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Yes OK, we're Land Rover nuts
Would you believe Land Rover and I share a birthday?
I've been driving Land Rovers since I had my first driving licence 46 years ago, and I've driven something like half a million miles in these vehicles over the years; I Love them! I even had Land Rover Dinky toys as a kid. But, beyond this affection, I also share a birthday with the Land Rover marque, as we were both designed and developed (if you know what I mean?) in 1947, and began to make an impact on the world the following year; in Land Rover's case, when they were launched, on the 30th April, 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show. While in my case, as a toddler, exhibiting an early ability to cross country on all-fours and acquire an impressive coating of good British mud!
So I was pleased to discover that my children have also inherited a deep fondness for these iconic British vehicles, as over the years, the family has owned nine Land Rovers,ranging from a Series IIA, through Defenders, Discoverys and Range Rovers. At Country Attire we currently run four of the breed, the latest being our brand new Defender 110 Utility XS, pictured below, a vital part of our show facilities operation. It tows our show services trailer, often assisting in vehicle recovery from the all-too-frequent rain-sodden show grounds we encounter at country fairs. It also sees service when our photographic team take to the hills seeking that perfect shot when some of our 'country attire' is actually being used.
The Royal link or the common man?
There's a strong affinity between our range of clothing brands: Barbour, Hunter, Joules, John Partridge and Driza-Bone, and with Land Rover. They fit together perfectly like strawberries and cream, or roast pork and apple sauce, both exuding that strange aura of adventure and utility, but with it - style.
It's an understated style though; you might even say a classless style, as although these are all expensive items, they are worn, owned and driven by a wide section of society, from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to the guys from our utility services.
The queen is of course a long-standing Land Rover, Barbour and Hunter aficionado; each of these products carries several royal warrants, and she and Prince Philip are often seen driving or wearing them at Balmoral or Sandringham Palace. At the other end of the scale, the men from the utility companies who repair electric or telephone lines, water or gas pipelines, would be lost without their Land Rovers. Generations of farmers, gillies, gamekeepers, shooters and
hunters, as well as country workers of every type, don't buy cheap imitations, because they know it is such false economy. These brands are expensive for the simple reason that they are very, very good, because they last and last and last! Over 60% of the Land Rovers ever made since 1948 are still operating all over the world. We at Country Attire often get requests to return Barbour jackets, 40 years old or more, for repair and reproofing at the Barbour factory, such is the affection people have for the product.
It's fun, but it's also about quality
I've had a great deal of fun in my many Land Rovers, but the early ones weren't noted for their refinement. My old Series IIA had suffered 8 hard years tough agricultural service when I bought it. It had served its formative years on a pig farm, always retaining a unmistakable odour of pig-muck, which did little for the 'street-cred' of a young stud in the 'swinging 60s'. Interestingly, it carried its own micro-environment, as the sills of the sliding windows supported a variety of mosses and fungi and a family of spiders inhabited the instrument binnacle. Series IIAs didn't come with a heater, and to avoid death from exposure, one had to graft a reclaimed heater from an ancient Rover 90. I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time checking and topping up numerous oiling points, and I remember an annoying sequence of replacing several oil-seals as oil seeped into the rear brake drums rendering them virtually useless! The cooling system had bouts of depression when it felt that life was just too much and it deposited its vital, tea-coloured fluid over the entire engine bay and frequently over me too! Tea-coloured stains on the Wranglers is NOT a good look, nor is being constantly asked if I was suffering from amoebic dysentery!
Rolled up in the back of the old 'Landie' was always my venerable oil-stained Barbour Beaufort jacket (I think it had been my Dad's). In 1968 Barbour was strictly for weather resistance; the world was yet to discover the stylistic merits of the brand. But it kept me dry on many adventures and formed an effective ground sheet for a few romantic interludes well off the beaten track (Sigh?)
The message remains the same.......buy the best!
Today I drive the truly fabulous Land Rover Discovery 4. I'd ramble on for ages if let, but suffice it to say that in spite of this car's total absence of internal fauna and flora and an unblemished two years of reliability and driving pleasure, I still love these vehicles. The fact that, in this world of austerity and recession, Land Rover is thriving as one of Britain's vaunting successes, speaks volumes for the brand.
So the message is clear - don't buy cheap imitations - always buy the best, even if it's a push to do so. And don't forget, his is the green environmental answer too; the best quality materials used with skill and economy to make long-lasting products is good for the planet, and the bonus is you get STYLE - as the Meerkat says "Simples!"