We began our adventure to Morocco in August 1975, before we were encumbered with children, or other serious responsibilities, although Freda was expecting our Benjamin in the following February. We had decided to drive there, along with my sister Susan and her husband Roy. Roy was the proud owner of a SWB Series 1 Land Rover, so was I at the time, but mine was all painted and signed up for the garage business. We had a trial run in Roy's 'rag top' and decided against it for the real journey.
I eventually found a LWB (long wheelbase) rolling chassis at Hodgson's of Wearhead, a Land Rover main agent in the North East. It was just lying in their yard, apparently dead, to be used for spares or whatever. It was a 1964 Series 2a, with only a truck cab and open back-end. No engine or gearbox, of course! It cost me the princely sum of £60, I don't think I'd ever paid that much for a car before!
It took a few months to sort it out, but the LWB ended up with a two and a quarter litre petrol engine, which I completely reconditioned, and a brand new carburettor. We were very keen for the Land Rover to be as fuel efficient as possible, after all petrol was in the region of 75 pence per gallon (that's 4.54 litres to you young'uns) and we had a lot of miles to cover, and even more kilometres! With this goal in mind, I changed the differentials for those out of Rover "90" cars, being a different ratio it took fewer revolutions of the engine to turn the actual road wheels, hence less petrol. To eliminate the drag of the front differential while driving in two wheel drive, I also fitted "Fairy" free-wheeling front hubs. We'd be "cooking on gas", as the popular saying of the time went! (In actual fact, we averaged only 12 mpg over the whole holiday, what a bitter disappointment!)
Other modifications included finding and fitting a genuine LR hard top, putting in side windows, so that the girls could have a better view as they luxuriated in their Austin Westminster seats, which I fitted behind the not so luxurious standard LR front seats. A 'dished' bonnet, complete with spare wheel carrier finished off the necessities, oh, and an "illegal" Michelin map of Morocco!
As we were bound for Africa, I had my old signwriter paint "African Queen" on both front wings. This vehicle was "the business"! Here it is during a few minutes rest crossing the Pyrenees:
|The African Queen|
A short while after getting off the main pass, and onto the more civilised roads of the lower slopes, and while Roy was driving; he calmly informed me that he'd just lost the brakes! We eventually got it stopped in a small village called "La Garriga", right in front of a little metal fabricating shop. On inspection, it transpired that the O/S/F wheelrim had been damaged and the damaged section was consequently catching the flexy rubber brake pipe, with each revolution of the wheel. It had rubbed through, and lost all the fluid.
Being a bit wary of these "Continentals" anyway, I'd brought a few Imperial thread brake pipe nuts, just in case! So, it was quite straightforward; get the blokes in the metalworks to weld up one of the new nuts; replace the flexy pipe with the blanked off nut and bleed the brakes, and 'hey presto' three brakes working to get us on our way! Not quite straightforward though, I hadn't reckoned on the language barrier, or the fact that they didn't think it was a good idea to drive on only three brakes. After about three hours, though, we were on our way again.
Here we all are, me on the left (fag in hand), the Spaniards, and Roy, showing off his muscles!
|A right motley crew!|
On the sixth day of travelling, we came upon a campsite with "English seatless" toilets, I was so relieved (literally) I couldn't have waited much longer! It must have been about then that we decided that we just weren't going to reach Morocco. We only had two weeks, you see? Valencia was as far as we got, and it was far enough, if the truth be told. We got the last pitch on the campsite, on the beach.
There was a cloudburst, with a fantastic electric storm, and we then found out why the last pitch hadn't been taken before; it was in a hollow!!!!! What a sad time we had of it. (Apart from singing along at the top of our voices to a tape of "Rule Brittania" from the "Last Night of the Proms"!) On venturing into Valencia, I ran slap-bang into the side of a French car, in an underground car park. The car park attendant was insistent that I just drive away, as no-one had seen the deed, but I stopped and left my insurance details stuffed in the side of the car's window.
On the return journey, we stopped in St Tropez, but the wind was so strong that we couldn't get the tent up, even tying it to the Land Rover was no use, the wind bent most of the poles! We ended up staying in an hotel, with only enough money for two breakfasts. We had a tin of peaches or something between us for our supper, because the hotel restaurant would not entertain English money. At that time, you could only take £25 out of the country in cash, but I'd concealed £50 about my person, just in case, but they weren't interested at all!
Here are Roy and I, complete with pith helmets. Well, you can't be too careful in these overly hot foreign parts, can you?
|We would have liked to have relieved General "Chinese" Gordon in Khartoum!|
Till another day, tarra.