1976 Land Rover Series III: Our Shed
Our shed: Trav goes shopping for a pair of Landy doors and comes home with two whole cars
1976 Land Rover Series III
My love affair started on an African safari. Our Defender chomped up sand-dune after tree-root. She carted all our camping gear, and our quarry – a 250kg Kudu (antelope).
She outran a charging elephant. She broke down (tail shaft) and got straight up again (driven on two wheels). We laughed, we cried together. She was one of the crew.
So began the hunt for my very own Landy. I reckon the car I found contributed to the premature birth of our first baby. My pregnant wife and I towed a three-tonne boat from Sydney. It was 40 degrees, and the car was so hot we couldn’t touch the floor. We were cooking, and my wife gave birth that week – two months premature.
Fortunately everything went well, and three-year-old Abbey is now a happy Landy lover. The Landy in question was a 2005 Defender Extreme. A ‘diet’ version of Laura Croft’s car (of Tomb Raider fame), wearing ARB bits like service medals. I was the perfect white-collar weekend-warrior, until the white-collar took over the warrior following a work transfer to Melbourne. Kids slowed the warrior down a bit, too.
Like all Landys, it was fun to own – summoning our next adventure – but as a commuter it was a dinosaur, with disastrous ergonomics, low gearing, poor stop-start manners, it was too tall for shopping centre car parks and uncomfortable for my six-foot-two frame. But even that couldn’t kill the love affair, as it turns out.
Fishing is my other love, and it wasn’t long before I was shopping for another tow-tug. I wanted something powerful, reliable, automatic, and less than $10K which ruled out Landys, until I found ‘The Mongrel’.
I found the Series 3, AKA Mongrel, in Ballarat, home to many great barn finds. She’d been partially restored, with fresh paint and lots of reproduction parts. Most appealing was a 4.4-litre V8 Leyland motor (which shares lineage with a P76), mated to a C4 automatic gearbox, with a Detroit locker trailing behind.
It was advertised as an ‘unfinished project, goes fast, and thousands spent’; a wet dream to a 17-year-old that should’ve sent warning bells to any rational motoring enthusiast. Long story short, I bought it, finished it, got Vicroads on a good day, and have been happily towing a 2.5-tonne boat ever since. But I wanted more from this love affair.
Sadly, insurance companies don’t share my affection for old Landys. In lieu of a pathetic valuation, I went shopping for spare panels and came across a rust-free and dead-straight ’68 Series IIA short wheelbase.
The IIA is acknowledged as the definitive Landy shape, with headlights inside the front fenders, and instrument panel mid-mounted on the dash. She had everything except a motor – and an enthusiast to bring her back to life. So I bought it on the spot for $650, leaving 86 eBay bidders very disappointed.
Parts are everywhere, and very affordable, thanks to the fact millions of Landys were built, largely unchanged for over 30 years. A Top Gear episode recently claimed 70 percent are still on the road, pointing to their durability.
My new soul mate is now down to the chassis ready for a blast and zinc coating. When I’m not wire-wheeling bits in the shed, I’m heading to Shepparton, Ballarat and Bendigo, with Abbey to tow, to inspect the latest barn find. It’s a source of endless enjoyment, with highs and lows, courtships and resolutions – like any good love affair should be...
Stay tuned. Gotta go, I think a purchase just arrived in the mail! If you have Landy bits, or need bits email me at Travis.Godfredson@bauertrader.com.au
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