Our video this week is a five-decade-old series Land Rover that has been converted to run on steam. Yes. You read that correctly. Retiree Frank Rothwell from Oldham in England says he spent about £24,000 building the vehicle and about 400 hours of his time. He plans to drive Mildred to work this summer, and take it to shows. Best of all, he says, “It keeps me out of the pub.”
This is a five-decade-old series Land Rover that has been converted to run on steam. That’s right, it swaps the regular engine for a steam-puffing, chimney-clad, coal-fired burner. At a cost of £24,000, the deep irony of the build isn’t lost on us. The car that became the Defender, itself a vehicle that EU law has deemed archaic and no longer fit to meet emissions rules, has been adapted to run directly on the external combustion of coal to fire a steam engine; a technology that peaked in the 1800s. For that reason alone it’s bloody wonderful. The external crankshaft, traditional steam engine nose and the fabulously old-fashioned choice of name (Mildred) are more reasons why we love it.
Pensioner Frank Rothwell, from Oldham in the English North West, spent over 400 hours on the astonishing project; 200 building the steam engine from scratch and another 200 integrating it into the car. At the moment its top speed is projected at 12-15mph, and it hasn’t really got the guts to climb hills very well, but it’s still a glorious example of proper British shedgineering. Rothwell, 67, is a retired engineer and businessman, who, by his own admission, “likes doing things that are difficult.” No kidding. “We all need a hobby,” he says in the video at the top of this article. Hats off to him for doing this instead of building ships in bottles or collecting stamps…
And you thought warming up your car was bad. Just think about having to go out and shovel coal to heat the boiler every morning before you get going.