25 November 2022
Alisdair Cusick meets a 17-year-old who had so much fun restoring a Series I as his first car, he’s decided to make a career of it
It used to be a story you heard all the time. The enthusiastic teen, saving up odd-job money, buying a Series I for £100, then spending years restoring it as his first car. More than just cheap motoring, it was often the genesis for a lifetime’s enthusiasm for the brand. In 2022, the Land Rover landscape is totally different. Series Is are expensive and no longer a cheap way in to Land Rover ownership. As L P Hartley famously said: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”
Henry outside his workshop, with his Series I 'ponied' up for some Mountain Bike action
Step forward Series I owner Henry Anderson, of Henley-on-Thames, who bucks that trend and has done it the traditional way. He bought a 1955 86-inch aged 13 as a project, already stripped and in boxes, and then restored it as his first car. More than that, the now 17-year-old is set to start restoring them as a business. I visited his workshop for the full story.
“It started when I was five, with my auntie’s Series III. I reckon that was the spark, and you need a spark for everything,” he says. It might have been just a knackered SIII, but as is the way for so many of us as small boys, he absolutely loved it.
Statement of intent: overalls embroidered with company name
Later, thanks to family friend Pete Newcombe, of Land Rover specialist, Dingocroft, who passed Henry Land Rover posters and books, his interest in the green oval was stoked further. Also helping steer him down the path towards becoming a restorer of Series vehicles was the fact that from a young age Henry was introduced to a world of spanners and tinkering with mechanically simple vehicles. “My dad, Gary, is big in the Grey Ferguson world and I was bought a Grey Fergie when I was born, for me to start mucking about on,” he recalls.
While Henry’s upbringing held him in good stead for his Series I restoration, the fact that the car was already in bits denied him the knowledge and experience you derive from taking something apart, so figuring out how it all went back together was a bit of a challenge.
Neat, methodical working through the whole process
Neat brake lines: always a sure sign of quality workmanship
Henry has an ordered approach to his work
Nonetheless, he went on to built it up mainly on his own, with a little help from dad and Pete. “A big ideology we have as a family is doing things properly, instead of doing half-jobs, so it is something I’ve grown up with, working on tractors with dad.” Gary deserves special mention here, as it’s very apparent his calm, patient encouragement has rubbed off on his son.
The intention was for Henry to use the SI as his first car, pass his test and drive it daily. Whilst the restoration work didn’t cause Henry issues, getting insurance did. The Series I wasn’t on insurers’ everyday policy databases, and under a classic policy, the driver had to be 21 or 25, which he wasn’t. The issue was solved with help from Kim Palmer, Public Relations Manager for Land Rover and Series I owner. “He was really helpful, and I finally sorted it through Adrian Flux,” says Henry.
Henry’s enthusiasm extends to using the cars as intended
Since then, he’s used the 86-inch to get to school and back, for errands around the farm, and even off-roading. Such is his enthusiasm, Henry arranged the recent Henley-on-Thames Series Owners Club rally, and is now the local area rep for the Series One Club. “I just want to reach more people and get them out, using their cars,” he teases, knowing I haven’t used my Series I since October.
We’re standing next to his current project, a 109-inch recovery truck. “It was July 2019, I was in my village, and saw an old Land Rover tucked down a hedge,” Henry remembers. Looking closer, it was a 1959 Series II. Visiting the lady owner with his father with the intention of buying it, the pair learnt it was used in a local garage, from new, and was now the only memory of her late husband, untouched from where he last parked it in 1986. Unable to agree a sale they left, impressing on her they would restore it faithfully, if she ever changed her mind. A year later, during the first Covid lockdown, Henry was offered the car – on the proviso it stayed local and was restored respectfully. With that in mind, Henry decided he should go as far as he could with it, restoring it to a really high standard. “I thought I’d get the car exactly as it was in 1962, when the first owner had it, right down to the colour scheme.”
Original hand-painted signwriting faithfully replicated on this tow truck’s replacement door
Model painted in the original recovery truck’s livery
It was when Henry posted some pictures of the car and the work in progress online that people began contacting him asking if he could restore their car, too – not knowing he was just 17 and still in education. “My dad always said you should enjoy what you do, so it was only then that I considered starting a business for it, which inspired me even more to get this build right,” says Henry.
We’re in a conspicuously bright, spotlessly clean workshop, so what’s the story there? It is all down to an offer by Dick Bennetts, of West Surrey Racing, the respected BMW touring car team, for Henry to work there for a period. In WSR’s pristine workshop, Henry was taught about working very cleanly, as well as to a high standard. “A big part of it is getting the car right, but working in a clean environment feeds into the work on the car,” explains Henry, who sports unsoiled white overalls as we paw over his cars. “This is the way I want to go with the restorations. I’m still young and I’m still learning, working on local cars in the valley. I know Series Is well, but I’m learning about Series IIs now, and will no doubt continue to work through the generations.”
Henry's top tip: Matting agent knocks back the gloss
As we tour his characterful workshop, rich in period signage, it looks for all the world like a Land Rover version of BBC’s The Repair Shop. The Series II is a rolling chassis, with bulkhead and rear body on. You might initially be drawn to the signwriting, done traditionally by brush for period accuracy, while a close look reveals a paint finish to the bodywork that isn’t a modern maximum-gloss approach, as you find on some restorations. “They weren’t like that from the factory, so we use some matting agent just to knock it back to looks like it did in 1959,” Henry reveals. It works, and looks the better for it, as does reusing as many original fixings and fittings as possible. Originality is key to Henry.
Aside from Henry’s own cars, an original-looking local 80-inch is on the four-post lift, for work including the head gasket, valve re-seat, a tune-up and the diff bearings. Where does he get the work from? “People often see my car and comment they’d love one, or do I know anyone that restores them.” To this end, Henry now carries a ready supply of business cards advertising Anderson Classics, which seems to be doing their job, as he already has work booked in – once school is finished, that is.
It’s easy to believe that the world of early Land Rovers is overlooked by the younger generations. Yet it seems as though the allure of Lode Lane vehicles is as cross-generational as it has always been. Henry shows how far you can get with enthusiasm, encouragement and the right attitude. Keep your eyes open for more from Anderson Classics; if this is how Henry has started, imagine where he’s headed.
Contact: Henry Anderson, Anderson Classics, 07540 330234, [email protected]
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