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My Adventures with Brenda - Chapter 1

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*N.B. I’m actually 3 ½ months in now - I didn’t listen to the advice of “write a blog on it” at the time and have only thought to do so now so we’re catching up – so for the purposes of the narrative, I’ll describe things as they were*

THE DREAM

Since I was a boy of about 16, I’ve always loved Land Rover Defenders. It’s tricky to put my finger on the ‘why’; I don’t know if it’s their utilitarian nature, the (largely) unchanged design for 70 years, the silly 1940’s headlights… the fact they can go anywhere and then bring you back again or maybe it’s just the friendly chugging of the tractor-like engine. Whatever the reason, I always wanted a 'Landy'.

I had this awesome idea (at least I thought it was awesome at the time…): I could buy a Landy and adapt it, change it into a camper-van that can go anywhere! I’ve seen ‘Fast and Loud’ and ‘Wheeler Dealers’. They take a car apart and put it back together in a week so how hard can it be? OK, they have a team of 8 on Fast and Loud so maybe, working alone, it’ll maybe take me 8 weeks right? 9 at a push. Right…? Keep reading.

Earlier this year (2018) I took part in the Mongol Rally. If you don’t know, it’s a bunch of slightly odd, adventurous fools setting out from Prague to drive to Ulan Ude (Russia) in the worst, smallest, cheapest rust buckets you can get and raise money for charity while you do it. My colleague and chum Craig wrote about that here.

Whilst I was away, I had an amazing time and met some cool people – once you look past the very large guns and camo-gear the border guards in Kyrgyzstan wear, they’re really lovely & helpful. When I got back, I immediately missed it. I’m not sure if it was the ridiculous distances we drove every day, the intense heat of the deserts, the awesome things I got to see or just getting out of my comfort zone, but… I wanted more of it. Within a week, I was determined to stop just dreaming of having a Landy, I was actually going to get one. I was going to get one, modify it and use that to have road-trip based adventures to weird and wonderful places every year!

They stopped making Defenders in 2016 (except a couple of 'Special Editions') so trawling through the usual Auto-Trader, Gumtree and e-Bay, I was dismayed to see that the demand hasn’t gone anywhere and consequently, the prices of them were nearly double what they were 18 months ago. Several visits to see possible candidates and a few missed auctions, I finally won an auction and bought my very own Landy! After work, I set off immediately down the M6 for a 300 mile round trip to take her for a test drive and complete the paperwork. This is where my new adventure began –

This is ‘Brenda’ – I didn’t pick the name, her previous owners did… but it’s growing on me so I’m not sure if I want to change it.

       


She has 120,000 miles on the clock, several dents, quite a bit of corrosion (aka rust) in the foot-wells and door supports and (you can’t tell in the pic) the roof line – which should be horizontal – curves up about an inch above the driver’s door such that when the door is shut, you can still see daylight above the frame. This does a wonderful job of keeping you cool on those warm summer nights but not exactly a design feature. In short, she’s a fixer-upper.

THE PLAN

My plan was / is:
1. Tear her down to bare chassis, remove and treat all rust. (week 1)
2. Paint everything green (exact shade TBC). (week 2)
3. Rebuild her. (week 3-7)
4. Pop a roof-top tent on top & an awning on the side… maybe some cool lights. (week 8-9)
5. Drive to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. (some time next year).

To be continued...


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