at least for the foreseeable future. We’ll see.”

 

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