[Updates at bottom of post]
Before I tell you about my new Land Rover, let’s recap how we got here. I’ve been admiring vintage Land Rovers for years but the idea of owning one never occurred to me. In May I spotted another one on the Cool & Vintage website. A beautiful frame-off restoration of a Defender 90 Land Rover. I clicked the “more information” link and, following a brief email exchange, learned I could buy the vehicle for about $60,000. I decided I had to have it and spent a week or two begging the folks in Lisbon, Portugal (where the company is located) to take my money. They were too busy with their latest photo shoot.
A friend of a friend told me about a UK company called Arkonik that specializes in frame-off restorations of Land Rovers. I called and learned they’d be happy to build me one for $100,000 but there was a 13 month waiting list. I strongly considered it.
At this point a friend put me in touch with a “concierge buyer” in the Bay Area. I call him Mr. Wolf and he’s an expert in vintage Land Rovers. For a finder’s fee of 10%, he agreed to find the Land Rover of my dreams. And he did. It took him a bit more than a month.
We started searching for a Defender 90 but along the way Mr. Wolf suggested I consider a Land Rover Series (I,II,III) model. These are more truck-like (loud and slow). I loved the look so we expanded the search. Last week Mr. Wolf located a 1979 Series 3 Land Rover in San Diego. The restoration was still underway and the vehicle hadn’t been spoken for.
Mr. Wolf looked at a few hundred photos and talked at length with Luke Richards, the man in charge of the restoration. He was impressed. This was it. I wired the deposit and the Land Rover was mine.
When the restoration is complete, probably by
August September October. Mr. Wolf will take it back to his facility in the Bay Area and drive it for 1,000 miles to find and fix any problems (that can occur with the most perfect restoration). Then he’ll put it on a truck and send it to me. I plan to visit Mr. Wolf during the shakeout period.
I love the idea of frame-off restoration. I love the look and charm of the older Land Rover… but I want it to be “new.” In the absence of time travel, that means taking the old car apart and rebuilding it bolt-by-bolt, nut-by-nut. I find it amazing anyone can do this, for any amount of money. Clearly a labor of love.
I don’t know the full story behind Luke Richards but at one time (perhaps still) he designed and built high-performance cars. Watch the video on his website. Somewhere along the way he and his team started restoring vintage Land Rovers. Again, check out the photo slide show on the website.
I’ll have more photos of my Land Rover as it nears completion and I’ll share them here. The color (Stone Gray) is not a Land Rover color, it’s by Mercedes. I love it.
If you had asked me yesterday how long I’ve been working on this I would have said six months. It’s been less than two. Some serious time distortion at work. I’m eager to climb in this rascal and chug up my hill but I’m enjoying the anticipation, too. Watch this space for updates.
UPDATE: (July 19, 2017): Starting to get a few more photos of the restoration. Will update this gallery as more come in.
UPDATE (July 17, 2017): Best estimate now October 1 on the short side; November 1 on the long side. Looks like an early Christmas present.
UPDATE (July 7, 2017): We’re sticking with the new drum brakes. This truck is small and light enough that front-wheel discs won’t be necessary. The restoration was going to be a soft top but they have a hardtop in stock so that’s the plan. Will had some dollars and time to the project and I can always order a soft top down the road.
UPDATE (July 1, 2017): Brief chat with Mr. Wolf as we enter what I believe is the final phase of the restoration. I had a question about the gearbox in my truck. Some of the older Series trucks did not have synchro in all gears and that is not a good thing. I believe the Series III gearbox is synchronized.
He suggested converting the front wheels from drum brakes to disc, adding that drum brakes probably wouldn’t be a problem since the truck goes so slow. I like the idea of disc brakes up front.