was in the early spring of 1978 when I first laid eyes on
the Green Rover. I had been out for a drive in my 1969 Land
Rover 88. I was feeling a little nostalgic and had decided
to drive by a house I used to live in. Sitting beside the
house under a canopy of redwood trees was a green 109 pickup.
Noticing that her tyres were sunk an inch or so into the
soil and that she had a deep coat of redwood needles, I quickly
deduced that here sat an unloved and most likely a non running
Just the month before, I had finally made the decision that
my 88 needed to be replaced by a car that could hold more
than two bales of hay and two adult dairy goats. Sitting
forlornly in front of me was the logical solution to my problem.
Posing for the camera, 2004
I got out of my 88 and knocked on the door. No one was home. I
took a quick look at the 109. She was an older model than my 1969.
Long ago, someone had sprayed her original limestone white paint
with a gray primer and Hunter green paint from a spray can. The
paint was applied to the entire body, including the zinc work
and was oxidized and peeling. The pickup top was pushed in from
a weight on top. The upholstery had a number of tears but seemed
complete. The car was shod with a set of Michelin XCL's, with
the tread almost gone. The front had a huge electric winch sitting
behind a homemade brush bar. There were holders for a pair of
European sized jerry cans in the front and a pair in the rear.
The front left wing showed deep bondo cracks. The frame seemed
solid, but the exhaust system resembled Swiss cheese. The rear
had the tail light lenses moved up and inward to allow space for
a pair of jerry cans in the rear. The rear jerry can mounts were
on the frame where the lift bars were originally located.
The license plate lamp was inverted to shine on a license plate
mounted on a camper that was no longer bolted to the car. All that
remained were large mounting holes in the bed of the car, a pair
of rusting steel water tanks sitting in the cut away rear tool boxes,
and a 5 gallon propane tank mounted below the side bench between
the right rear tyre and the the front right fuel tank.
It looked like this 109 had been outfitted as a long range expedition
car in her younger days. I imagined what she looked like back
then, A white pickup sitting atop four Michelin XCL tyres, a black
rectangular brush bar, bonnet mounted spare and a big winch up
front. A camper of some kind bolted to the bed behind the cab
and a jerry can at each corner.
In her youth, The Green Rover might have
looked much like this white Land
Rover Explorer, only with a big
winch on the front, a brush bar, jerry cans mounted on their backs
on the front bumper, a shorter camper that did not overhang the
rear body and a pair of jerry cans on the rear.
With two front under seat tanks and four jerry cans, she had
a long range. There was a decal in her front window, a stylised
88 Land Rover with words in Spanish. I wondered where this car
had gone and how she ended up here in such a sad neglected state.
Since the peeling green paint coated the water tanks and inside
of the bed, I deduced that the rattle can gray primer and hunter
green paint was applied after the camper was removed. It was love
at first sight.
I returned a couple of days later and met the owner of the Green
Rover. From him, I learned her history. She is a 1960 Land Rover,
originally sold into Eastern Canada. At some time in her past, she
moved down to New Hampshire. The person who owned the car at that
time had died and the current owner inherited her around 1974. He
brought her to California.
He was not mechanical and thought that you only needed to put
oil in the engine. He drove her until the rear differential ran
dry, put her into four wheel drive and drove her for another half
year until the transfer case went dry. She had been sitting beside
the house for almost 2 years after being towed home. I purchased
The Green Rover for US $ 350 and towed her home. Unfortunately
I only took pictures using a single roll of film and that roll
was lost undeveloped for several ears before being found and processed. So
all my early pictures are blurry.
The Red Rover, 1969 88 and the Green Rover newly purchased in March
An inspection showed that everything on the car was worn out and
loose. An old expedition Land Rover had fallen to a sad state that
very few cars recover from.
After replacing the battery and cables, I turned the engine over
on the starter motor. Everything seemed OK. Encouraged, I changed
the oil, cleaned out the sediment bowl in the fuel pump and the
float bowl in the Solex then added fresh petrol. The engine fired
right up. It was like she was telling me that she wasn't dead, just
neglected and in need of some loving help.
Early on she received her name, The Green Rover. My red 88 was
named after a children's game I used to play... Red Rover, Red Rover
send TeriAnn right over... So the Green one became "The Green Rover"
to tell her apart from the Red Rover. Not an inspired way to name
a car. But somehow it stuck even after I sold the 88.
It took a few months for me to rebuild the transfer case, replace
the differential, the loose 'U' joints and the exhaust system.
By fall of 1978 the Green Rover was mobile and registered for
the road. Since The Red Rover was my first land Rover I got
my sense of interior esthetics from the '69. One of the first
things I did to make the Green Rover mine was paint the instrument
panels black like the Red Rover's and traded running lamps. I
also switched Kodiak heaters between the two as I liked the Red
Rover's heater ducting better. Replacing the badly
worn steering box with
a good condition late IIA steering box I was offered for free made
the interior more familiar. Soon after the Green Rover
was on the road, the Red Rover with a few transplanted series
II parts was sold.
As I repaired or replaced parts I discovered a mixture of
original parts and newer parts. My guess is that the prvious
owner purchased parts from his local Land Rover dealer and upgraded
parts and assemblies with what was currently available from the
I replaced broken, missing and worn out parts I continued that
tradition, replacing parts with whatever I could find regardless
of whethere or not the part was "correct" for a 1960 Land Rover.
Around 1980 I traded the pickup top for a 109 tropical top
so things would stay dryer in the winter.
I was very fortunate early on in that I discovered an expert
Land Rover mechanic who patiently took on the role of mentor,
answered all my dumb beginner questions and was willing to patiently
show me, step by step, how to work on my Land Rover. Over 80% of
everything I know about working on Land Rovers was patiently taught
to me by Jim "Scotty" Howett over several years.
For the next fourteen years, the Green Rover led the life of a
farm vehicle. Once a week she would go to the feed store and be
loaded with seven bales of hay and several grain sacks. She carried
Dairy goats to the county fair, was loaded to the roof line in
manure once every few months and provided general support. Her
winch was used mainly to string fencing and to pull my tractor
out of trouble.
Coming home from the Santa Cruz county fair,
1985. Here she still had the metal boxes on each side of the frame
rail that carried jerry cans. The lower rear lamp was moved
to clear the jerry can. When I purchased The Green Rover the
license pate lamp was loccated on the galvanized body capping facing
upwards. Evidently to illuminate a plate mounted on the rear
of a long gone camper.
During those years I had been slowly replacing worn parts as they
broke and tightening loose parts. Whenever she needed work, I tried
to do something additional to help improve her overall condition.
Somewhere along the line, she stopped sounding like a metal bucket
partially full of loose bolts every time she went over a bump. Her
pickup top was replaced by a tropical top so I could haul feed and
livestock in the rain.
Still this ex-expedition vehicle looked like a tired, worn out
car with her peeling paint and duct-taped seat covers. Since dairy
animals need to be milked twice a day, every day, trips were few,
far between and short.
In 1992, I made the decision to change my lifestyle by selling
off the livestock. With the animals gone, I was able to start taking
camping trips more often and started work to make the Green Rover
more reliable for long distance driving.
The Green Rover, summer 1992. I had just cut the hole and
mounted a rear toolbox lid for an access door for the propane tank. Thus
begins the conversion to long range expedition Land Rover.
I started systematically replacing worn out assemblies. By mid
1995, she had had her engine and transmission rebuilt, both front
fuel tanks replaced, an new dual power brake system installed, a
new radiator installed and much more. She had gone from being a
tired farm Land Rover to a solid long distance driver. Her trips
were mostly weekend in length and she was seldom out for longer
than a week.
By the mid 1990's I was camping a lot. This
is the morning after a rain showing the right side where I sat
up my kitchen. A
2 burner camp stove ws placed on a table next to the side access
door for the built in propane tank. I slept inside on the
floor and cooked outside. Setting up camp in the rain was
Feeling the draw of the wild, I made the decision for go the full
circle and return the Green Rover back into being a long range expedition
vehicle. I decided that I wanted to take a different approach than
her original owner did. I wanted the modifications to be integral
to the car, keep the centre of gravity as low as possible and not
to add protrusions that can be ripped off by branches if I could
First I spent some time deciding what I wanted the car to be optimised
for and created a design
specification for the "New expedition Green Rover".
Once I created the specification, I spent time looking at many
modified Land Rovers, camper conversions, caravans and RVs. I took
my design specifications from the best modifications and expedition
related features that I found, added my own thoughts and modified
the Green Rover into a heavy duty long range expedition vehicle.
I spent most of my free time for a year making the modifications.
In September of 1995 I purchased a damaged Dormobile kit that
was salvaged from a wrecked Dormobile and brought it home.
1995 Palo Alto British Car Field Meet held 2 days after I got home
with the kit, before I found someone to help me remove the Dormobile
The kit I had purchased needed a lot of work. The fiber
glass roof had two major tares, the metal roof was caved in under
one of the tares making the entire side of the root a shallow V
shape. He bows that hold the pop up canvas out had rusted
to powder along the long side while the top was stored outside. The
furniture was rusty and in need of a complete refinishing. Restoration
od the kit took a lot of time, expense and effort. I also
fabricated another wardrobe and a sing stand for a second sink.
In mid-August, 1997, with the body work completed, the interior
mostly installed The Green Rover received a coat of 1973 Jaguar
British Racing Green . A week later, I loaded my Irish wolf hound,
Lacy, into the back and we started a ten week long trip through
the Western United States and Canada by driving to the Portland
All British Field Meet.
Amazing the difference a fresh paint job makes!
I had an absolutely wonderful time living in the Land Rover and
following my whims. I knew I had done the right things and most
of my designs worked better than I had hoped.
When I got back and described my expedition to friends they called
it the trip of a lifetime. As much as I enjoyed it, I sure hope
that the trip was not MY trip of a lifetime. I want to look forward
and not backwards.
I followed this trip up by participating in the Land Rover 50th
anniversary Border to Border Trans-American trek in April '98 that
went from Canada to Mexico.
Then in June '98, I lead a 10 Land Rover photo expedition into
the Eastern Arizona and Utah red rock country.
July '98 saw me driving the Green Rover to upstate New York to
participate in the ANARC Land Rover 50th anniversary meet.
Then in September '98, I closed the circle and journeyed North
to attend the Portland All British field meet where my 10 week sabbatical
started a year earlier.
During the year between the '97 and '98 Portland meets I lived
in the Green Rover on the trail for a total of 20 weeks. By a coincidence
the 20th anniversary of my purchase of the Green Rover, and the
50th anniversary of Land Rover all happened within this period.
I dream of someday loading the Green Rover onto a ship and returning
her to the place of her birth for a visit, then perhaps drive through
Europe and then who knows where.
In 1999, The Green Rover's 2-1/4L four cylinder engine and gearbox
were replaced with a Ford 302 V8 and a Borg Warner T-18 gearbox.
At the same time the steering was uprated to power steering. My
Rover now has much better performance both on and off the road.
The Green Rover and I are always looking forwards to the trip of
a lifetime. Not backwards.
Return to page top