When PHOTOGRAPHER Kit Constable Maxwell's father brought SWB
petrol Land Rover CFA 612 in 1954 to replace their Willy's Jeep,
it soon became clear to Kit that this was a very special vehicle,
and was just the beginning of a long involvement with the marque.
Kit learnt to drive CFA 612
around the fields at home and had soon come to appreciate the
superior level of sophistication over the Willy's Jeep; the
Land Rover even had a heater. But it was the result of a trip
to Solihull in 1956 to have the CFA 612 serviced that Kit fully
realised the Land Rover's potential. He was given a demonstration
of the vehicle's capabilities by the Special Projects Manager
at the Land Rover test circuit, an assault course of mud, trenches,
fords and inclines.
"As the Land Rover roared up
a 1 in 1 slope, I decided that this was the only vehicle worth
having" says Kit.
CFA 612 was replaced in 1958 when Kit's father brought a
blue and white LWB Petrol station wagon. This vehicle was
converted under factory licence to a Dormobile, and was at
the time one of the ultimate travelling LWB's, capable of
sleeping four in total comfort. After one terrifying night
in a hurricane at Stornaway, Kit's father was so alarmed that
he never camped in it again.
The LWB was demoted to rounding up sheep on the estate, no
doubt dreaming of more exiting adventures. However Kit's appetite
had been whetted, and in1969, now married with two small children
(including the author of this article), he bought a limestone
LWB 6cyl petrol station wagon and drove the family to Nepal
The vehicle was converted with
the help of Land Rover Special Projects Division: A box section
was bolted to the roof holes, and the roof put on top of that.
"it was the worlds ugliest Land Rover" declared Kit, "but
the extended box section had it all.. two beds, two toy boxes,
27 cubic feet of storage space and room to stand up straight".
There were an additional two
beds "downstairs" as well as running hot water (achieved by
tapping the engine block), air conditioning (from a Cadillac),
and even a connection for an electric toothbrush. A total
of 500 feet of wire was installed to operate the numerous
circuits. Once the heavy duty springs, larger fuel tank, and
higher spec tyres had been fitted, the adventure began.
The trip took the family through
Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
India and Nepal. The sight of four redheads in this extraordinary
Land Rover was greeted with many surprised gasps, especially
when seen reversing for maximum traction up the steep slopes
of the Dragon Valley in Afghanistan and buying a carpet at
the top to sleep under because it was so cold.
The high altitude of over 11,000
feet meant that the conditions were very tough, but the Land
Rover mercifully soldiered valiantly on through the Hindu
Kush, otherwise we may have been left at the mercy of bandits.
Land Rover International
The extra height of the vehicle
meant that a number of interesting detours had to be made
around low bridges. One particularly effective "extra" was
the rear door mounted washing machine. Dirty laundry was loaded
with soap and water into the plastic tank, and after a few
hours hard driving the laundry emerged spotless!
When we finally arrived at
Kathmandu on New Years Eve, the trusty Land Rover was left
under armed guard at the King's Palace while we celebrated.
At the end of the trip, back to England six months after we
had left, the Land Rover had traversed 17 countries and 25,000
miles faultlessly, except for one puncture in Yugoslavia.
Unfortunately there have been
few opportunities to do an identical trip since 1970 due to
the ever-fluctuating political climate.
After replacing the front shock
absorbers, the Land Rover was sold to a character who drove
it to Africa, and Kit was left with the dilemma of what to
replace it with. At the same time a new, untried product had
just been released to the public: The Range Rover. "I hadn't
really thought about getting one until a friend of mine turned
up and drove it at 90mph across a stubble field in total comfort".
Remarked Kit "I was amazed; the Land Rover had only managed
He immediately ordered one,
in Sahara Dust.
"Here was a vehicle that could
do everything". In 1972 OOR 300L was the only vehicle that
could travel 500 miles, fully laden with the family and an
Irish wolfhound, in total comfort on the motorways up to the
West cost of Scotland in time to catch the tide and ford the
loch to reach the cottage at the other side, before the water
level rose above thirty inches.
The Range Rover was defeated
only once, when it got bellied down in soft mud. "It was a
race against time to dig the car out before the tide rose
and we would be submerged" says Kit.
Land Rover International
OOR 300L continued in the tradition
of camping vehicles. It was kited out with two beds, a cooker,
running water and a television. "It was cheaper than getting
baby-sitters in for the children". The spare wheel was mounted
Land Rover style on the bonnet but when it came to grief at
Windsor Safari Park when a Tiger jumped onto the bonnet and
bit through the tyre; the blast of compressed air that hit
the beast in the face was enough to send it running for cover.
We also noticed that the large
door handles were very easy to pull open from the outside,
as a bear opened the passengers door! Needless to say we didn't
invite him in, but rapidly sped off. A design fault perhaps?
The next Range Rover arrived in 1975; "A friend of mine
wanted me to tow a twenty five foot caravan to Saudi Arabia,
and I immediately suggested that I could only do the job with
a Range Rover, " stated Kit.
"We brought, a Bahamas Gold
one, with the luxuries of power steering, velour seats and
The unmodified Range Rover
was then driven the 5,000 miles to Jeddah. The trip took him
over the Taurus mountains of Southern Turkey, where briefly
abandoned broken-down vehicles would be robbed of wheels,
engine and gearbox.
The Range Rover continued through
Syria, Jordan, and across the spectacular scenery of the Nafud
desert where parts of the road were obscured by sand dunes.
The driving was very difficult due to the terrain and the
weight of the enormous caravan, but again the dependable Range
Rover design performed impeccably.
The caravan was duly delivered
to the client in Jeddah, and Kit spent a few weeks camping
in the Range Rover on the shores of the Red Sea before selling
it. "Mine and the British Ambassador's Range Rover were among
the first seen in Saudi Arabia", observed Kit . At this time
he launched a commercial and industrial photography business
"By 1980 Range Rovers were
far more numerous".
Kit's third Range Rover arrived in 1983, having been previously
owned by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. This model was
brown and equipped with Fairey overdrive. "It was full of
cobwebs", remarked Kit "hardly used at all".
It was soon regularly seen
fording the Loch in Scotland, and transporting a derelict
Lamborghini which Kit had brought as a restoration project.
On a trip to Switzerland in winter the abnormally low temperatures
froze the antifreeze, and the water pump had to be replaced.
A new one was obtained and
installed within four hours, thanks to the efficiency of the
Range Rover dealership. Unfortunately at the same time Kit
broke his leg skiing; his last memories of the car were sitting
in the boot with his leg in plaster. As a result a major Range
Rover trip was postponed.
In 1986 Kit brought a silver
4 door Vogue 5 speed. "The comfort and standard was streets
ahead of OOR 003L, " Kit declared. Although this was an up
market machine it was certainly not treated like one. The
Range Rover was taken to Devon to sample the delights of David
Bowyers Off Road Centre which proved to be a thoroughly worthwhile
"The course is excellent",
says Kit, "pleasurable and instructional. Not since the Solihull
assault course had I ever been so impressed by what these
vehicles are capable of doing".
The skills learned at the centre
began the craze of Green Laning. Every weekend the family
would put a picnic basket in the boot and head off in search
of the most inhospitable stretches of mud and slush that could
The highlight for Kit came
when the Range Rover bellied down, losing all traction in
a notorious quagmire; "Hooray! Now we can try out the new
high lift jack and winch". The mud encrusted Vogue Range Rover
became a familiar sight in the Hants and Berks Rover owners
Club, regularly competing against highly modified off-roaders
in trials, including third in class at the Ham Lane trials.
When not charging through muddy
terrain, Kit designed a series of interconnecting parts to
convert the Vogue into a fully specified camper vehicle, which
was then used for camping holidays in France.
Kit's fifth, and final Range
Rover to date was subjected to one of the toughest tests of
all; a trip across the Sahara Desert. However , this vehicle
was no rough and ready off-roader, but a Cassis coloured 1987
automatic Vogue Efi. Again the new levels of comfort, equipment,
and refinement were way ahead of all the previous models,
as was the price.
The up-rated suspension transformed
the handling, but Kit felt the Efi was only a little bit faster
than OOR 300L: "The Range Rover went slower and slower due
to their power-sapping emission equipment, but the Efi's performance
was at least improvement on the earliest ones".
Land Rover International
For the Sahara trip the Range Rover was to be as near standard
as possible. The first thing to be removed, however, was the
front spoiler, and a sump guard was installed, as well as
a long range fuel tank thermostat heater, additional battery
with charge splitter, two spare tyres mounted on the rear
bull bar, and a host of spare parts such as spark plugs, points,
distributor cap, rotor arm, leads, hoses, as well as oil,
petrol and water cans, and a foot pump. The high-lift jack
was an essential item also.
The air intake had to be modified
because it was being fouled by the position of the second
battery. Kit's self-designed slot in parts from the silver
Vogue transformed the Efi into a luxurious camper. Once loaded
up with baked beans and pot noodles the vehicle was ready
for the 9,000 mile, three month trip.
The trip took Kit through the
desolate expanse of the desert, travelling for ten days without
seeing anyone. He was thankful for the protection of the sump
guard and services of the high lift jack when the vehicle
became impaled on an unfriendly rock.
Many people have undertaken
similar trips through the Sahara in poorly prepared or incompetent
vehicles, doomed never to leave.
On one particularly difficult
section, known as the "moon flats", it was necessary to have
police permission at Illizi before attempting a crossing.
When the police learnt what
vehicle Kit was taking they replied "ah, oui, Range Rover,
c'est bon!" Needless to say permission was granted, unfortunately
some valuable camera equipment was stolen from the vehicle
right outside the police station.
Land Rover International
The lessons learned at David
Bowyer's course and the independent suspension of the Range
Rover proved invaluable. While driving in convoy across the
sea of dunes the Range Rover's running gear proved itself
again and again, frequently having to pull embarrassed Toyota
Landcruisers owners out of the treacherous ruts.
Kit was particularly impressed
by the automatic gearbox, which he said reacted faster and
more ably than he ever could . For example, when skimming
over the surface of the sand the vehicle would suddenly sink
into deeper sand; the immediately change down the auto box
ensured that no momentum was lost.
Needless to say the Range Rover
excelled itself, taking everything in its stride. "On the
journey back through Europe I drove it at 100mph, and took
it to London as soon as I returned to England", says Kit.
The only giveaway was that the air conditioning unit was blowing
out sand and dust for weeks afterwards.
From learning to drive on Land
Rovers to one of the earliest Sahara Dust coloured Range Rovers
to one of the latest Range Rovers blowing out Saharan dust,
and from Asia to Arabia to Africa, few people have had as
much experience, use and enjoyment from Rover's vehicles as
However, he feels that the
Range Rover is the machine to have. "No vehicle possesses
the unique qualities that a Range Rover has. Nothing has the
ageless lines, or the class. I would never wish to choose