Unremarkable... or is it?

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20 October 2023
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Quiet contemplation at the wheel of the Series II : credit: © Martin Port
Martin Port ponders whether daily driving an old Land Rover is a feat in itself

Rather embarrassingly, it’s been months since the Trans-Africa Series II last made an appearance in this site when, on that occasion, I documented the excellent pilgrimage to Anglesey in support of Kingsley Holgate’s latest expedition. So just what has happened since then?

Well, here’s the thing – the Series II is a daily driver and so for the most part, it just does the normal, relatively unremarkable stuff: school runs, dump runs, shopping trips and whatever else I need it to do in order to fulfil my day-to-day work commitments. Hardly worth writing home about, is it?

Except, perhaps it should be? I still consider it to be quite remarkable that, in a world where vehicles now have an expected life of say ten years, something that is now in its 64th year, still on the original chassis and bulkhead and running the engine, gearbox, distributor, starter motor, radiator, etc, that it left the factory with, is perfectly capable of doing pretty much everything that is expected of it. Not just that, but it brings me so much joy every single time I get behind the wheel and, perhaps just as importantly, it encourages a similar response in others.

Fourth emergency service – rescuing stricken motorbike

A recent trip to the local shop is an excellent example: when I came back out, bag in hand, an elderly couple were absorbed by the signwriting on the sides. Their accents gave it away as soon as they spoke and it transpired that they were originally from South Africa and Rhodesia and had moved to the UK a few years ago. For them, the list of locations was an emotional trip down memory lane as they recalled their childhoods, when they first met, where they lived and worked and where they raised a family.

On another occasion, I received a message from a chap who had seen the Land Rover pulling out of a junction just half a mile from his house. By his own admittance, he had to do a double-take; his son had recently bought him a copy of my Trans Africa Land Rover book and, not realising that we lived just five minutes from each other, was amazed to suddenly see the very vehicle driving past. The reason for his son gifting him the book was that he figured it might be of interest – his father had undertaken a similar journey in the early 1970s and, as a result, you will by now have read all about Philip Russell’s overland expedition in a zebra-striped ex-Zambian Army Series II ambulance.

At LRM Spares Day with Doc Sil from Last Overland and Tim Supramaniam

A trip to the Land Rover Monthly Spares Day in Newbury failed to result in any related bargains (although I did buy an old fire guard that ended up supplying some wire mesh for the grille of my Austin Seven project), but as ever, it was an excellent opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces and to make several new acquaintances… Rather helpful when you inadvertently run out of petrol on the way out of the showground and need to borrow someone’s Defender so you can go and fill up a fuel can.

On fashion shoot duties in the Surrey Hills

When a photographer friend and ex-colleague got in touch to see if he could use the Series II as a prop for an outdoor wear ‘fashion’ shoot, I figured that it would be a day out and an excuse to catch up. As the hired models and a borrowed dog clambered in, out and on top of the Land Rover, it was an opportunity to stand back and consider just how incongruous something with a list of African locations on the sides looked, nestled in the Surrey countryside. This furthered my resolve to one day take it back to sunnier climes, but then winter came along and I found myself driving along frozen tracks and revelling in the versatility of such a machine.

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With Keith Helfet – designer of the Jaguar XJ220 supercar and Land Rover fan

Then there were the frequent trips to transport my son’s motorbike around in the back. Or meeting Keith Helfet – South African-born designer of the Jaguar XJ220 who took an obvious interest in the Series II’s origins, or using the 88in as a bed in which to run and tune a 1972 Reliant engine for another project…

Test bed for engine tuning

So maybe the unremarkable is not so, after all? I may shy away from greenlane outings and I’m hardly a regular on the show scene, but there shouldn’t be any rules in this passion for Land Rovers –  merely the stipulation that you enjoy them however best suits you as the owner.

 

Spec list

1959 Series II 88in
Mileage:
Unknown
Power: 52bhp
Torque: 124lb ft
MPG: Not a clue!

 

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