Run by Martin Port
Owned since Sept 2016
Total mileage 22,427
Miles since acquisition four
Latest costs £264
ICE COLD IN… SHEPHERD’S BUSH
Good things apparently come to those who wait, and who am I to argue? About 18 months ago, I spotted a forum post asking for advice about an old Land-Rover with an interesting history and hastily made enquiries – initially in a professional capacity so that I could secure the story. Quickly, though, I became obsessed with the Series II and its past, and for good reason.
In the late 1950s, a young Australian named Philip Kohler was working in Northern Rhodesia. When his contract ended, he decided that he wanted to come back to the UK, but rather than just hop on a plane he opted to buy a new 88in Land-Rover and drive.
The journey took him three years as he crossed the continent – a route that he decided should be plotted on the sides of the hardtop.
The tub wore large letters identifying it as the ‘Trans-Africa’ Land-Rover, beneath which was painted a simple phrase: Haraka haraka haina mbaraka, which, loosely translated, is a Swahili proverb meaning ‘Haste haste has no blessings’ – apt for a Land-Rover intent on crossing the Sahara!
Kohler’s journey introduced him to a new vocation. While in Arusha in Tanzania, he discovered that a film company was in the area and decided to try to get work. So he turned up at 5am each day, and was eventually employed by the director – namely Howard Hawks, the man behind such films as The Big Sleep with Bogart and Bacall and the epic Rio Bravo starring John Wayne.
Hawks was filming Hatari! with Wayne when Kohler came across the unit in 1962, and there he found four months’ employment before continuing his journey and securing more film work. This time it was on The Lion with William Holden, better known for his roles in The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wild Bunch and The Towering Inferno.
Kohler eventually arrived in the UK in ’1963 and continued in the film industry as a location manager on films such as The Empire Strikes Back, The Killing Fields, Full Metal Jacket, GoldenEye and Octopussy – the Land-Rover remaining his faithful transport for many years.
He sadly passed away in 2015, shortly before I first saw his Series II where it had been sitting, undisturbed, outside the family home for 18 years. After writing the initial article and discussing the best options for preserving the Landie’s history with Mary, his partner of 53 years, I filed it in the mental archives. I was convinced that it would be snapped up by the highest bidder at some point because there was no shortage of interest.
Eighteen months on, though, the 1959 Series II is residing in Berkshire – the keys in my pocket thanks to Philip’s family. The decision to sell the house in White City meant that the Land-Rover finally had to go to a new home and, fortuitously for me, they decided that I should be given the opportunity to secure its future. A deal was done, based not necessarily on value but on what I could raise and there was almost no chance of me saying no, having coveted the SII since I first clapped eyes on it. With a frenzied flurry of activity – in which I’m ashamed to say that ‘real life’ went to the back of my mind – money was transferred, a trailer borrowed, and help enlisted. Six days after the email landed, Greg MacLeman and I were in Shepherd’s Bush, pondering how to extricate the aged vehicle.
The rescue mission drew quite a crowd: the Land-Rover was a wellloved local landmark and plenty of people stopped to take photographs, share their memories and lend a helping hand. After three hours, it was on the trailer, and my IIA did a fantastic job of towing it back to Berkshire. Initial thoughts of getting the Landie straight into the garage were tempered by burst tubes and seized brakes, so I begged for a spot at Classic Jaguar Replicas’ workshop from Oli Cottrell until I could get it to a rolling state.
My first call was to Longstone Tyres to see if it had anything that might suffice in the short-term that wasn’t going to eat too far into my non-existent budget. A set of 600 x 16 ‘bar grip’ crossplies arrived the next day and my local tyre fitters got busy. That meant we could at least push the Series II around and think about the hydraulics, but not before we’d had a look at the engine – just to satisfy our curiosity, of course!
After establishing that the motor held water and oil, we disconnected the line from the tank and dropped it into a jerrycan before priming the fuel system with the pump lever.
I dragged a bit of emery paper between the contact points and then turned the engine over on the starting handle before connecting a battery and spinning it on the starter. Within seconds, the 2286cc petrol unit burst into life and settled to a smooth idle as both Oli and I whooped in celebration!
That wasn’t bad after 18 years of inactivity, but then came news that C&SC’s top brass had suggested – to tie in with the Heroes theme – that the Landie star on our stand at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show – barely a couple of weeks off. So we had a fair amount to do to avoid a lot of pushing and winching.
THANKS TO / Philip Kohler’s family / Greg MacLeman / Oli Cottrell at Classic Jaguar / Replicas: www.jaguarreplicas.com / Longstone Tyres: 01302 714072; www.longstonetyres.co.uk
Philip Kohler realised his ambition to drive solo across the Sahara Desert in the Series II. Inset: a front garden in Shepherd’s Bush had been its home for the past 18 years.
Kohler with Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance. Complete route is painted on the hardtop. Double Landie equipe leaves White City. Trunks and contents left from African trip. Journey went from Cape Town to London. ‘Bar grips’ turned it into a rolling project. Kohler changing a wheel in the desert heat. How did it get to the NEC? See next month.