Starting to look like a truck

When Luke Richards started restoring this truck he was going to make it a soft top to take full advantage of the beautiful California weather. And my first thought was for a soft top, too. Missouri winters be damned! But in the end I decided to invest the extra money (and time) in a hardtop which I can remove in warmer weather. Six months on, six months off.

Can’t tell from the photo above but it looks like the seats might be in, so I’d say we’re getting close.

Land Rover Series III Driving Techniques

Frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of off-road vehicles. ATV, dirt bikes, etc. But after watch a whole bunch of videos showing Land Rovers doing impossible things in all kinds of terrain, I’m getting a little tingle.

Mind you, I have few legitimate reasons to go “off road,” but a couple of times a year a big rain will completely wash out the gravel road leading to our house. Deep ruts that would swallow my MINI whole. I’ll be sure to post videos.

Fear not, I’m going to spend some time practicing this kind of driving, starting with gentle roadside ditches and farm pastures.

PS: Looks like this video was produced in 1972 but the voice-over sounds like 1955.


Apparently it is not uncommon to name one’s old Land Rover. This is Fergus and he (it?) belongs to a new acquaintance in the Kansas City area.

You can’t look too close- it needs a frame, and isn’t restored but is set up to take it into the forest for firewood. We left the dents in the body, rough cut the rear bulkhead out for more legroom, added comfortable suspension seats, and lifted it a bit with parabolics and OME sport shocks. One day I will take it apart again for a frame swap and better engine. The 2.25 gas just doesn’t have enough power to be safe on the highway. I lose 10 mph just going up hills!

I believe this is a Series IIa and I think it’s beautiful. I’m fond of the bikini top and will probably go that route next next spring. Here’s another angle on Fergus.

Return of the Land Rover Defender?

I can’t get too snooty about these “new and improved” Defenders since my Series III was produced in Santana, Spain. Far from merry olde England. But there is something so very appealing to me about having an old truck that has been lovingly and meticulously restored. As opposed to a spanking new model that “looks like” the old ones.

A long time coming, Automotive News is now reporting details sourced from Land Rover about a brand-new Defender (UK production of the old model ceased in January 2016). The new Defender should debut in 2019, and is intended for all global markets. Multiple body styles will be available, and the company assures us the new Defender will look plenty Defender-y, without falling into the retro design trap.

Unlike the old Defender’s aluminum panels stamped over a steel frame, the new model will be a modern aluminum unibody, much like the current Range Rover. While many will surely bemoan the Defender’s loss of a traditional frame, it’s quite necessary for crash ratings, emissions standards, comfort, practicality, platform sharing, and probably 210 other reasons. Full story »

And these new Land Rovers will probably be produced in Slovakia.

What’s a clutch?

I’ve never given a thought to having a car stolen. No annoying alarm, no Club. And I’ve never owned a car that would be particularly attractive to car thieves. In a couple of months I’ll be driving a truck that might very well catch a thief’s eye. My friend George pointed out few car thieves could drive my Land Rover because it has a manual transmission. Could that be right, I wondered?

According to U.S. News and World Report “only 18 percent of U.S. drivers know how to operate a stick shift” and “only about 5 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. today come with a stick shift. That’s down from 25 percent of cars in 1987.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t really any data that proves that cars/trucks with manual transmissions are stolen less frequently. “In some cases, if the thief was smart, the car could be put in neutral and pushed away.” (story)

I have a little trouble picturing a car thief pushing a car unless the chop shop is around the corner. I suppose a truly sophisticated effort could involve a flat-bed truck. They’ll need to be quick about however, because my tracking device will alert me if the truck is moved.

Lucra Cars

While in San Diego this week I went up the road to San Marcos to visit Lucra Cars and see my 1979 Series III Land Rover truck and meet Luke Richards.

I had never met Luke or even spoken to him on the phone. All of my contact has been through Grayson Wolf, the “concierge buyer” who found the truck at Lucra Cars. Luke welcomed me warmly and gave me a tour of his operation and a close-up look at my truck which is nearing completion.

When I arrived Eric and Ron (above) were working on my truck. Luke explained that he had been restoring the truck for his own use when Mr. Wolf contacted him and persuaded him to sell it.

For the next 45 minutes Luke showed me all of the tiny improvements that make this restored Land Rover better than it was when it rolled off the line in Santana, Spain. Luke prefers to restore Land Rovers from the Santana plant because they’re always in better shape than the ones he gets from the UK (which are “usually shit”).

There were a couple of other Land Rovers in some stage of restoration but I think they were all Defenders. Mine was the only Series I saw. He had some more outside that were too far gone for restoration and — I assume — were salvaged for parts.

Luke finished up the tour with a visit to a nearby shop that (I think) did custom design and fabrication of aluminum body parts. The hardtop on my truck had some bad spots and this was where they repaired and replaced those.

I noticed some movie posters on the walls and asked about them. Turns out Luke and this shop have done some custom vehicles you heave — and will — see in the movies. (They told me but I can’t tell you). Photo below is Luke and Curt, owner of CRB Aluminum Fabrication Services

When Luke and Company finish the restoration it goes to Mr. Wolfe (in the Bay Area) where he’ll drive it to break in the rebuilt diesel engine properly and find/fix anything that might have been missed during the restoration. During this period I’ll go out to meet Mr. Wolf and get a crash course on old Series trucks. When it’s as good as he can make it, Mr. Wolf will load my new toy on a truck and ship it to me. I’m hoping by October 1. [Restoration photo gallery]


Jaguar Land Rover’s Restoration Shop

“Walking into the new Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works facility in Coventry, England — basically a massive 150,000-square-foot repair and restoration shop — the contrast is startling. Ancient, beaten-down Defenders, with their doors barely hanging on and their engines hopeless, rusted hulks, sit on spotless floors under lighting fit for a surgical theater rather than in gritty, equally ancient garages as technicians in crisp uniforms pore over them.”

Story and more photos »