1977 Land Rover Series III 109" FFR 'Leonard'
Loads of VW Golfs (current daily is a Mk5 2.0 GT FSI), TVR 350i (currently undergoing restoration), Land Rover 90 V8 CSW (family owned for about 20 years), Land-Rover Defender 110 TD5 CSW, Range Rover P38 4.0SE, Land Rover Defender 90 TDI CSW, Fiat Cinquecento (everyone has to start somewhere!)
"A friend knew I was into Land Rovers and mentioned her Mum had an old military Land Rover sat at the bottom of her Orchard that hadn't turned a wheel in over seven years. Being a Series III, I expected it to be rotten, but it was one of the most solid Series IIIs I'd ever seen. If I hadn't have rescued it, it would have gone for scrap, which would have been tragic. Especially as it appears that it's a VERY rare example of a Military CL specification, 12V FFR (Fitted For Radio)."
What I wish I'd known:
"I wasn't prepared for quite *how* thirsty one of these can be. I've run V8 Landies before, but the 2.25 petrol averages no more than 15mpg! It's muscle car fuel consumption for Morris Minor (at best) performance! Also, having been stood for so long, every bit of the hydraulics (clutch, brakes) needed replacing, and almost every seal had dried out. I'm still working my way through the oil leaks now!"
"It's the most unpretentious car in the world! Everyone loves an old Landie! We've all come to know him as 'Leonard', after Leonard Cohen: slow, weathered, and with many stories to tell! On a summer's day, with a load of friends, canvas tilt rolled up (or even removed altogether), it's very hard to beat for good, honest fun. I also love how simple (bordering on plain crude) the engineering is. There's nothing really that can't be tackled with a basic socket set."
Things I hate:
"Did I mention it's thirsty? It's also horrifically slow, noisy, and dreadfully under-geared with a terrible choice of gear ratios. It has a TERRIBLE ride quality, and the crude, non pre-engaged starter has let me down on a number of occasions. It's cold, draughty and the heater's barely adequate. The lack of power steering makes any kind of low-speed manoeuvre a serious physical work-out too. On the face of it, it's a pretty awful car, but I love Leonard!"
"Did I mention it's thirsty? Oh, yes I did! Other than that, it's unbelievably cheap to run. I do all my own work on Leonard, which obviously saves a lot of money on mechanics' fees. Parts for Series Landies are plentiful and dirt-cheap: a complete exhaust system for £50, a brand new indicator stalk for under £20, OE wheel cylinders for £25, and my favourite - brand new wing mirrors for £6. A PAIR! I get the majority of my parts from Paddock Land Rover Spares in Matlock. They're easy for me to get to, and always have the parts in stock. I have Leonard insured on a specialist military insurance policy for just under £120 a year, fully comp. Including buying Leonard, restoring him to roadworthy condition, tax and insurance, I was on the road for about £1,000."
Where I've been:
"The very morning I got Leonard an MOT, I drove straight to a friend's Airsoft event (held at the remains of Tuddenham airfield in Suffolk) - from Nottinghamshire! Bar a stop for fuel, and the journey to and from the MOT station, it was Leonard's first journey in over seven years! Since then, we've had various days out, including the Billing and Peterborough Land Rover Shows. Every journey in Leonard is an adventure!"
"Unfortunately, just before Christmas, the big-end bearings let go. I've put a fresh set in to buy me some time, but the engine will have to come out soon. I've picked up a 2.5 petrol out of an early 90, that I'm planning on rebuilding and fitting. With some minor mods and an LPG kit - plus the overdrive I've just picked up - it should make Leonard a bit more practical. At some point, I'll get around to repainting him too."