Having made it my goal to compete in the Rallye des Gazelles, I needed two things; a car and a team mate. Well, three actually, as the funds to be able to do it would also be handy ….
First things first though, the car. A 4×4 to be precise. I had already decided that I wanted a Land Rover. To be fair we already had a Land Rover, but a V8 petrol was never going to work. Far too thirsty for the long drive to Morocco, and anyway the rally specifications said we need to have enough fuel for 400km of off road driving. So, I started chatting to people about what sort of Land Rover I actually needed, and our friend David pointed me in the direction of a Facebook group, Land Rover Owners Spares Department. Through this group I made contact with Jonathan, who told me he had a Defender 110 fully prepared for Morocco.
Chris and I made arrangements to go and visit Jonathan in Sussex in January 2018.
When we turned up on a damp afternoon the car was parked outside ready for us. We had previously seen it on photographs, but in the flesh it really wasn’t speaking to me. I can’t tell you exactly why; everything was right, but also very wrong. I sat in it and really tried to like it but I knew it wasn’t Priscilla. (In fact her name was Daisy.) Chris and Jonathan were waiting for a verdict, but my face probably said it all.
Chris didn’t feel the love either as it happened, and to be honest Jonathan didn’t seem surprised. Feeling very deflated I was wondering what to do next, when Jonathan said “you better come into the shed then and see if any of these appeal to you” We entered a hangar full of Defenders! But there was one car parked up on the right that caught my eye. We did the full tour, but the green beast on the right was the one. Again, I can’t really tell you why – I just knew she was Priscilla, and she didn’t come with any name that would need changing! However, she was a truck cab and had none of the modifications I needed.
When I sat in her, she brought a smile to my face, so we started discussing requirements with Jonathan, as well as a realistic time scale for her build. There were many things to consider, and at that point in time we could only make decisions based on the advice and experience of others, which included Jonathan’s brother Julian who used to live in Africa.
The great thing about Defenders is that they are just like a giant Meccano kit, and everything can be changed, allowing you to build a truly personalised car.
Over the next couple of months Jonathan got to work, while I watched, via his updates, from France, and probably drove him nuts with further requests! Priscilla was stripped right down and built back up with the correct body, new suspension with a 2 inch lift, an auxilary fuel tank, rock sliders, under body protection, a snorkel, silicone hoses in the engine bay, new seats and body mounted spare wheel carrier.
Throughout this process my thoughts had also been occupied by another big decision; what Priscilla would ultimately look like.
Now if that seems a strange thing to say, the plan was to get her wrapped to make her unique and visually attractive, as a very noticeable publicity vehicle for our sponsors and also because within the Rallye there is a competition for the best vehicle wrap.
The idea for a Mad Max / Steampunk / rusty look came about from a visit to a local coffee shop where the decor featured rusty corrugated metal and a cool steampunk design. The concept was that she could have been abandoned in the Sahara for years and then recovered for the rally.
Of course the whole idea of making her look rusty is a bit of a joke as Defender bodies are aluminium ….. but that is probably only a joke Land Rover nerds will get!
Having found a wrap company close to Jonathan’s workshop who seemed to be up for the challenge, my personal challenge was to get them to understand the concept, via phone and email, as of course I was in France.
I will tell you that part of the story in Part 2, coming soon, but we will leave Part 1 with Priscilla sitting on the trailer outside Blue Lizard Signs in Crawley waiting to be transformed.