What's Your Next Adventure?
My Rear View
December 2015: There's a New Classic in Town!
it's sadly official. The production of the Iconic Defender is drawing to a
close, ending in December 2015. For that matter, the last order for a new
Defender was taken back in July.
The Defender has always been a "Classic". Evolving from the "go-anywhere",
rugged capability of the Series Land Rover; it has become a world
renowned, highly capable, off-road and on the road, modernized version of a
Series; a purpose built car, shy on comfort, but high on versatility and
The shame of it is, the discontinuance of the Defender was solely to meet market
demands and increase corporate profits. Tata, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover,
will be introducing a new "Defender", but it will be more of a cross between a
Range Rover Evoque and Kia; (yep... just another SUV), something needed for
struggling through traffic in the city, complete with a full entertainment
system and complicated electronics. The philosophy of "keep it simple and keep
it on the road" has been lost in the transition to Tata.
On the positive side, Land Rovers are known for their longevity. Considering
nearly 75% of Defenders ever built are still on the road, means they will be
around for a while; which is great because around here we are known for saying
"When we grow up, we're gonna drive a Defender!"
For those of you that are interested, we have a few copies
of "The Complete History of a Land Rover Icon - Defender",
click here to order
November, 2015: What are the chances? Twin
Bugeyes with Consecutive VINs.
Text and photos:
owned a '69 Bugeye for a number of years. The plan was to restore it, once we
had some time. Well, time just flies by, and our Bugeye patiently sat in
waiting. Time has been in real short supply, particularly since we purchased
the big building to accommodate the expanding business. Keeping up with the
demand for Series parts sales, and tryiing to deal with renovating an old
building, left us with no time to move forward on restoring the Bugeye. But
that hasn't stopped us from buying more old Rovers. It's a habit... some say a
Last month, we reluctantly brought home another
Series 2a. Bit of a basket-case, (which is why we were reluctant - we
already have a few basket cases on our hands), with a few extra parts
for us to play with. Originally, we were under the impresssion that the
truck was in much better
condition. For that matter, we did the crazy thing of "cutting a deal
over the phone", (not doing that anymore!), without even seeing a photo
of it. On arrival to close the deal, we found a roof-less, sad looking
late Series, and a whole lot of parts to be tied down to the trailer. A
bit more work than anticipated, but we thought it might make a good
project for ourselves or a customer. So back to the shop it went.
It was about a week later when we started to deal with the paper-work for
getting the registration transferred. When we punched the VIN number
into our records, at first we thought there was some sort of mistake...
it showed up as a Bugeye. A quick run out
the shop, and "Yep... it's a Bugeye!" Because of the issues when we
first picked it up, we didn't even notice the tell-tale, protruding
headlights. Back at the desk, another shocker! The VIN turned out to be
one digit off from our first Bugeye. 24435911F, meet 24435912F!
It took a while to comprehend the fact that our 2nd Bugeye came off the
production line right after our first Bugeye. "911F", (easier to say than
"Bugeye 1" and "Bugeye 2"), had been re-painted a lovely Burgandy at
some point in it's past. "912F" still has the original, but faded, green
paint. The similarities between the two are obvious to us now. 911F is a
very complete and un-molested truck. 912F has a few more issues, but
could be restored at some point in the future.
Right away we thought that it would be great to get both Bugeyes, (the
"Twins"), into the
hands of someone that would either like them restored for them, or was
willing to tackle the twins themselves? But, we were already into
discussions with a customer who was looking for an interesting project
for the Winter, and 911F has since moved on and will undergo a complete
restoration. 912F will either be restored by us, or by someone
interested in a great project.
Who knows? Maybe the Twin Bugeyes, 911F and 912F, will get re-united
again in the future!
December, 2012: How many straps does it take to
keep a Land Rover down?
Text and photos:
There are some stories that I have thought should
never be told, kept to oneself to protect the foolish... namely me. But at the
insistence of two brothers, (who are probably looking for a way to make me
look foolish), I am sharing one of my misadventures in order to possibly save
others from the same fate.
This past summer we purchased a 1958 Series 1 107"
pick-up from a customer a couple of hours away. Normally there would be at
least one brother or both to help out with winching and strapping down a truck
onto the car hauler trailer; but schedules didn't allow for it this time.
Although the truck was not a running truck, I thought I could handle the job
alone; I've done it before without any issues.
The electric winch on the trailer always makes us
look like professionals. Pull out the cable, hook it up to a strap wrapped
safely around the front axle, (pulling an old truck by the front bumper is
just asking for trouble), and bring it up to a point where it's giving just
enough weight on the trailer's hitch mount to keep the trailer from swaying
when you are on the highway, (learned this the hard way). The tedious job is
strapping it down; but even that has become a pretty quick job with four axles
straps and one safety line. Strapping the doors closed is always a good idea,
and we typically use plastic wrap to cover up the windscreen, door windows and
side or rear windows. But I didn't have any plastic wrap with me on this trip;
and besides, I was planning on taking some back country roads home, so the
likelihood of a stone flying through the windscreen was minimal.
The truck was loaded up with a few spare parts
strapped under it just before it got dark and after a traditional stop at a
Tim's for a coffee and a quick check of the straps, I continued on my way
home. The trip was uneventful; actually it was rather relaxing, listening to
the radio, interrupted occasionally by the GPS telling me to get off the
country roads and take a highway, along with it's nattering statement of
defeat, "Re-calculating, Re-calculating".
I arrived home around 10pm, talked to my wife for
a few minutes, ("Yes dear, another truck is being parked beside the barn"),
and then headed outside with a flashlight to undo the straps and get the
pick-up ready to be pushed off the trailer in the morning. But something was
wrong... very wrong. Initially I was confused, as I stared at a very different
looking Land Rover; stupid flashlight is playing tricks on me. That wasn't the
truck that I brought home. It was a pick-up that I picked-up, not
a convertible! Why does it look... oh crap! I jumped up on the trailer,
somehow thinking there should be a roof laying in the truck bed somewhere. It
had a roof when I left. Then I realized that the entire cab was missing. Oh
Somewhere out on the back roads there was a Series
1 pick-up cab and roof. Then the thought struck me; what if the missing cab
and roof caused an accident? Do I go look for it? What if I come up to an
accident scene? Do I hold up my hand and declare "I'm the idiot that lost the
top of his truck!", or do I just drive on, nodding and shaking my head in
disgust like everyone there is probably doing? No choices. I'm going to face
the consequences like a man! So I went back into the house.
My wife spotted the pale, drained-look on my face,
and asked "What's wrong? What did you do this time?" It isn't that I have a
habit of loosing Series 1 truck cabs, but I guess I've gotten myself into
silly pickles in the past. Once I explained and brought her outside to see my
dilemma, she convinced me to saddle-up, get the small utility trailer hooked
up to the other Discovery and head down the road, in search of the missing
truck cab. We had back-tracked through rain and fog, spotting things that
looked like a truck roof multiple times, discovering just how deep the ditches
were out on the
you could hide a transport truck in some of them! Well after an hour of
driving, I slowed and turned around in frustration, declaring that "someone
must have picked up the cab and we'll see it on eBay tomorrow". I was tired,
sick to my stomach, (which reminds me... it was close to midnight, and I
hadn't even had dinner yet!), and I just wanted to get back home and wallow in
There's something to be said about a woman's
intuition... my wife wouldn't let me go home. She had me turn around again and
continue the search, all based on "It's stupid to stop now; it could be just a
few miles up the road." So, we continued. And sure enough, a few miles further
and there it was; sitting on the side of the road, upside down, the opaque
plexi-glass cab windows, fully intact, grinning at me, "Hey, roof loser! What
took you so long?"
In future, I will always include a few additional
straps to ensure that what I leave with, arrives home with me; particularly,
the roof. You can never have too many straps!
September, 2012: My Favourite Car Comes with
Text and photos:
Old things are new again. That's what goes through
my mind every time I see a car commercial showing off the new "Push to
Button. Yes, there are some great
electronic security systems behind that simple, made of plastic, back-lit by
LED's, "Push to Start" button, (read "more things that can go wrong"), and to
most new drivers, it appears to be new and cool.
But, as I work on the fuel pump for our latest
acquisition, a 1957 Series 1 107" Station Wagon, I have to laugh because this
55 year-old vehicle, like our other Series
1's and 2a's, comes with a "Push to Start" button. Series Land Rovers came
with Push-Button Start from their very first Series 1 in 1948. Wow! Land Rover
was way ahead of their time! Not really... through the 30's and 40's some cars
used a direct button on the starter that was pushed by your foot. Starter
solenoids became smaller and came with the manual push-switch, so many cars
had them on the dash. Land Rover continued this simple and effective starter
mechanism right through the Series 2a models, up until 1966.
The new Start Buttons on today's cars are
typically part of a keyless entry system, eliminating any potential mechanical
failures, like your key not turning in the door. Very convenient; although I
have to question the reliability of electronic systems over mechanical
systems. When your key didn't work, you jiggled it. When your key fob doesn't
work, you take out the battery, stare at it in the hopes that all will be
miraculously fixed, put it back, call the tow truck using your cell phone, (if
you get a signal), and have your dealer hook up a computer to reset your car's
computer. That's convenient...
Most of the Series Land Rover buttons are metal,
not plastic; they last... well, so far 55 or more years. There is no
backlighting to show you were it is, (by the third or fourth push you should
be familiar with it's location). For electronic security... well, you do need
to have an ignition key in place and turned on.
An old concept has come back as a new idea; but
does it really serve any purpose? Electronic versus mechanical, convenience
versus reliability. I think someone needs to do a study. Oh wait... maybe
there's an app for that!
A Rustic Rover Resting in the Woods!
Text and photos:
before the snow started to fly here in south-western Ontario, Rich and Peter
took a drive up to the Goderich area to check
out a Series Pick-up that was abandoned in the
woods for well over twenty-five years. Our real reason for going there
was to pick-up a trailer that was made from the rear tub of a 109. The owner
mentioned that the truck itself was still out in the bush, right where it had
been left after the tub and rear-axle were pulled off to make the trailer.
Well, we just had to go check out how a Rover
survives after twenty-five years in the woods.
There had been a trail through the bush, but that was 25 years ago. Trees can
grow pretty big in the span of 25 years! So roughly 300 yards through brambles
and bushes, we came upon the
remnants of a Series 2;
(when we returned to the shop we checked
the VIN number and found that it was a 1959 109 LHD).The
photos show what
amazing condition it was in. There was a
fallen tree over the cab, which left some dents in
was really surprising was that
all of the windows in the rear cab portion remained in perfect condition.
Even the seat box was in very good condition. As with most Adventures,
bringing home the trailer was just the beginning. Next spring, we will be
returning to the bush to properly save as much as possible of the Rustic
Rover... with the owners consent of course!
2011: Barn Finds do still Happen!
Text and photos:
A special thank
you goes out to Adam, (a customer who is busy restoring a 1965 Series
2a 88), for sending us a quick email pointing out
for a 1957 Series 1 109" Pick-Up for sale. Within a
few hours, the truck was purchased, (sight unseen... never did that before!),
over the phone.
photos... well, we all know most Land Rovers all look good in the
The birmabright body panels are
typically in good condition, at least not rusted out like other 50+ year old
So two nights later,
with the trailer behind the Discovery, we headed North for a
few hours to the Collingwood area.
found the country property without any issues, (other than driving past it the
first time and having to turn the truck and trailer around in someone's
laneway - not easy on a narrow gravel road!), drove up the
country farm lane past the large turn of the century farmhouse, to the barn
with it's large barn doors already
swung wide open.
walked in, and yep! Barn Find! Stored for
years, undercover, just waiting for us.
young fellow that owned it helped fill a tire with air, and to our surprise,
we rolled it out of the barn and up to the trailer. Of course we talked
so much that by the time we got the truck loaded on the trailer, it was
getting dark. But we learned about the truck's history, how it spent the first
many years of it's life further North, in Algonguin Park, playing the role of
maintenance tools and people carrier for a logging camp, (back then,
logging was allowed in
Algonquin Provincial Park). From there, she worked for a number of years at a
construction company and at some point in the early '80's, was set aside for
restoration. Some years later, un-restored but still waiting, it was sold to
the present family and stored in the barn 7 or 8 years ago. And then we came
along... So we said our goodbyes, promised to let them know when the truck was
restored, and headed out with our latest treasure, only visible when
Discovery's brake lights were on.
After arriving back home in
Cambridge, (shortly after midnight), we had to leave the truck on the trailer,
simply because it was too dark to unload. That made for a sleepless night!
Next morning we rolled her off the trailer, washed her up, and christened her
And yes, Peter is at his limit for
project trucks sitting beside the shop. His wife said so...
2010: That Series, (serious), Nagging Attraction
Text and photos:
Well, we couldn't let a summer go
by without bringing home something of interest.
My wife Donna and I made a
trip to the Ottawa area to take a look at a 1967 Series 2a 5-Door 109 Station
A few weeks earlier, I had emailed and called in response to a Kijiji ad for
the truck. It wasn't that we needed another project, or another parts truck
sitting outside of one of our shops; but there is this attraction. A nagging
attraction... It nags you while you're working. It nags you when you wake up.
You just keep thinking, "Hmmm, wonder if it would make a good project? Maybe
it has some good parts for our other projects. What's one more truck?" My
initial interest in this truck was the potential for some parts for Sandman,
our '67 "NADA", (Land Rover's "North American Dollar Area" marketing attempt
at winning back customers that complained of a lack of power from the 2.25 liter 4 cylinder engine by installing a 2.6 liter 6 cylinder engine).
Sandman's 6 cylinder engine is presently undergoing a full re-build, and we
could use some parts. From the photos in the ad, I could tell that the
"breakfast", (front grill), looked as though it had been moved forward.
Through a few more emails, it was confirmed that the original 6 cylinder
engine had been replaced with a Chevy straight 6. Well,
wouldn't be any engine parts that we could use. There went my excuse for
needing the truck. But I kept telling myself, "It is one of the rarer of the
Series Land Rovers". "It's a NADA"... . And the nagging attraction
So I convinced myself, and my two
brothers, and my wife, that we should at least just take a look at the truck;
purely for the sake of looking. Maybe do a little write-up on the truck's
history, splash a few photos around on our web site. But just... look at it.
Donna and I were spending a weekend
on our sailboat, (which happens to be roughly half-way to Ottawa from our home
in Cambridge); and it was a rainy Sunday morning. Sailing in the rain? Well,
you need to be an avid sailor to really enjoy sailing in the rain. We may be
avid "beginner" sailors, but we are both still attached to that romantic view
of sailing on a sun-drenched lake with a balmy breeze bringing us to our next
destination; and of course, sunset cruises. A rainy day made for the perfect
excuse to make the road trip further north-east to Ottawa... "just to look at
We met with a few of the family
members of the previous owner and spent a number of hours
enjoying the family's stories of trips into the bush in their father's Land
Rover, and how he maintained and kept the truck running over the years. Originally, their father had an older 88" Series Land Rover, but the
need for additional seating prompted the purchase of the '67 109" 5-Door
Station Wagon in 1973. At that time, it was 6 years old, and the engine,
(already having been swapped for the Chevy straight 6 by the previous owners),
was suffering from over-heating problems. Their father, being the ultimate
handyman, neighbourhood Mr. Fix-it, custom made a radiator cowl to better
direct the flow of air through the radiator. Problem solved, and with the
extra room, more family trips to their bush property outside of town. As the
years went on, the truck ended up behind the garage, parked in the grass,
never to be sold; even when the original owners offered to buy the truck back.
It was their father's truck, and remained that way for nearly 40 years.
I inspected the truck for the
typical issues, finding that the years it had spent parked in the grass had
caused the frame and under-carriage to be seriously rotted away. The gas tank
was seeping the sweet smell of old deteriorated gasoline, the bulkhead and
door frames were
rusted through; but on the positive side, the body panels, windows and
interior were in relatively good condition. Definitely a parts truck
candidate... and that's what I convinced myself that it would be. But during
the week before going back to Ottawa to pick up the "parts truck", I started
thinking of the history, the family's stories, and their father's dedication
to keeping his truck for many years.
And so it started again... the
Yes, we have another restoration
project truck; a 1967 Series 2a 5-Door NADA Station Wagon.
April 4, 2010: Zen and
the Art of Land Rover Re-building
Text: David Baker
I'm not sure if there is anything 'Zen-like'
about re-building a Series Land Rover... Perhaps it's more a fluctuating state
between excitement and despair. I'm not sure that I've ever experienced that
altered state of consciousness that could be described as Zen, but I have a
sneaking suspicion that it is rarely associated with the mechanical aspects of
a Land Rover.
The yearning to convert that dilapidated pile
of steel and Bermabrite seen in a field behind a barn with trees growing
through the floor, is best described as a romantic dream of a life that most
of us have never lived.
Memories of 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom'
race through my mind when I first walk through the tall savanna-like grass to
get a good look at the fabled beast of burden, somehow I see past the slightly
sagging bodywork with its chalking coats of brush-applied paint and it's
smashed windows and flat tires. I tend to avoid looking underneath, knowing
full well that what I will see there will be more holes than solid metal,
after all a new frame is almost a given for the happy ending to this dream. A
look under the hood reveals a lump of cast iron and aluminum sporting a thick
mixture of (protective) grease and dirt, usually no air filter and a maze of
old wires mixed with what could possibly be... Baling wire? No matter, it's
all within the realm of possibility in those early stages of love. I tend to
look past all of the faults that glare out at me, most of which are probably
responsible for relegating it to this field in the first place. But why?
I long for those times in my childhood,
running through the orchards with my friends armed with our BB guns in search
of the terrifying Cape Buffalo or Lion, lying in the tall grass with ears
attuned to every little rustle and sound, eyes picking out any movement in the
next row of cherry trees, only to jump in fright when the neighbor's cat comes
into view. We were Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler, and all we were missing to
complete the fantasy were the Land Rovers to chase them with. It's not that
I'm going to drive around looking for wild animals, but I can sure look the
part... A little.
So begins the adventure, making the deal
with the present owner without letting him in on the secret vision of
perfection that clouds your view whenever you look toward anything Land Rover,
lest you pay way too much for it (although by this time your judgement is so
skewed that you would pretty much pay anything for it if you had the money in
your pocket). Then making arrangements to drag it out of the field by brute
force... Winch, tractor, manpower... Whatever. Now you load it onto a trailer
and strap it down really well so that nothing falls off while going down the
highway, (duct tape is perfect for temporary hood and door latch security),
make sure the roof is actually fastened to the vehicle and not just sitting on
there (don't ask me how I know this step). Making sure all is well with the
better half before plunking your new pride and joy beside her vehicle in the
driveway... Or conversely, making sure she's not home when you shove it behind
the garage. Then comes the requisite setting of the lawn chairs at optimum
viewing angles, a few cold beers and perhaps a fine cuban cigar, followed by a
few hours of staring at the new acquisition and the slow methodical mental
list-making of parts and work required. The list, however, soon becomes so
long that you abandon it altogether and just settle for a good vacuum to rid
the interior of years of 'work sediment', for after all most of these vehicles
were intended and used for just that... Work.
And so it begins...
April 5, 2010:
The importance of Corrosion Filtering Glasses
Text: David Baker
So now you have the beauty queen sitting
pretty in your shop and you continue to walk around it, crawl under it and
over it, and stare under the hood trying to identify all of the past owners'
transgressions and fixes.
You know that it is inevitable that you will
soon have to begin to cut, wrench, drill and generally destroy many former
threaded fasteners which now resemble nuggets of coral... With no discernible
thread or hexagonal shape whatsoever, in order to reduce your 'project' down
to workable bits and pieces. These will reveal the beast in it's simplest
form, components to be painstakingly cleaned and stripped and painted and then
put onto that shelf over on the far side of the shop to await re-assembly.
You've probably lost sleep thinking about how
you're going to do this, it seems so straight forward, take everything off and
examine it to see if it meets your wavering mental bar of perfection. That bar, when faced with rusted swivel balls, is lowered ever so
slightly under the weight of the cost of new ones. Then make the decision to
replace or refinish those parts that will make up your re-born gem that will
proudly adorn your driveway. And so you tackle the obvious and visually
impressive chores first, doors and roof, fenders and box. Then comes the
initially intimidating jobs like bulkhead removal, which require unplugging
all of the wires and hoses that connect the CPU (gauges) to the engine, and
then the surprisingly easy task of engine and transmission extraction.
All of this work produces a number of
things; Dirty and bloody knuckles for one, a box full of zip-loc bags loaded
with rusted and unrecognizable hardware, and a heap of various dirty and
corroded parts that you hope you will remember the origin of in a few months.
All of this also produces another thing, the nagging suspicion that you've
made a terrible mistake and just produced a pile of scrap that is the
equivalent monetary value of a family trip to Cuba for a week. You realize
that if this Everest-sized project is to have any hope of completion the
better half had better not sense your growing trepidation, because without her
support (tolerance), the nightmare of parts before you will end up at the
metal re-cyclers and the dream of cruising through town under the admiring
looks of your male and female fans will be just that, a dream. You tell
yourself that no matter what, this dream cannot die... Not to mention the fact
that you've told everybody that will listen of your planned schedule of
completion, and after all, it's just money right?
So maybe you should just spring for the new
galvanized chassis from the U.K... After all, you want this thing to be a
surviving testament to your fortitude, determination and sense of adventure
long after you're gone.
What's a few thousand more? You could always
start delivering pizza's on weekends to finance the project. It's this vision
of adventure at the end of the tunnel that makes you go out into the shop on
those cold nights when you would rather sit and watch T.V. It's this vision
that allows you to see past the pile of rust under the frame that becomes
deeper every time you use the impact wrench. Or perhaps it's this blurred
vision that comes as a result of another piece of #@%* British folklore
becoming lodged in your eye again.
Keep the dream alive fellow restorers!
3 Brothers Classic Rovers
17 Gold Street
Paris, ON N3L