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Catching and scratching the Land Rover bug

By Dean Mellor, 12 Oct 2018 Opinion

Catching the Land Rover bug opinion

I bought (yet another) Landy.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of old Land Rovers. My first Landy was a 1971 Series IIA shorty that I bought off an old bloke in Tumut who had a council contract to spray all the weeds on the side of the road. The Landy had a truck-cab on it and a big drum full of weed killer mounted in the tub.

The tub was removed prior to me picking it up and over the next few years I used the IIA as a daily driver and for weekend camping trips with my wife Renata. In summer I’d unbolt the cab, whip off the window frames and drive around topless … so to speak.

Then the gearbox crapped itself and spilt its oily contents all over the garage floor. At the time I didn’t have the funds to repair it, so I sold the Landy to some bloke who hauled it away behind an old Range Rover and no doubt used it for parts. After all, it was a pretty rough unit with not a straight panel on it.

My second Landy was an ex-army Series III. This one had the atrocious 2.6-litre petrol six and, despite drinking like a sailor, it offered no discernible performance improvement over the SIIA’s 2.25-litre petrol four.

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Nevertheless, it was a hell of a lot of fun to drive, both on the road and off it. It had a canvas roof that I whipped off at every opportunity, and for longer trips away I occasionally fitted a spare truck-cab I had lying around in my shed.

In the three or so years I owned the ex-army SIII, it never let me down, and I eventually sold it for a decent profit. I then managed to go for about seven years sans Landy, but then I interviewed a bloke about his modified Defender 90 for a story in 4X4 Australia.

He explained to me how obsessed he’d become about all things Land Rover, and how he spent most of his time trawling through websites looking for the next modification he could make to his pride and joy. He sounded so enthusiastic, in fact, that I again caught the Landy bug.

The next day I found myself searching for Land Rovers on sites like eBay and Gumtree, and it wasn’t long before I was driving around looking for my next rig. As it turned out, it appeared just a couple of months later in the form of a 1994 Defender 300Tdi, and I’ve been slowly fixing and modifying it ever since.

Wheels Feature: Unearthing the original Land Rover

But I still couldn’t shake a desire to revisit my roots, and I have always kept a look out for another Series IIA shorty. Like my first one, I wanted it to be a late model with the headlights on the outer guards, but after a few months of searching I started to think I might have to compromise by settling on a Series III.

An SIII shorty that popped up on Gumtree one day appeared to tick all the boxes: it was a nice light green, it had a 2.25L petrol engine and it had recently won a prize at a Land Rover show. I drove to Sydney to look at it, but it was too expensive and the bloke selling wasn’t keen on negotiating a lower price.

Then I found an SIIA in Perth and I asked a mate to have a gander at it for me. His summation was not a good one and he reckoned I’d probably go broke trying to get the thing back on the road.

4x4 History: 70 years of Land Rover

A couple of months later I saw another SIII shorty about a half-a-day’s drive down the coast. Reading the description, I thought I’d found ‘the one’, but when I saw it in the metal I was disappointed to discover the chassis and bulkhead were both covered in rust. 

The following day I saw another late-model SIIA shorty online. This one looked superb, was registered and was the same colour as my original Landy. And best of all it was located just five minutes away!
Again, I thought the seller was asking a bit much, even though he’d completely restored the old girl. I made an offer but left empty handed once again.

Then, a couple of days later, he called me back to negotiate. We settled on a price and now I own two Land Rovers. How lucky can a bloke get?!

My ‘new’ SIIA looks just like my original Landy, except it has straight panels, fresh paint, new BF Goodrich All-Terrains and is (thus far) mechanically sound. Sure, it leaks oil over the garage floor, but I’d be worried if it didn’t.