You know how it is, you’re out shopping and you start talking to a stranger and inevitably the conversation turns to Land Rovers. This happened the other day when I was casually checking out The Mud Life's website in the Apple Store at the Trauma Centre, Manchester. Out of the corner of my eye I could see one of the Apple guys glancing at it as he was talking to another customer. A few moments later I heard a voice over my shoulder, "Why aren't there any Series 1's on there?" he asked. So this is for you Mr Apple guy (sorry, I forgot your name) and everyone else who has a 'thing' for Series 1 Land Rovers.
Before I begin, I want to apologise if some of you have read this before as Tinks story has been in many magazines over the years, Difflock, 4x4 Mart, Land Rover World, and I gave permission for Paddock Spares to use it in their blog.
Going back to 2005 I was enjoying the delights of my first Toyota Surf, and although she was a revelation, I was Land Rover-less, which obviously isn't good for the soul, maybe beneficial to the wallet, but not the soul.
So, the story began at the Northern MG owners rally at Scarsbrick Hall, near Southport and a chance look at a MG ZT revealed a piece of paper in the window that read, ‘1955 Land Rover Series 1 for sale, 37,000 miles, 2 owners from new, original registration and excellent condition, £1,500.’ Well, what else was I supposed to do?
Within ½ hour we had arrived at Joe's house where I was taken aback, I honestly expected to see an ex-trials motor with SAT's and not a straight panel in sight. But instead I was gawping at a very straight and original Series 1, albeit with faded and peeling paintwork that gave an overall deshabled look. She was stripped to her waist and looked perfect for summer, Joe had fitted a set of very early Discovery rims shod with bald 205's, he did however have a set of original rims if I was interested.
As I gave her the once over I was getting those tingly feelings; rear cross member, solid, chassis and bulkhead, solid. She looked original and it sounded just right as Joe started her up. I was beginning to let my guard down.
TKF’s history was straight forward he explained, her first owner was a farmer who owned her for 35 years; he used it to deliver milk on a small housing estate next to his farm. Joe had her for the last 15 years and had used her to collect wood from a nearby forest, but for the last 5 years she hadn’t moved at all. Joe said that the only reason he bought TKF all those years ago was for the registration, but once he got her MOT’d, he became hooked by her charm and decided to keep her. Joe also mentioned that he had MOT certificates that went back to the early eighties that had 22,000 miles written and proved her incredibly low miles.
Well that was it, she was like a Siren hypnotising me with her brummie accent, but just as I was about to throw my watch at him as a deposit, Muddy Madam grabbed my arm and dragged me away muttering something about not making rash decisions. If I'm being honest I didn't understand what she was talking about, but being the sensible type she knew exactly what to do in a situation like this, she took me to the nearest Italian restaurant and ordered pizza and wine.
The following day we dragged our friend Chris along to have a look at TKF, or Tink as I'd already christened her, what he doesn't know about Land Rovers frankly isn't worth knowing. I wanted to know if I was seeing her through green oval tinted glasses, or was she a real gem of a Series 1.
Chris spent a good half an hour of tapping, scraping and muttering things, Karen Lee and I prepared ourselves by being ‘real’. Then, as Chris emerged from the underside of Tink he muttered to Karen Lee, ‘If he doesn’t buy it, I will!’ So a deal was done, and I was a Land Rover owner again.
Once home I'd towed her home to Muddy Towers, I poured half a jerry can of unleaded into her fuel tank and ran her for a while whilst I made a list of things she'd require for her MOT. There wasn't that much if I'm honest, the near side headlamp wasn't working, neither was the off side rear light. Her windscreen wiper wasn't connected and one of her rear axle straps had snapped, on top of that she needed a service as she began to splutter. Maybe being moved after five years of standing still had disturbed muck in the fuel tank.
Then, as I switched off the engine, I could heard a faint sizzling noise. On opening the bonnet I saw water bubbling on the manifold, a closer inspection saw that the top hose had split and was spitting out water. As the following day was Wednesday, I would be in Tyldsley, and therefore passing Land Ranger Services, so I ordered a replacement hose and headlamp.
Whilst fitting the hose, I decided to drain, flush, and refill the water system which was straight forward, as was changing the headlamp. I then set about replacing the Discovery wheels for the date stamped originals that came with it, mainly because they looked better and had better tyres, even though they were crossplys.
By this time, booking her in for the MOT seemed like a good idea, I was under no illusion that she would pass, but at least it would start the ball rolling. Before I did that, I thought that I’d better inflate the tyres, so I drove the Surf around the back as I could then use my compressor.
I drove Tink out of my back yard and onto the back street and inflated the two off side tyres. As I was in the middle of a five point turn so I could inflate the near side tyres disaster struck, I heard a heart sinking metallic ping, then the steering wheel went all loose and came off in my hands! A close inspection found that the steering box had broke in two - oh how I laughed! Using my hi lift jack, I raised and pushed her until she was able to be reversed straight into the yard again and I found solace in a bottle of red and a huge pizza!
To find out what happened next, watch this space...