Land Rover Series 3 in rugged Waitakere
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James Hutchinson's Land Rover Series 3 109 is a bit of a local fixture in his rugged Waitakere coast community, regularly spotted running to and from the beach and disgorging dog, baby and assorted surf-related paraphernalia.
He bought the 1982 Landie five years ago, having always wanted one. He likes the fact they're so utilitarian "and kind of reliable in the sense they can keep going".
"They say more than 70 per cent of the Land Rovers ever made are still roadworthy," he says referring to a 1992 Land Rover claim.
Rover came up with the Land Rover concept back in 1947, a light agricultural and utility vehicle similar to the wartime Willys Jeep. It entered production a year later, using a steel box-section chassis and an aluminium body.
The Series II launched in 1958 with two wheelbase versions - an 88-inch and 109-inch (2.8m), with a slightly more refined look, followed by the Series III from 1971; the most common of the first three series, with 440,000 built before it was replaced by the Defender in 1985.
Even then, many parts were carried over. This makes them easy to find for classic owners needing bits, one bonus to James' choice of family vehicle.
This one was imported from the UK about 17 years ago, and has the 3.5-litre V8 engine, the same as that chosen for most of the 566 Land Rovers bought by the New Zealand army in 1982 and 1983, another source of parts for owners today.
When James bought his, it was in reasonable running condition; and it's been used as a daily driver since. He's a design director working in animation, film and TV, mostly from home, "And it's been really handy for shoots," as it'll carry almost anything.
The family also load their 14-month-old son and the dog aboard, hitch up their tiny 2.4m, NZ-built Cupid caravan and head out on holiday, as far afield as Taranaki and Cape Reinga, though not far off-road.
James says their son loves it. "He can see out, and it's so light inside."
What's it like to fit the car seat? "The seats don't really adjust, so we have two child seats, one per car." The car seat is bolted permanently in, facing backwards.
"I do wish it didn't have an LPG bottle in the boot- it's dual fuel - but you wouldn't want to run a V8 on petrol every day." As for whether it's PC these days to run a large petrol engine, James theorises that the longer you can keep things going, the more environmentally sound they are, once you factor in the materials and costs of manufacture and scrap.
He does some of the regular maintenance but says he's lucky that he inherited the previous owner's mechanic, who has looked after it for 16 years. "I think he thinks of it as 'our car', which is kind of good ... "
It's a timeless vehicle, he says. Children recognise it as old, but it resembles a recent one and it stands out on the road, when "all cars nowadays look the same."
So ... is it reliable? "It has its moments, but I guarantee you spend a lot less on it than other cars. Parts are cheap."
It cooked an engine. "Another one cost $1000 and you could probably replace the whole engine for 2K, which was cheaper than rebuilding the old one."
His Landie costs him because of where he lives, he says, as it clocks up the kilometres, though the engine's always warm before he sits in traffic. But like any old car, there's always lots to be done on ongoing maintenance."
Plus the little things. "I wish I was an auto electrician at the moment, as it's got earth issues."
"And being an old Landie, "it's had years of electric fixes here and there and eventually you have to pull the loom out and start again."
"Indeed, one day he'd like to take it off the road and restore it. "Not too far, not a repaint, I like how it is -- that patina. It looks as if it's living life."
He'd also like to add a short wheelbase Series 2 to the stable, "I like the smaller ones, it'd be complementary: I don't know if I'm a glutton for punishment but I could work on one and drive one."
And that's just how classic collections begin ...
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