Well, Cooma in the Monaro region of NSW once again hosted a birthday bash for Land Rover. This time, it was its 70th. Being one of the hubs where Land Rover was used in the construction of the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme between 1949 and 1974, Cooma has always had a soft spot for the marque. It was probably, also a proving ground for the vehicle which started production only a year or so before the project began.
This year, over the Easter break, between 900 and 1000 Land Rovers of all ages and configurations converged onto the small town, gateway to the Monaro Region and close to Kosciusko National Park. It was an incredible experience driving through town, with “Welcome Land Rover” signs everywhere. Above pubs, the Land Rover flag flew in all its glory. In shop windows there were Land Rover models displayed. There were incredible Series Land Rover shaped light displays at either end of the town, and every other person you saw was adorning something Land Rover …ish, be it a cap, a t-shirt, shirt or jacket. Then, if you eased dropped on general conversation, the only thing mentioned was the Landy. It must have been embarrassing being seen driving one of those Toyota things, but, being the diplomats that we Landy owners are, the T word was rarely mentioned. Unlike the owners of those T things, testosterone isn’t a pre requisite. There were people from California, Oregon and even Maine in the USA. There were Brits, including Nick Rogers, 2IC at Jaguar Land Rover, they came from NZ and South Africa. It was amazing, and dare I say, a little emotional.
I was saddened that Arthur Goddard, the 95 year old engineer who worked alongside Maurice and Spencer Wilks in the development of Land Rover, and now lives in Brisbane, wasn’t well enough to travel to the event, but, his son attended, and gave a lovely speech at the Gala Dinner relating a beautiful story about Arthur and the Queen. Her minders wanted a sort of throne fitted to the back of a Royal Review Land Rover and Her Majesty wasn’t amused by it. Arthur came up with a better idea and arrived with the vehicle for her to look at. I’m not 100% sure of exactly what was said, but Prince Phillip apparently told the Queen that there was someone here to check the size of your bottom!! Maybe, that was Her Maj’s start of her love affair with the vehicle, as she still drives a Defender. Just as a foot note, Land Rover presented her with an automatic version, realising that she was getting older. She rejected it in favour of a manual gear box. Lol. Anyway………as usual, I digress.
British Off Road were a sponsor of the event and hopefully, helped to spread the word of their business at Forest Glenn. It was a long way for Mark, Ross , Andrew, Taz, Steve and the boys to travel with so many vehicles, including a magnificent re build of Taz’s Series 2 Forward Control, and Andrews’s Racing Buggy. Andrew gave numerous people the thrill of a lifetime racing around a track on a property a few K’s out of Cooma where the Landy Gymkhana was held. I hate to bring this up, but the saddest glitch of the event occurred at the Dinner, where Mark was invited to speak. The MC invited Mark to the stage and then realised there were relevant prompt pages missing. A bit of a stuff up, but Mark did well in saying what he did. Well done BOR.
There were numerous presentations made at the Gala Dinner and members of our club won one of those prestigious awards. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off Ian and Kay Sawyer’s faces if you tried. They were, and rightly so, elated. The gong, sponsored by Melvill and Moon, the South African Safari Equipment suppliers, was for the “Fanciest” vehicle at the show. My gut feeling was that either Ian’s rig or Taz’s Series 2 FC would both win an award, but, sadly Taz missed out. Such a shame, as it was absolute showroom condition, and such a labour of love for both Taz and his wife. I’m sure they were both lifted by the numerous comments about their stunning vehicle though.
The big event of the weekend was the parade of hundreds of vehicles through the main street of Cooma. Thousands of spectators turned out to cheer the vehicles through. You couldn’t help but get a chill down the spine and a lump in the throat. One enthusiast took a picture of every vehicle in the parade. Now, that is dedication!! After the drive through, most of the vehicles parked up in the centre of the show ground where people could parous the vehicles at leisure. In my opinion, the star of the show was a 5/8 scale model, built by an engineer from the Tamar Valley in Tasmania. We couldn’t get over the attention to detail. We asked him if it was powered by a Honda motor. He lifted the bonnet to reveal a 5/8 scaled down motor. I nearly wept at what I was looking at. It was total perfection. He started it, and low and behold, it sounded like the real thing…………. not that this wasn’t the real thing of course. Took him 4 years to build.
Numerous Series vehicles gleamed and were in absolute showroom condition. Others proudly displayed every dent and every oil drip and every bit of lichen growing in places where lichen shouldn’t grow. As much as I was in awe of those vehicles that looked like they were driven out of the showroom yesterday, it was the patina and character lines of the ones who showed every wrinkle with pride, which got me excited. Where had they been and what had they done all those years. I am the same age as Land Rover and, for the life of me, can’t remember all the places I have been and experienced. These characters have done likewise and are still around to pleasure their owners.
There is little doubt that Land Rover has moved with the times and is more often than not, the innovators of change. The other brands just copy. There is also little doubt that Land Rover people often don’t like too much change. The back lash of the DC 100 was testament to that. The only thing that looked anything Land Roverish was the badge. The people rebelled and gave JLR a tongue lashing, telling them of their dislike of that sort of change. Although tight lipped, Nick Rogers did say there was a new Defender in the wings awaiting that eventual announcement. This is Land Rover’s greatest challenge, ever. Get this wrong and they lose credibility for a long time to come. Get it right, and Toyota and the other minor brands will have a legitimate fight on their hands.
In the words of ex Land Rover Monthly magazine editor, Dave Phillips, “LAND ROVER IS FASHIONABLE BECAUSE IT IS UNFASHIONABLE; IT IS THE STATEMENT OF INDIVIDUALITY FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO REBEL AGAINST THE BLAND UNIFORMITY OF TODAY’S HOMOGENISED AUTOMOBILES”. ……………..says it all really.
Oh…………………… Rumour has it that there will be a 75th Bash. Also rumoured that Nick Rogers and his team at JLR will sponsor it. Fingers crossed that it will be back in Cooma and not, as I also heard rumour of, that it might be elsewhere. Have your say on that one………… To me, Cooma is where it all began in Oz.
Happy Rovering…………………….. Derek Little.
PS……………… I don’t intend labelling any of the pics I have chosen for the article but rest assured, they were all taken in the area.