In 1976 we took ownership of our first Series 3, 1974 Land Rover. We purchased her from Alec’s uncle, a farmer in the West Midlands, after he had used it to haul pigs and potatoes for the first two years from leaving the assembly line. It took six months to convert it into a camper, in preparation for the road-trip of a lifetime. The journey began on the 4th of February 1977, covering exactly 39,583 miles and 29 countries throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Our trusty Series took us to tropical rainforests, sandy deserts and high-peaked mountains. However, what was her most defining contribution was the freedom she gave us to experience life changing moments with many individuals and different cultures across the world.
Once settled back in England, Alec used the Landy as a daily driver, commuting to and from Plymouth Airport, where he worked as chief engineer for Brymon Airways for five years. During this time, our Series underwent some extensive conversions.
Although our first big trip had drawn to a close on the 22nd of March 1978, we didn’t allow this to dwindle our desire for adventure. While in Plymouth, our Series was fitted with a Perkins 4203 diesel engine (20 imperial mpg) sourced from a local scrap yard, from the original straight six-cylinder (14 imperial mpg), which made it a little more fuel efficient for long drives. The gearbox, transfer box and overdrive were also replaced. On the outside our Series got a new look, with a respray in two tones of metallic Hammerite blue paint. The interior was also updated with added side windows, refreshed upholstery and a built in sink and gas cooker added to the kitchen worktop. In 1979 our first baby, Esther, was born and two years later Heidi came along. We adapted the sleeping arrangements in the Land Rover to accommodate our girls. From there our Series was used as an everyday family car and for frequent camping trips in England and across Europe.
After many years of enjoyment and making memories, we had to make a tough decision and put our beloved Landy up for sale, all in preparation to move to Mali — West Africa. As many will know 1985 was a hugely defining year. There was a serious declaration of famine in Ethiopia and across the Sahel, the news broadcasts took the world by a storm. Despite still being an ongoing issue today, through the help of organisations such as Live Aid, that year alone became a historical and humanitarian landmark. Alec was requested to go and set up the maintenance facility for the Cessna Caravan aircraft being brought into Mali, by Mission Aviation Fellowship. The plane was to be used in transporting food and personnel to help the famine victims in the desert region around Timbuktu. With Jan’s knowledge and background in nursing, this was going to be another new adventure our family was ready to take on together.
Our Series sold quicker than we had hoped. However, by a miracle, within three weeks of agreeing to the sale, the buyer requested the deposit returned and to our relief our Land Rover stayed in the family (phew). While the family journeyed to Africa, it was safely stored in one of Mr Buxton’s barns in the heart of Hertfordshire.
Our initial six months in Mali went by quickly. Before long we returned to England for further cross-cultural training and the arrival of our son, Charles. He was just six weeks old, when Alec hitched a small caravan to the back of our Series. Just the right additional living space for the five of us plus our home school teacher, Wendy, when we travelled to beautiful Paris for three months of language study
It was there in France that we reconnected once again with friends Michel and Colette whom we had originally met in Cameroon, nine years earlier on our epic journey. They and their two young sons welcomed us to their home each week, for French conversation and cuisine.
Upon what would become our return to live in Mali for fourteen years, we once again parted ways with our Series and she went back to the farm in Hertfordshire. You might be thinking it’s unfair to keep a Landy that’s done so much exploring cooped up for so long, but we did our best to give her three months of summer fun, including as we welcomed our fourth child Maria, turning on the ignition every twenty one months when we would return to travel all over the UK, up until 1993.
Hibernating all this time our Series was kept safe and dry in the barn. Meanwhile, during the summer of 1999, our family had moved to the Black Forest in Germany, to work at an International Boarding School. In 2003 we received a call from Mr. Buxton who was retiring and needed Alec to retrieve the Land Rover. As she would no longer pass the emissions test, with black smoke shooting out of the exhaust, our Series was transported across to Germany on a trailer. She did have a right royal welcome shortly after her arrival when in 2004 she starred in a Candlelight Dinner Theatre Show. Over the space of three evenings, one thousand people passed by our Land Rover, as they entered the auditorium to watch a dramatic play called LANDROVER ODYSSEE, which recounted the story of our journey through music, song, mime and dance.
With a very busy family life, including restoring our 1840’s house, and no adequate covered space, we unfortunately had no choice but to park our Landy at the bottom of the garden, where she sat open to the elements for fifteen years! Had we known that she was going to become famous, we should have searched for another dry barn.
During this time our patient Land Rover has quietly waited for what will happen next. Her presence provided favourable reminders, as we wrote a book about our initial 1977 epic adventure with her — Strangers like Angels — With a Devil or Two to Boot.
Valentine’s Day 2018, and after the release of our book we decided to make a pledge — To Love Our Land Rover Back To Life!
Our plan is to restore and rejuvenate her back to her former glory. With a conversion back to a straight six petrol engine and possibly the return of a Capstan winch, originally used on the 1977 trip (which we sold shortly after). We know we have a long road ahead, which will certainly involve many ups and downs, but we are determined to keep her spirit alive and possibly take her to more places she has yet to set her tyre tracks on.
Alec and Jan Forman