Mountains, clay and getting lost

Ahhh, things just weren’t going well. In the past eight months I had pulled the back end out of the Landy about five times, rebuilt the diff, axles, bearings, seals, brakes (including the master cylinder), steering rocker had broken, kingpins failed, plagued by fuel pump problems, had the engine out three times to get the clutch right – gearbox apart once, water pump, distributer fell apart – and now the darn generator light won’t go fully out. The trouble with driving a vintage vehicle is you can’t just go down to Rep-cheap and get new bits – but having said that, with the advent of the InterWebby you have access to the world of ‘know-it-alls’ and parts from everywhere – it’s just the time and cost to get them to the bottom of the Pacific.

Why was I panicking? As inevitable as the coming up of the sun, I knew that last year was probably the last time my little travelling companion was likely to come along with Dad on the annual Series One Land Rover run. Maybe it’s not quite so cool now to hang with a bunch of old farts yakking about part numbers and cruising around in the back blocks any more. This came with the other inevitable fact that I would not get away with A-framing the old chap behind a microprocessor-controlled comfortable modern 4WD, so I would be driving the whole way under my own steam (bad choice of phrase there). The mitigation plan was to book accommodation for two and persevere with the Series One. 

For our fourth annual gathering, Leon Zwetsloot settled for a ‘stay-put’ trip based on using the Erua back-packers near the National Park as the central point. Following the setup of the Yahoo group “LRSOC_NZ”, more people were showing interest in joining us this year. As the time drew near my prediction came true, and I was driving the 1,000km-plus trip by myself in a 1955 SWB Land Rover I had owned for the past 30 years and is still in daily use around the farm.

Friday dawned a stunning blue dome day for the drive to the Central Plateau. Adam and Angela Plimmer and their four boys – Austen 7, Dale 6, Leo 4 and Shane 2.5 – were leaving from Clevedon, near Auckland, in their 1955 SWB a bit before me. John Hickey and his wife Penny were looking at leaving later in the afternoon.

Nothing to report on the way down – apart from being stung on the knee cap by a wasp at Huntly.  The door tops came off at Te Kuiti to boost the air flow through the cab.

Caught up with the Plimmers at Taumaranui – no trailer this year, as they had the use of a house in Ohakune – so all six plus gear were packed into the 1955 86in soft top. I felt a bit guilty travelling along behind by myself with just a duffle bag in the back. We parted ways at Erua where I met up with Trev and Jan Collins from Tauranga. They, like Allen Hosking from Taupo, had trailered their vintage Landy. Allen left his precious ‘Awatea’ (1957 109 flat deck) in the shed and arrived with his latest toy, a 1949 80in. OK, the Collins used their Defender 90, but not sure about the X5, Allen....

Trev chose to bring their immaculate 1956 86in Station Wagon. It could be said that the Station Wagon was the precursor to the Range Rover, with full interior lining, sound deadening, seating for seven and lighter springs.

Soon the rest started to arrive from the south: Paul Furkert and Gary Beban from Carterton/Greytown in Paul’s 1949, Burt Millman and Paul Wrightman from the Hutt in Burt’s 1955, Leon Zwetsloot, Dennis Barraud and Dave Hall, also from the Hutt in Leon’s 1955, and Philip Avery in his 1949 he got from his grandfather and restored. Gillian Avery had opted to stay home this year and continue to pack, as they were leaving in a few weeks to drive their restored 1942 Dodge truck from Sicily on an eight week, 4,000km journey that will end on the historic beaches in France, scene of the Allied landings on June 6, 1944, to mark the 70th anniversary of the historic day. (Jealous?)

For the full story see the July issue of NZ4WD

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