It is with great pleasure that I bring you this series of articles on all things to do with off-roading. I have always enjoyed giving the benefits of my experience to others, especially to those who are new to the game.
It was in 1960 that I got to drive my first Land Rover. It was in fact a pre-production vehicle made in 1948, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was still at school, but during the holidays used to help on my Father’s building site moving building materials and hauling a variety of trailers around the site. If anything got stuck whilst I was around the workers used to say “come on David, get your Land Rover going and pull this lorry out”, and of course I enjoyed going to the rescue!
In those early days we didn’t have the nylon and polypropylene recovery ropes that we have today. We used to buy whole coils of Manila and Sizal rope from the nearby ex WD dealer, as well as chain and lengths of heavy wire rope.
When I think back, how we never broke the back of the little ‘Red Devil’ (it was painted red) I shall never know. We used to pull out quite large lorries out of the mire and those that slid into trenches and what have you.
During the early sixties we used to go ‘green laning’ on some tracks bordering the site and play ‘pirate radio’ between Land Rover and Base Station using ex-army 18, 19 & 38 radio sets. Oh what fun we had, and now all these years later I sat down and studied for the ‘amateur radio examination’. I gained my license about five years ago and was given the call sign M1AEI. My intention is to learn Morse code to enable me to upgrade to an HF license so that maybe I could become involved with a world-wide weekly ‘Net’ as it is called, at a predetermined time. There must be hundreds of Land Rover owners out there who are also amateur radio operators as well. Or short-wave listeners (SWL) who could just tune in and listen.
Back to Land Rovers. During 1963, the year of the great three month freeze, I ‘looked after’ my Father’s 1960 Series Two and the following year after passing the driving test, this vehicle was my workhorse on the site. My Father then purchased an Austin Gypsy for his runabout.
During the next few years my hobbies were Small Bore Rifle Shooting where I met Tina and we shot for Hampshire. Alongside this I was involved in Autocross and Rally Driving, using firstly a Mini upgraded with a Janspeed group 2 conversion followed by a Mini Cooper S, 970cc in which I gained my National Rally License whilst being the Competitions Secretary for the Salisbury and Shaftsbury Car Club. To think I used to drive across the Brecon Beacons at warp 7 and now I suggest that people drive “as slowly as possible”!
In 1970 we married and bought a 1958 Series Two for the Bowyer household as a useful vehicle for towing horseboxes and trailers. Then in 1974, with children coming along we purchased a brand new Series Three Seven Seater Station Wagon to tow the caravan on holidays.
At that stage my ‘final fling’ was an MGB GT V8 and prior to that a Rover 3500, and I’ve been on V8’s ever since!
I should have got shares in BP! In 1978 I bought my first Range Rover, a 1973 model and it was wonderful. Shortly after that I started buying and swapping a variety of Series One’s, and by chance in 1979 I bought Sybil my 1954 Seven Seater Station Wagon – SYB 617 which I still use daily.
It was around this time that I became part and parcel of the Land Rover Series One Club, holding the position of Secretary until 2002. The Club is the largest Land Rover Club in the world.
As a matter of interest another of my acquisitions was a Series One Fire Engine which I subsequently sold in the late eighties to Ross Floyd of the Series Two Club. He restored it and it is now on show at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon.
In 1980 we swapped the ’73 Range Rover for a brand new model which we kept until mid year 2000.
By the end of 1981, I had decided to change my career which had firstly been in building construction followed by the founding and building up of a flooring and ceramics firm in Andover, along with a rope and twine company.
That change was the founding of Britain’s first four wheel drive magazine. The first issue of Overlander 4×4 was published in May 1982 ably helped by Brian Hartley and Mike Hallett. Originally I wanted to call the magazine ‘Overland Rover’, but Brian said that there wasn’t enough to write about on the subject of solely Land Rovers and Range Rovers. How wrong can you be! Along with Brian the features writer, and Mike the technical writer I acknowledge with grateful thanks the following writers and contributors to ‘Overlander 4×4’ for it was all of you that helped found Britain’s first four wheel drive magazine:-
Tony Hutchings – founder of The Land Rover Register 1947-51, Chris Gregory – Chairman of the Association of Rover Clubs (ARC), Dave Shepherd – Features Writer, Pete Wilford – Regular cartoonist on all things to do with Land Rover a long time before even we founded a magazine, Andrew Cross – now Show Officer for the Land Rover Series One Club, Richard Beddall – then Chairman of the All Wheel Drive Club (AWDC), Sid Frisby – First introduction on ‘green laning’, Andrew Stevens – Chairman of the Land Rover Series One Club, Nick Challacombe – our man in The Jeep world, and a wealth of ocassional writers including, Brian Slingsby, Jim Wood, Ian Graham, Bill Jones, Peter Frear, Michael Gledhill, Mike Gormley, and Dave Bygrave. Also Stephen Clemenger – Price Guide, Colin Benn – Military Vehicle Conservation Group, Michael Green – West Coast Land Rover Owners Group, Simon Frazier – became my Art Designer and he founded the Austin Gypsy Register, and Jim Bradley – ‘New to the Game’ articles.
Two years later the title was bought from me by Link House who re-titled the magazine ‘Off Road and Four Wheel Drive’. I remained as it’s editor for another couple of years, but I was made redundant when Link House itself was taken over by United Press and all ‘out of house’ editors had to go.
During February 1983, Central Television asked me to get as many Land Rovers as possible together for a filming day at Eastnor Castle for the purpose of making a documentary programme to launch the new One Ten. I had just three weeks notice to get 200 vehicles together!
We proved just how well, even in those early Land Rover Club days, that both members and readers of our magazine could quickly get their act together at such short notice. ‘Seven hundred and fifty’ Land Rover Owners took part. And that was just Series 1’s, II’s, III’s, Lightweight’s, Forward Control’s, specialist and unusual Land Rovers.
Thank you to all of you for taking part on that freezing cold day.
That same year at the end of April, Overlander 4×4 magazine sponsored the Land Rover 35th Anniversary Commemorative Run from Solihull to Anglesey on the 30th of April. Just over 100 Series One’s took part on that memorable day.
By now the family had uprooted from Smannell, Andover and we moved to Zeal Monachorum in Devon which gave a growing family of three space to keep horses and me to keep more Land Rovers!
During those early magazine years we founded Britain’s first 4×4 Bookshop, now owned by Land Rover Enthusiast magazine.
In March 1986 we helped to put together a massive Land Rover meeting at Battersea Park in London to support the “Keep Land Rover British” campaign. You’ll remember the Americans wanted to buy Land Rover. But we the great British public didn’t want to see our favourite vehicle sold to the Americans did we?
To make sure the Prime Minister got the message that the British Government must not sell Land Rover to General Motors, more than ‘One Thousand’ Land Rover Owners converged on Battersea Park to sign a petition along with many supporters. This was presented at Number 10 Downing Street under Police escort with a convoy of vehicles from Series One’s to Range Rovers. Tony Hutchings handed over the petition on behalf of us all.
After I lost editorship of Off Road and Four Wheel Drive magazine, I helped to found, edit and arrange production of the 1986 ‘Land Rover Directory’, and the following year published the ARC (Association of Rover Clubs) Handbook.
During this time I got fed up with ‘deadlines’ that are part and parcel of the publishing industry, so I changed direction slightly. With 15 acres around us we founded Britain’s first Off -Road Driving School.
It took three months to build the course, then we planted over 1000 trees and shrubs and landscaped the whole area. From slow beginnings as the ‘site’ matured we reached the peak about 1998/9. By the year 2000 over 10,000 ‘pupils’ had joined us mainly from the public utility and authority sector.
And along with Keith Hart, Geoff Farmer, Mac McClaren and Ian Shacklock I’ve enjoyed teaching people to handle their vehicles off-road. To observe a lady or gentleman start off driving cautiously and in some cases as a ‘bag of nerves’ through to seeing them gain confidence under our instruction and eventually to driving superbly well being in the right gear, travelling at the right speed, tackling our obstacles and natural terrain with great aplomb has given me a huge amount of satisfaction.
During the whole of the Nineties between us at the Centre, we ran special ‘Secret Wales’ events for small groups every few weeks giving them the opportunity to put all their newly learnt skills into practice. These were very successful indeed and many lifelong friends have been made.
Stemming from these many groups a further ‘following’ of dedicated off-road enthusiasts regularly got together to form what became known as the ‘Muddy Buddies’. It was these ten or so years that brought together my portfolio of proper much needed off-road equipment and dedicated specially designed winch systems.
It was during these many years spent in the mountains of Wales that provided me with the many photo opportunities that accompanied my years of writing for the Land Rover magazines. And indeed fills me with enthusiasm to help illustrate the following series of articles.
We also used to run from time to time our two day ‘Trophy Training’ events in the huge woodlands near to us in Devon. They were fun too, with massive helpings of winching opportunities, which again provided the fuel for my zest in dreaming up the ideal winch design.
Over the years our courses have developed to dare I say it, a very professional school which includes a great number of ‘Train the Trainer’ Instructor courses.
Another enjoyable event to look forward to each year has been the BILLING Land Rover 3 day family show and off-road event. It really is quite hard work in preparing for this once a year pilgrimage to Northampton as it’s nearly 500 miles return. And when you are taking the PA unit – the Superwinch hospitality suite, marquee, arena displays and a caravan, never mind stock for sale, it all adds up to one hell of a lot of arranging!
But what an event! I’ve watched this event grow in size from small beginnings in the late eighties when Richard Green, John Cornwall and Richard Thomas thought it would be a ‘good idea’ to provide a family weekend for their magazine readers, advertisers and Clubs within the scene.
From a small field at the Billing Aquadrome it has grown to be the World’s premier Land Rover event with incredible support from those that enjoy and make a living from the world of Land Rovers.
I expect that most of you know that I set up and run the arena displays and presentations each year, a job I thoroughly enjoy. It really is wonderful to meet each year, old and new Club members with their vehicles in the arena to entertain the thousands of spectators.
Land Rover Enthusiast Magazine
If the date of this world famous Billing Show is not already in your diary, put it in now (see magazine website for dates). Why not make a long weekend of it and arrive on the Thursday? Telephone +44 (0) 1379 890056 or fax +44 (0) 1379 898244 for a priority camping /caravanning and off-road course booking form. And go to the Land Rover Enthusiast magazine website – www.landroverenthusiast.com
Looking forward to seeing you either in the main arena, or by the ringside – a cold Coke would be appreciated – or a cold beer after I’ve closed the arena! During my time behind the scenes I have been slowly developing our recovery equipment side of the Company. Much of the equipment that we supply today for world-wide markets was founded at our centre starting way back in the mid eighties. We developed the KERR rope, ‘T’-Stakes, ‘Wedgit’s’, adjustable Winching Chains, Jate Rings, BRB Winch Bumpers and Roo Bars, various Jackall accessories, including the front and rear lifting adapters, Jackmates, Waffles and off-road training and winching videos.
And out of the G10 has come another outstanding winch, the Goodwinch G12. Both the G10 and the G12’s details and specifications can be found on this website. Owning one of these winches confirms that you are a special person with a special vehicle.
I will start with Attachment Points, followed by Towing, Jacking and Winching articles. Alongside this I will refresh the site regularly by adding Off-Road Driving Techniques, in which I will teach right from the basics how to prepare your vehicle and drive it safely off-road.
For this whole series I will probably use my V8 Ninety as the main vehicle in the pics. My red Ninety is very dear to me as it has got me through hell and high water and back again on many occasions over the years. I’ve been using it since 1988. It’s done me very proud, but it’s not quite the same underneath! The original V8 got rather tired, so in early 2000 it got a transplant – a 3.9 Efi from a mid nineties Discovery – it’s lovely! Sometimes I use our blue Tdi Ninety, it’s so much cheaper to run, but give me a V8 any day.
Enjoy reading the following pages and come back every month for more.
P.S. Should you have any photographs of any of your experiences of things not quite going according to plan whilst off-roading or during recoveries, which could highlight some of my articles, please let me have them along with a caption or story on what happened.
Also if you have any photographs of your involvement with the ‘launch of the One Ten’ meeting or the ‘Keep Land Rover British’ event, they would also be appreciated.
Of course credit to you will be given under each picture.