Bumper to Bumper. The traffic on Easter Sunday in Cooma was at a near standstill, but, unlike Sydney traffic during rush hour, this gridlock was a circumstance to rejoice.
It was caused entirely by the hundreds of Land Rovers participating in the Grand Parade during the Land Rover 70th Anniversary celebrations held in Cooma, NSW, over the Easter long weekend.
Why Cooma? Well, this vehicle, renowned as the farmer’s friend, has a long history with the region that extends beyond the marque’s paddock-pounding credentials. The Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme started construction in 1949, a year after the launch of the Land Rover Series 1.
While the Hydroelectric Authority had initially tested ex-military Jeeps to support its efforts in the high country, Land Rover rapidly established its credentials on the challenging tracks that formed the lifeline of construction works.
4x4 History: Land Rover
Ultimately, more than 700 Land Rovers were imported to support the Snowy Mountains Scheme. And while that number may not sound like a lot by today’s standards, consider that, in the mid-1950s the population of Cooma peaked at 16,000, this equates to one Land Rover for every 22.8 people at the time.
Little wonder this town, on the doorstep of the Snowies, has cemented its place as a spiritual hub for Land Rover in Australia, and it’s a fitting location for every 10-year anniversary since the 50th in 1998.
While the Snowy Hydro Scheme can claim a lot of credit for Land Rover’s establishment as a mainstay in Australia, this vehicle has seen service in many other walks of life. From rural fire services to the bloke on the land, a Land Rover Series 2 is arguably as iconic as an FJ Ute.
The Australian Army took on the Series 2 in 1958, commencing a long-term relationship that lasted 55 years when, in 2012, the ADF’s fleet of customised Land Rover ‘Perentie’ 110s were phased out in favour of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon.
Still, the Army’s loss is a gain for a new generation of enthusiasts, keen to capture their own piece of Land Rover history as Defence surplus is released under public auction. Australian Frontline Machinery has sold almost 2000 Ex-Defence Land Rover 4x4s and 6x6s at auction over the last four years, with more yet to be released.
Any wonder then that the 70th Anniversary celebrations attracted so much support and interest. In total, more than 900 vehicles were registered for the event, with 1600 registered participants taking part in a full weekend’s program including navigation trials, off-road trials, tag-along tours to visit local sites of interest, live music, and a gala dinner.
Open to the public on Sunday, the Cooma Showground hosted an impressive array of activities and exhibits. The main event was the Street Parade with an impressive 700 vehicles taking part, and most were displayed at the showground for the enjoyment of owners and enthusiasts alike.
The swap-meet was a magnet for those looking for rare parts and items without an RRP tag, and there was so much on offer we reckon you could have built a Series 2 from the ground up.
While many commercial exhibitors focused on Land Rover parts, accessories and servicing, there was plenty of general vehicle equipment on display, too. Some brands and products were new to the market and showed the ongoing strength of the 4x4 sector and the initiative of those operating within it, and 4WD Industries took out the prize for best exhibitor.
The team from Land Rover Experience were there as well, happy to show punters how to unlock the potential and better understand the capabilities of their Land Rover. Visitors were able to join one of the expert instructors over the Terrapod driving course, especially designed to demonstrate handling and capabilities of the Land Rover and Range Rover brands.
Destinations for the 4x4 adventurer on Explore
The crowd-pleaser was undoubtedly the 42-degree hydraulic hill climb and descent ramp, towering six metres into the sky.
Camping at the Showground was booked out months in advance and you could see Landies parked outside every hotel in town. Spend a few quiet moments with a cleansing ale or a brew at one of the town’s many pubs and cafes along the main street, and you were guaranteed to see dozens of Land Rovers crisscrossing the township on their way to and from events, enjoying all that Cooma had to offer.
The town stepped up to host a fantastic event and it was clear that visitors were only too pleased to enjoy the services and hospitality that were on offer everywhere they went. In the end, 4000 people lined the streets for the parade, and noting that Cooma only has a population of 6000, it has been estimated that the four-day event brought in more than one million dollars to the local community.
We’re already looking forward to the 80th Anniversary celebrations.
Did you know, according to RoverWorks website, there are more than 1781 Land Rovers used in movies, TV series and music videos? The Defender being the most commonly used model in TV series and feature films. Meanwhile, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have more appearances in music videos than all other luxury SUVs.
In 1995, the movie Judge Dredd showcased a customised Land Rover called a City CAB. Thirty-one City CABs were built for the movie, based around the 101 Forward Control chassis originally manufactured in the 1970s for the British Army.
And while James Bond liked his Aston Martins, he also has a soft spot for Landies. He drove a Defender in Casino Royale and Spectre. Range Rover also made appearances in Octopussy, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
And who could forget Lara Croft driving a Defender TD5 110 in Tomb Raider?
The 70th anniversary event was not an event reserved for static displays. The half-day off-road trial event, sponsored by Bearmach, allowed registered attendees to test their mettle in pursuit of trophies, grille badges and bragging rights.
The challenge had three categories: short wheelbase, medium wheelbase and long wheelbase. Walking the track before the event kicked-off, it was clear that some of the tight corners were going to prove a challenge for anything other than a compact rig.
But who could begrudge an 80-inch wheelbase Series 1 model 1948 Land Rover the opportunity to show-up its modern-day rivals? The Defender 110s, 130s and a suite of Perenties didn’t stand a chance. The other best efforts were reserved for some of the Range Rovers that were able to hit the mark (rather than the course markers) with terrain management and cornering.
One outstanding entrant was 16-year-old Kyle Stewart on his L-plates. He and his Dad drove their 1997 Defender 110 (which has an impressive 904,000km on the clock) all the way from Queensland for the event. Not only did Kyle complete the course, but he was the youngest entrant on the day. We reckon we’ll be seeing more of Kyle in years to come.
The Mini Me
Richard Edmunds from Tasmania is a Land Rover enthusiast. He is a fitter and turner by trade and decided to put his hands (and mind) into creating a 5/8th scale working model of his treasured Series 1. This little beauty took him four years to complete, including a handmade diff, bearings … the lot!
It should be recognised that this isn’t Richard’s first foray into miniaturisation. He’s also created working scale models of a 1926 12-cylinder Sunbeam Race Car and a Fowler VF Crawler Tractor. When we asked him, “Why?” Richard simply said, “Why not? Life is full of little challenges – and I love challenges.”
He went on to explain that he’s always had an appreciation of cars. “I was always interested in engines. I used to tinker and fiddle with things. But ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I wanted to build an engine. But it took until after I’d retired to start living that dream!”
The 70th Anniversary event attracted participants from across the country. A walk around the vehicles displayed at the Showground for the show-and-shine event revealed plated vehicles from every State and Territory in Australia – with the exception of the Northern Territory (did we miss you?).
This turnout was indicative of the success of the previous 10-year anniversaries. The rundown over the last three events look like this:
• 50th Anniversary: 540+ vehicles
• 60th Anniversary: 767 vehicles
• 70th Anniversary: 900+ vehicles