My Start with Land Rovers – Way Back

This article first appeared on my new Land Rover Log, but I thought I would run it here just for your consideration.

Don's Land Rover in front of Foreign Car Parts
Don’s Land Rover in front of Foreign Car Parts

I didn’t just dream up this current Land Rover desire out of nowhere. Nope, back in the mid-80s when I was in college, I bought my first car – an MGB. I loved that car and drove it everywhere … until I drove it into the back of a stopped car as I was coming around a curve on Lockwood Boulevard here in Charleston. I won’t say the folks in the stopped car were doing anything wrong or wanting to get hit, but I will say that at least one of them got out of the car already wearing a neck brace.

That wreck trashed the MG and since I was a poor college student without comprehensive insurance, I would be fixing it or replacing it on my own dime. That is a different story altogether, but it lays the groundwork for me needing something to drive. Luckily I was working at a car parts store, Foreign Car Parts, that was owned by a very kind hearted guy, Donald Brown. Now understand that Don had come to be more than a boss to me. He was a friend, a mentor, and a guide. He and his wife, Stephanie, in a way treated me as the son they never had. Most everything I know about British cars I owe to Don. When I first bought my MG and discovered that I had to learn to take care of it, he is the one who taught me how. When I discovered that I needed to pay for parts, he gave me a part time job. That could have been because I was spending so much time in the shop anyway, but either way, it was a generous thing to do.

And then I wrecked my MG. And Don came to my rescue. He had a Series II Land Rover, 1969 or 70 I think, that he said I could use until I fixed the MG or found something else. All I had to do was get the clutch hydraulics working and get the Land Rover insured and then I could use it. Well turns out that the clutch slave cylinder just needed rebuilding. Of course, that job started with a sheered off bleeder valve, but in the end, it was a fairly easy and straightforward job. A good education too – as were most tasks Don gave me to do. And since the MG was off the road, I just switched the insurance over to the Land Rover. Voila, I was on the road again as Marlin Perkins!

I drove that Land Rover for about a year before I found a replacement, non-crumpled, body for my MGB and got everything swapped over. During that time I enjoyed running over obstacles, driving through ditches, and watching water splash up through the rusted out floor boards. I was also dating the girl who would become my wife, and she enjoyed climbing up on top of the Land Rover for sunbathing sessions while I worked on the MG. That is Nancy to the right in the picture below, sitting on the Land Rover. The woman on the left is Stephanie, Don Brown’s wife. Stephanie is the owner of the yellow Chevy Nova behind her, and if you look carefully in the lower left of the picture you can just see the disassembled nose of the MG.

Nancy on Land Rover with Stephanie Brown
Nancy on Land Rover with Stephanie Brown

I learned many lessons while using the Land Rover, but here are just a few:

  • Aluminum bodywork (actually Birmabright) doesn’t stand up well against the direct puncturing impact from the front bumper brackets of a Rover 3500S hulk that you have failed to secure properly to the trailer you are towing it on.
  • If you are going to tow a car on a trailer, be sure it is secured from rolling forward as well as backward – especially if you decide to make it easier to roll by swinging by the neighborhood gas station to air up the tires. Said car will then move in ways you hadn’t expected when you hit the brakes suddenly on the tow vehicle.
  • Your father, dressed in suit and tie for church, doesn’t experience the same joy as you from running through deep salt-water puddles and watching the water plumes come up through the floorboards.
  • People tend to get out of the way of large lumbering vehicles with big steel bumpers. At least once they finish staring.
  • If you are going to test your off-road prowess by driving through ditches, you should make sure you have enough gas first. If not, your vehicle will run out of gas in the center of the ditch and become sunk up above the hubs in mud before you can walk to the gas station and return with more fuel.
  • When you become mired in a ditch and decide to use the bumper mounted winch to extricate yourself, you can use a telephone pole across the street as an anchor point. However, you should make sure that no traffic attempts to come through, and you should also pay close attention to how far up you are anchoring the winch and how much your winching is bending the aforementioned telephone pole.
  • Windshield defrosters, and heat for that matter, on a Series Land Rover are more of a good idea than an actual functioning piece of equipment. Heck, that applies to all creature comforts on these trucks.

That Land Rover was a good one. Unfortunately, I had to return it when the MG was rebuilt, and it went on to be sold and then find a life in the North Carolina mountains. I hope it is still up there having a good life and teaching other over anxious young folk valuable life skills.

Michael Carnell
Editor at Just British

Michael Carnell is the editor and founder of the Just British Online Motoring Magazine. As a lifelong British car enthusiast, he has owned or driven British cars of all ages from Austins and MGs to Jaguars and Triumphs. He currently owns a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 and a 1977 MGB. But there is always room for more - no matter what his wife says.


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