Tag Archives: series

Queued up

The Rover on the Haul Road

One thing I do like about loading up posts in the queue, is that I can be gone all week and nobody has any idea.

Get out and enjoy autumn!

“Like the River, we were free to wander.”

— Aldo Leopold


Unexpected Selfies

The Rover Dash: I must be going downhill

When I sent in the film from the Billy-Clack, I had one roll of 120 black & white film that I could not remember when I had shot it. Somehow, a roll of film had been forgotten in a pack pocket during one of my travels. It sat around for a bit more, as I waited to get some more 120 used up.

The roll does have some history to it, and it has been a while. It’s from the last time The Rover was down in the Lower 48. Probably right after I swapped out the motor, because there are a few shots of San Antonio.

There was also a shot of some young punk, riding alongside me in the Land Rover, taking a picture of himself as he stuck out his tongue at the camera. He also took this shot of the Rover dash, probably scared at how fast we were moving.

I must have been concentrating on traffic, because I do not remember him sticking his tongue out at me or the camera.

Camera: Agfa Clack (not the Billy-Clack); Film: Kodak 120 TMax 100; Photographer: Minnesota “Moose” Matthew


Robert Frank

Ordinary people, doing ordinary things…

Robert Frank, in his New York home; Photograph by Allen Ginsberg

In 1954, Robert Frank set off across the United States in a used Ford with his Leica camera. He had the idea of photographing America as it unfolded before his eyes. He spent two years on the journey, shooting 767 rolls of film, for over 28,000 shots.

83 of those shots would end up in the book “The Americans”.

Image: “Trolley – New Orleans” 1955, photo by Robert Frank

The Americans was first published in 1959, and it took the photography world by storm. The images were honest and gritty, and most of all raw. It was a masterwork of street photography.

US 285 – New Mexico 1956; photo by Robert Frank

Initially, it did not go over well. America was high on the post war 1950’s. Images showing that not everyone in the country had achieved the “American Dream” were not what the public was shouting for. The book went out of publication after only 1100 being printed.

Rodeo – New York City 1955; photo by Robert Frank

History has been kinder. The Americans has seen several reprints, and few photo books have had as large an influence on contemporary photography.

Frank would go on to make fifty documentary films, but he never abandoned still photography.

Map of Robert Frank’s photo trek

Robert Frank died on Monday; he was 94.


Land Rover’s Pink Panther


Land Rover’s “Pink Panther”; Photo credit: Atlantic British

In 1968, Britain’s Ministry of Defense ordered 72 Series IIa 109’s from Land Rover. They were destined for the SAS, Britain’s elite commando unit, for use in the deserts of the Persian Gulf region.

The SAS had been using Land Rover 88’s, but they proved to be a bit small for the task. The 109’s were refurbished for the desert terrain. Fuel capacity was increased to 100 gallons, reservoirs for spare water and oil were added. The chassis and suspension were both upgraded to handle heavy artillery. Sand tires were installed and the spare tire mount was taken off the hood, and built onto the front of the vehicle. A bead breaker, for changing tires, was even added to one wing. The ’68 Land Rover also came with a sun compass, which had become standard equipment, after North Africa’s Long Range Desert Group in WWII.


The sparse Pink Panther interior; Photo credit: Atlantic British

But the unique feature of the SAS Land Rover was the color scheme. It was painted a mauve-pink. The experiences of the Long Range Desert Group showed that the pink color was remarkably good camouflage in the desert, especially at dawn and dusk.

For armament, the Pink Panther carried a machine gun on the left side of the hood, smoke canisters and grenades, anti-tank weaponry and rifles. The vehicle when fully loaded, weighed 3 tons.


Pink Panther; Photo credit: Dunsfold Collection

The Series Pink Panther served the SAS from 1968 to 1984, when a modified Land Rover Defender 110 took over. Of the original 72 Pink Panthers, only 20 are known to still be around, with most in private collections. The Dunsfold Collection owns the one above. It has become one of the most sought after Land Rovers ever built.


Getting the itch


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


70 Years On:

87 year old Solihull native takes her first ride in a Land Rover.


A teenaged Dorothy Peters and #16

In July 1946, Dorothy Peters went to work at Rover’s Lode Lane Factory. She was only 15 when she first went to work for the company. The first vehicle she worked on was chassis number 16. As in, the 16th Series Land Rover to cross the assembly line.

The now retired Ms Peters, has been a lifelong supporter of the brand, but surprisingly she had never ridden in a Land Rover. Over the years, Peters had dreamed of at least once, driving Solihull’s famous Jungle Track, the off road course that Land Rover tests its vehicles on.

As fate would have it, #16 is now owned by Mike Bishop, Land Rover Classic’s Reborn Engineering Specialist and Heritage Expert. Bishop reunited Peters with #16, and took her for a little spin, Land Rover style. The reunion and visit to Jungle Track can be seen in the following video.


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.


Canyon de Chelly Revisited

The Flagstaff Roadtrip


Canyon de Chelly National Monument

I took a road trip a while back to Flagstaff from Minneapolis with a good friend of mine. He is, in fact, one of the two official sponsors of Circle-To-Circle. These photos are from that road trip.


Smaller cliff dwelling in Canyon de Chelly

I had to hunt in the archives for the original post, and was surprised to find out that this trip was back in 2014. I was amused to see that my camera battery had died on the digital, and I was forced to bring out the film camera. So here we are, over four years later, bringing CtoC up to date.


Larger cliff dwelling in Canyon de Chelly

I absolutely love driving and camping across the American Southwest, and this trip was mostly a two-lane adventure. I think part of the desert appeal is that I’ve lived in the north country all of my life. The arid environment is so different. In Alaska, I’m rarely further than 25 feet from water in any one direction. For me, the West is very much an alien world.

Visiting Canyon de Chelly, both of us travelers, were hit by the bug to get into that national monument’s back country, but neither one of us has been back. Yet. Now that bug is crawling again.


Meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona

I put in the photo from Meteor Crater, partly because it was from the same trip, and partly because I think the black & white film does a better job of relating just how desolate that country is.

Camera: Kodak 66; Filter: Kodisc Cloud – Yellow; Film: Kodak 120 T-Max 100


Custer National Cemetery

Bighorn County, Montana


Custer National Cemetery

These are from a past Rover Roadtrip.

Big Sky Country.

The head stones, just like the plains of Montana, seem to go on forever.

I remember it was a hot, dry, spring day, on this visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield.


Indian Memorial Sculpture at Little Bighorn

Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120 T-Max 100