Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Puff, the Magical Land Rover Series IIA

How many trans-continental overland journeys can one vehicle do in a life time?
Photo by African Snail
Here is a 1971 Land Rover Series IIA which might have completed five or six Africa overland trips...

The 1st trip:1999 - African Edventure by Dennis & Aaron
The 2nd trip: 2004 - African Snail by Murray & Moira
The 3rd trip: 2005 - Gary & Courtney
The 4th trip: 2006 - Rob, Xander & Charlie
The 5th trip: 2007 to 2014. Seven years of unknown travels!
The 6th Trip?  Potentially the current owners Jono & Joss Watkins

On June 2nd 2014, Teresa (Safari Jema) posted a photo on Facebook with another Land Rover and it immediately got my attention.  I knew the vehicle and the previous owners but had thought it had been destined for spare parts rather than more overland adventures!
Photo: Safari Jema (with the white Series III)

The brief overland history of this petrol 1971 Land Rover Series IIA 109"...
I first encountered this vehicle in 1999 under the ownership of Dennis Wilson.  Dennis was living in South Africa at the time and had completely rebuilt her (including galvanising the chassis).  He advertised for a co-driver and Aaron Frick joined the team.  The two of them drove her from South Africa to London in 1999 and documented the travels on a website named "African Edventure".

Photo by Overlandy: Aaron & Dennis
The original website described the trip as follows:
The African Edventure is an expedition from South Africa to the UK in a 1971 Series IIA Land Rover. With Laptop, mini-M satphone, video, digital and stills cameras, the whole expedition is aired in multimedia on the web site. Designed primarily as an Internet based educational project for schools, the African Edventure is the webs greatest Educational Adventure!
The Door Sticker (note the Elephant, Rhino, Giraffe and Lion)
Andy le May (Overlandy) writes about the travels with Dennis and Aaron and the Land Rover called 'Puff'...
Photo from Overlandy: Dennis & Land Rover Stuck
Five hours of playing in the mud followed. Tracks were numerous or non-existent. Between us we had three Landys, three winches, one kinetic rope, four tow strops and shackles for Africa. We used them all and broke one of the strops.
The following day I spent an interesting time in Dennis car - a series 11A which was very noisy, very hot and very bouncy. For me it was a good laugh but for Dennis it was frustrating as it was underpowered in the mud and the leaf springs acted as a mud trap and slowed down the car even more. By the time it was dark we had reached the road - a dirt road but it was a road and it was home for the night.
Years ago Dennis produced a short video clip and sent me a copy (see end of blog post for an extended edition)...

The 2nd Trip

In 2003 Dennis sold the Land Rover to Murray and Moira and a year later the two of them headed South for South Africa via the West Coast.  I believe it was at this point that the name 'Puff' was given to the Land Rover.
Murray & Moira

Photo by African Snail - Angola
The Land Rover Series IIA took a hammering over the rough muddy overland tracks in Angola...
A hard day, driving all day wondering about the choice of vehicle without power steering, on roads that take you where they want you to go. Bad piste. Plenty of mud as well as rock-hopping. Had to use mud-mats and branches on a couple of occasions, but managed to get out of trouble each time without recourse to anyone else's vehicle - not that any other vehicles were about, but there it is. As we drove on, the terrain became less dry and more jungly. It became difficult to pass anyone, which involved one hairy moment with a, rare, large lorry coming hurtling towards us requiring us to reverse speedily into the bush. This was done to our safety, but at the expense of a rear window pane through which a tree found its way in the process.

Photo by African Snail: Land Rover Series IIA in Angola

Photo by African Snail: Land Rover Series IIA Stuck

The 3rd Trip

Murray and Moira eventually sold the Land Rover to Gary & Courtney, who were looking for an overland prepped Land Rover for travels around Southern & East Africa.
Gary & Courtney (November 2005)
I can recall the day they rolled into a garage in Malawi (where I was repairing an alternator on my Defender 200Tdi) -the puff was out of this old Series and required some attention.

November 2005: Repairs underway in Malawi
A rather old video I created when I met Gary & Courtney in Malawi (the quality is rather poor, but in 2005 internet bandwidth in Malawi was very limited).

Gary & Courtney advertised the vehicle and the original advert can still be viewed: Series IIA Land Rover for Sale

The 4th Trip

Twitter: Conversations between owners
2006 - Rob Symington and two friends, Xander & Charlie, drove the 35 year old Land Rover through Africa from Cape Town to Cairo. Rob Symington's website bio mentions: "He likes road trips in old impractical vehicles that break down a lot".
A blog post on the website 'Escape the City' (which he co-founded) states:
After our summer exams we found ourselves in Cape Town staying with my godfather, the proud owners of a 1971 Series IIa Land Rover, complete with a tent bolted to the roof and a fridge in the boot. We took 97 days to travel from Cape Town to Cairo, visiting 10 countries along the way.  And we had the trip of a lifetime.

The Land Rover was driven by Rob, Xander and Charlie.  According to a message board posting, Rob and the team flew home to Edinburgh on 16th September 2006.  No mention was made of the vehicle.
Photo by Rob Symington

The 5th Trip?

There is a gap of seven years with very little history of the owners and the journeys the 4x4 undertook.

The 6th Trip

After contacting Teresa and tagging Murray and Gary on Facebook, I received a reply:  The new owner was Jono Watkins and he lived in Hoedspruit, South Africa.  A quick Google search revealed Jono's twitter account (and blog: Life on the Orphen Road) and the fact that he was looking for the history of this Land Rover, now named 'Lucy'.
Current Owner: Jono Watkins
Jono blogged on finding 'Lucy' the Land Rover...
Photo by Jono Watkins
Lucy the Land Rover was bought 3 months prior to this on Gumtree. We took a punt on this car. We knew we wanted a 4×4 vehicle but looking around they were all way out of our budget range, even at a stretch. Then one day Joss was on the train on the way back from a conference and found Lucy. She was being sold by a couple from England who had done a bit of over-landing in her while they were in southern Africa for three months. We bought it on the condition that it drove into my cousin’s Equestrian estate. K kindly let us keep it at Canterbrooke for the three months until we arrived. And when we did we found a beautiful Series 2a Land Rover.
The only problem was it didn’t start.
Be sure to read Jono & Joss's first experience driving a Land Rover Series and their trip North.

4th July 2014 update:  Jono has blogged about his involvement with the Land Rover... take a read via 'Life on the Orpen Road'

I am looking forward to following this unique Land Rover Series IIA as it continues life as an overlander!


The original photo that caught my sure to like the overland adventures of 'Safari Jema'. Additional comments have been added to the photo...


The following video highlights Dennis Wilson's overland trip from South Africa to the UK:

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