08 September 2008
Roger Wynn continues to look at the background of the Land Rover. ...
The model, as introduced, was a pretty good representation of the very first type of production Land Rover, a style later to be termed Series One. The wheelbase was 80 inches, but the quick check is to look at the door ‘B post’ shut-line, which is at a slight angle to the perpendicular. Also look at the grille, with its all-over mesh between the mudguards and headlamps behind the mesh.
The general body detail on the model is excellent; at the rear it is even better. In keeping with its workhorse pedigree, it carries a rear-mounted belt-pulley power take-off, one of a whole range of pto options available at the rear, plus others amidships and at the front.
A heavy tinplate windscreen is strong enough to survive well, and the cast metal driver stays in place longer than most. Extra strengthening is cast onto the outer extremities of the front bumper, but this hardly detracts. A sturdy Dinky tow-hook is fitted at the rear, even though two years were to elapse before its dedicated trailer was released.
There is one fairly serious fault, though, one that every Land Rover-phile and quite a few others find strange – no transmission tunnel or centre seat, just a space. OK, just one seat is permissible, but not having a full-width seat base, part of the body structure, is just not on.
The first real vehicles could be had in any colour, as long as it was a light sage green, inside and out. Authenticity had to give way to marketing, with two very well-known colour schemes appearing in the toy shops. One was a bright light green with cream interior, the other – even further removed from reality – orange with dark blue interior (later changed to dark green). These, then, are the colours most will be very familiar with. They lasted for many years.
There are, however, at least three other fairly early schemes to look out for, all readily falling into that rarity department covered by the well-known agricultural term ‘rocking horse manure’. Probably the ‘easiest’ to find is a light brown vehicle with the same dark blue interior and red wheels as the first orange one. This could be a very early issue, as I’m not aware of any trailer in the colour to match.
Next is a dark blue, with light blue wheels and cream interior. This definitely needs a larger heap of the offending material. Strangely, a trailer to match is not a problem, so a date no earlier than mid-1952 seems reasonable.
Last, and equally difficult to find, is what could be considered a nearly authentic version. Most Land Rovers, after mid-1949, left Solihull in dark Bronze Green, and some Dinky examples in this colour have appeared at auction. They have the body top edges and windscreen painted silver to represent the galvanising on the real vehicles. The story is told that these were produced to the order of the Ministry of Agruiculture, for a sort of early ‘I’m Backing Britain’ promotion. I, for one, would like to see some contemporary evidence, even handle one – any offers?
Now why did it take Meccano around two years to issue ref no 27M Land Rover Trailer, and then make such a naff job of it? Why were we given a wooden-bodied trailer of suspect parentage when, since 1949, Land Rover offered its own specially-designed version in its accessory catalogue?
It was designed by J Brockhouse & Co Ltd, the firm which built the Pullmore transporter for Land Rover. Within the vehicle preservation movement, period accessories are much sought-after, and this is no exception. Even later, Dinky (as in Matchbox) and Corgi (as in Classics) had a recognisable bash at it.
Green and orange are easy to find to match the motor up front, the green pair not being so long-lived, with the shade staying fairly constant. As the years progressed, the orange used became brighter and, in due course, the only colour generally available. In the final years, it was replaced by red. It should be possible to match all the standard shades with suitable trailers, including most of the later wheel changes, of which more later...