Tag Archives: driving

The Grizzly Torque


Grizzly Torque, circa 1957

In the fall of 1956, Bristol Foster was itching to get out and explore the world. He had recently finished his masters degree in biology at the University of Toronto. Foster immediately thought of his friend, Robert Bateman as an ideal travel companion. The two men mapped out a trip that involved crossing four continents. They only needed a vehicle.


Foster and Bateman picking up the Grizzly Torque in England

“… it had to be a Land Rover,” says Bristol Foster. So they ordered a 1957 Series I with an ambulance body. Foster went to Solihull to pick up the Rover, and get trained on their off road course. Bateman arrived later and they took the Series I on a shake down trip through Scotland.


Camping out of the Torque

Foster & Bateman set off for Africa with the newly christened Grizzly Torque. They had agreed to send regular articles and illustrations documenting their trip back to the Toronto Telegram, where they became known as The Rover Boys.

The Rover Boys had a very loose schedule. There was a general direction they meant the trip to follow, but the route taken from Point A to Point B was by no means a straight line. They were free to do as they wished, at a time when this type of travel was ideal. Today, it would be virtually impossible to make the same trek. Not only due to safety concerns, but the difficulty of getting visas throughout the area.

In the Belgian Congo, the little four cylinder engine whined from the excessive load. Some thirty members of the Mbuti tribe were crammed into and onto the Land Rover along with the two Canadians up front. They bounced along a forest track, with the tribe members laughing and singing traditional hunting songs. Foster and Bateman were in Africa, on an adventure of a lifetime. Robert Bateman, thinking back on that time said, “One of the greatest senses of freedom I think we’ve ever had.”

Bateman, now a renown Canadian artist and naturalist, painted small murals along the body of the Grizzly Torque, documenting the places they traveled through. The artwork is stunning, and no doubt caused some excitement with the people they met along the way.


Elephant meets Grizzly

The trip was not without unexpected “adventures”. The Grizzly Torque was flipped over on its side in India, after swerving to avoid a bicyclist. A window was lost in the crash, and was replaced with plexiglass.

In total, The Rover Boys traveled over 60,000 kms, through 19 countries, on 4 continents over 14 months with their Grizzly Torque. The trip ended in Australia with the Land Rover being shipped back to Vancouver after traveling throughout the Australian Outback. From there, the Grizzly Torque continued to be well traveled.

Foster used it on what was then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, as he pursued his doctorate. It was eventually sold to a student studying peccaries in Texas. The student was raising a juvenile eagle at the time, and the raptor learned to perch up front between the seats. As an adult, the eagle rode happily along, all across the state of Texas, on various expeditions. The student returned to British Columbia with the Land Rover, where he sold the Grizzly Torque to a rancher. Things become murky after that. At some point, the well traveled Land Rover gets sand blasted down to bare metal, painted light blue, losing the wonderful murals, and its identity. The old Rover then spends decades out of the public view.


A blue Torque (?)

Stuart Longair now enters the story. A rancher has four old Land Rovers out in a field, and he wants them gone. Longair, has been a Land Rover cult member from an early age, since riding along with his father in a Series I as a young boy. He buys all four Rovers, sight unseen. The now, faded blue Grizzly Torque, spends the next decade out in another field. Then Longair comes across an old picture of Foster & Bateman with the Grizzly Torque, and he starts to wonder about the neglected Rover he purchased over a decade ago. Longair gets a hold of Bristol Foster, and convinces him to come out and look over the blue Rover. Foster immediately recognized the Grizzly Torque under all of the neglect, but to make sure he went over to the driver’s side door, and found that it was still fitted with the replacement plexiglass from India.


The Grizzly Torque restored

Now that Longair knew that he had a piece of not only Land Rover history, but Canadian history too, he went about restoring the Grizzly Torque. Working off of old photos, Robert Bateman himself, repainted the Rover’s murals along the flat sides.


The Rover Boys reunite with a restored Grizzly Torque


The restored Grizzly Torque and its repainted murals


The eagle in the Grizzly Torque, somewhere in Texas

Photos credit: Bristol Foster & Robert Bateman; Video credit: Land Rover


Off road Buggy


Slow Motion

Has it really been four + years, since The Rover has traveled Outside? I received that reminder earlier in the week, which did catch me by surprise, I have to admit. Seems like just yesterday. Time does have the habit of sneaking up on you, doesn’t it?


The Rover traveling down Route 66

I clearly remember this section of Route 66. I was traveling along, the only vehicle on the highway, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a silver Porsche blew past me. I saw brake lights, and the Porsche hovered in the opposing lane, off The Rover’s left, front fender. The passenger window was lowered, and a camera, with an extraordinarily large lens, appeared from the passenger window pointed directly at The Rover & I. One click later, I received a “thumbs up” sign, the camera retreated back into the car, and the silver Porsche disappeared down the brick-colored highway in a flash.

“Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.”
— Hunter S. Thompson — at Kickin’ it on 66.


The Mississippi

Itasca County, Minnesota

As The Boys and I explored the Chippewa National Forest, we crossed the Mississippi River several times.

Its a small river this far north, as we were only an hours drive from its headwaters at Lake Itasca.

It was a beautiful day to spend some time along the northern banks of the mighty river.


Walleye Capital of the World

Garrison, Minnesota

On the shores of Mille Lacs Lake.


Gary Cooper’s Duesenberg SSJ


1935 Duesenberg Special Speedster Model J; Photo credit: Gooding & Co.

The ’35 Duesenberg SSJ was the fastest pre-WWII production road car, with speeds reaching 140mph in 1935. It is powered by a supercharged 420 cubic inch DOHC eight cylinder, which produced 400 HP.


The Duesenberg Straight Eight; Photo credit Gooding & Co.

This incredible vehicle went up for auction this past weekend during the famed Monterey Car Week. Gary Cooper once owned this SSJ; it was one of several Duesenbergs the actor owned during his lifetime. The Duesenberg was eventually bought by road racer , car manufacturer and America’s Cup winner, Briggs Cunningham. The Cunningham collection was bought by Miles Collier. It is Collier and the REVS Institute that is auctioning the car.


The Duesenberg SSJ at REVS Institute; Photo credit: Circle-to-Circle

I had the opportunity to see this famed Duesenberg at the REVS Institute, when the Frozen Foursome visited Tampa in April of 2016. It really is a remarkable machine. Absolutely stunning, with beautiful lines. Even today, it must be something very special to drive.


The Duesenberg’s cockpit at the REVS Institute; Photo credit: CtoC

The Duesenberg SSJ was sold at the Pebble Beach Auction for $22 million. At that price, the Duesenberg becomes the most expensive American made car ever sold at auction. It also became the most expensive pre-WWII model ever sold.

There were only two Duesenberg SSJ’s ever built. The second car was owned by actor Clark Gable.

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1962 Ferrari 250 GTO; Photo credit: Sotheby’s

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was also up for auction at Pebble Beach. Ferrari made thirty-six 250 GTO’s. The Ferrari sold for a staggering $48.4 million. At that price, the 250 GTO becomes the most expensive car ever sold at auction.


Bethlehem Steel Works

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm, T-Max 100