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04 July 2024
No sooner had Julie got her latest project home, she set about sorting good from bad : credit: © Julie Swift
How reader Julie Swift’s equine roots has led to a passion for Land Rovers

My love for cars began at an early age. My mother owned an MGB GT, and we would spend most summer weekends at car shows. I can remember them from as early as five and my dad telling me that if anyone at the gate asks how old I am, to tell them that I’m four, much to my dismay.

Owning horses growing up, I had always been around Land Rovers so that love naturally developed. My first Land Rover was a Freelander, an obvious choice.

Freelanders are so light that they skip along the paddocks without leaving a trace, but are tough enough to carry out all the necessary jobs while tending horses.

Julie’s a fan of the old L-Series diesel over the newer Td4

My first Freelander (and first car, for that matter) was a 2000 three-door L-Series diesel. I loved that Land Rover but my mechanical knowledge at the time was quite minimal; as anyone who’s ever had an L-Series-powered Freelander will know, they really do just keep going until they die beyond repair, as was this one’s sad fate in the end.

Looking for a replacement – but wanting something a little newer and a bit more refined – brought along my 2002 Td4, and I soon had to brush up on my mechanical knowledge and car maintenance skills.

Subtle mods have added character to her Monte Carlo Blue three-door Td4

Whilst she has been quirky, she’s never let me down. I’ve done a fair few miles in her with regular trips from Lincolnshire to Kent to visit family. But as much as I was enjoying Td4 ownership, I did miss my rugged old, straightforward L-Series.

I had spotted a nice R-reg L-Series for sale but the time wasn’t right, so I let it pass me by; it was subsequently advertised a couple of times, but the third time it came up for sale I took it as a sign.

No prizes for guessing Julie’s favourite colour

Which is how I became the proud owner of a very early 1998 Cobar Blue L-series Freelander. She’s my pride and joy; I don’t know what it is about this little car, but I love her heaps. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia with so much MG/Rover DNA in her.

Purely by accident (though some may call it pure impulse), I came across a very sad-looking 1972 Series III 109. She had been laid up for some time in a bush as her old owner had become unwell, so she was sold as part of a yard clearance. Any sane person would have scrapped her or broken her for parts, but I’m not that person…

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‘Olive’ the Series III heralds a leap into the leaf-sprung life

Now in my ownership and affectionately named Olive, operation stripdown soon began. Day one brought a good wash and assessment of the main weak spots, those being the bulkhead and chassis – they appeared to be in good condition, but like most restoration jobs the more you strip back the more ‘good’ becomes ‘oh look, another rust hole’.

I came to the conclusion that neither the bulkhead nor the chassis were worth saving. I felt that her structural integrity would be compromised and if you’re going to do a job, do it properly.

A galvanised chassis is on Julie’s shopping list for her latest project

I’ve been shopping around at the LRM Spares Days and on Facebook Marketplace for Series III parts and learning lots as I go along. I now have a new donor engine, as the original was quite far gone – 15 litres of water drained out of it before anything that even slightly resembled oil trickled from its innards. Luckily her gearbox and Fairey overdrive are in good order and still had oil in them.

So far, most parts have been cleaned and prepped and I am currently reconditioning the rear tub, including removal and clean-up of the tub crossmembers. Two of them were completely corroded, but a local Landy nut and friend kindly gifted me two replacements, plus a whole bundle of Series III goodies he no longer needed. I am always humbled by the kindness and generosity of fellow Land Rover owners.

Having taken a step back from the horse world which can be a bit of a cliquey place at times, the Land Rover world has been a breath of fresh air.

The grand plan for Olive now is to pick up a new galvanised chassis instead of trying to fix the lacework that is the old one, and then the fun really begins – reassembly!



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