We caught up with Jack Dobson - Land Rover Monthly columnist, better known on Instagram as @jackuar_land_rover on the story behind him and his well known Landy 'Grandma'. If you need a little motivation on your project then here's a bit about Jack and his Land Rover background and his journey with newly finished Grandma.
How did you find Grandma, what was the appeal to her?
I bought Grandma when I was 16 years old. A good family friend who was heavily into Land Rovers found her for me. She was parked up in a barn in Taunton and had just one owner from new. Putting complete faith in our Land Rover friend I bought her unseen (much to my mum's horror). I recall travelling up to collect her and I was beyond excited! I had initially wanted a Series III but the moment I saw Grandma I fell in love. I recall, the entire journey back I kept looking out of the rear window to see her following closely behind on the trailer.
What do you like most about Grandma?
I love that every time I take her out it feels like an adventure. I also love the roar of her V8 which has surprised a few other road users in her time.
How long has your journey been with Grandma, from day dot to how she is now?
Goodness showing my age now. I bought her 21 years ago, spent a year rebuilding her with my dad then learnt to drive in her. I had her throughout my A-levels and university, then she accompanied me when I relocated to Cheddar for my first job out of university. I then moved to Bath and that's where tragically she was stolen. She was missing for two and a half years then one day I was searching eBay and I found her for sale under a new identity (believe it or not I always felt that one day I would find her). Having spent so much time restoring her I instantly recognised her despite her new colour and the addition of a hard top. I was lucky enough to have the insurance company return her to me free of charge because they knew how special she was to me and my family (I was so anxious that I would not be able to get her back - I tracked down a director from Aviva Insurance to ensure they fully understand the importance of the vehicle).
Sadly she had been neglected during her absence and when I got her back I had to treat her to a restoration which included stripping off all the paintwork in preparation for a full re-spray. At the time I was still living in Bath and Grandma was stored at my parent's place in Cornwall so I had to travel down each weekend to work on her. I got her back on the road but didn't get a chance to repaint her - that was to be a future plan.
Shortly afterwards I got offered a job in Australia and felt I absolutely had to grasp the opportunity. Unfortunately, the visa I came over on would not allow me to bring Grandma so she sat somewhat neglected on my parent's driveway for seven years
How difficult was this project? Where there times you thought you may give up?
The project has really been a huge undertaking but not beyond what I expected after she had been sat outside in the salty Cornish air for so long. The big challenge was rust which had crept in everywhere. I was lucky enough to be able to find a very talented welder who was able to work his magic on her chassis whilst I was able to source a replacement rust free bulkhead here in Australia (they do not apply salt to the roads here so rust is not a major issue as it is in the UK).
There have been a couple of times where I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of work needed. In those instances, I would give myself a weekend off to reset my enthusiasm. I have been lucky that there really was no strict deadline for getting her ready so no need to feel under any pressure.
Would you like to do something similar again so soon or are you going to enjoy Grandma in all her glory for a while now?
If I were to embark on another project of this scale so soon I am fairly sure I would be in big trouble - that is all I will say to that!
What was the inspiration for the design aspect - exterior and interior?
When I first bought Grandma she was painted in battleship grey - whilst it was an original colour I really wanted to do something different. I looked what other people had painted their Land Rovers and noticed that there were very few Series vehicles in gloss black and so decided that was the colour I wanted to go with. Back when I was 16, I fitted chrome wheels and huge tyres - this time around I have opted for a more subtle look and think the steel wheels painted black work well.
With the interior, she was originally fitted with grey elephant hide vinyl seats in the front and I wanted to preserve that look. Sadly when she was stolen her seats were replaced with Discovery ones. One of my first tasks, when I got her back, was to remove the seats and buy a new front set of reproduction elephant hide vinyl seats from Exmoor Trim. I bought them about 8 years ago - I think it was the first year Exmoor had started remanufacturing that style.
With this most recent rebuild, I decided it was time to revamp the rear load area to make Grandma more comfortable for passengers (I think her days of lugging bales of hay are behind her now). The addition of four separate seats in the back gives Grandma County levels of comfort and I was delighted when Exmoor Trim said they could finish them in matching Elephant Hide Vinyl - I have not seen another Series IIA with the full complement of seats like it.
What Land Rover’s did you choose to have for your wedding vehicle?
Sadly Grandma could not be finished in time for our wedding so Old Girl (1968 Series IIA) and Bruce (2012 Defender) had to step in for those duties. My dad and I drove them up to the wedding venue - an island off the coast of Queensland. We covered about a thousand miles to get up there and both Land Rovers behaved pretty well (just a minor wheel alignment issue with Old Girl). The wedding was right on the beach so having the Land Rovers was perfect for ferrying people and supplies over the weekend. I was very relieved that neither vehicle got stuck during our arrival!
How many Land Rover’s do you own?
Three - 2 x Series IIA and 1 x Defender (I am told I cannot buy anymore!).
What’s your favourite Land Rover and why?
Definitely cannot pick a favourite - each has its own unique charm and each has taken me on all sorts of wonderful adventures.
How did you find yourself in Australia?
I was working for a global company and an opportunity came up in Sydney (I was working in their Bristol office at the time) and I felt I just had to go for it!
What's your favourite Exmoor Trim product and why?
Definitely, all things finished in grey elephant hide vinyl - I just think it's an awesome look and the quality of the seats is exceptional. After seven years my front seats in Grandma still look completely brand new.
Jack's elephant and hide seats being made in the Exmoor Trim factory SHOP SEATS HERE.
What's been your best Land Rover adventure yet?
So many to choose from - the joint winner would be our trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Bruce and the recent trip up for the wedding in Bruce and Old Girl.
What Land Rover excursions do you have planned this year?
The next big trip will be in Grandma when she is registered. I will likely take her down to Sydney's Northern Beaches and do a bit of a tour catching up with all our Instagram friends! Lots of people seem keen to check her out after following her story closely on Instagram.
What Exmoor Trim vehicle is your favourite and why?
Is Grandma now considered part of the Exmoor Trim fleet, if so, she is my favourite :-)
What 3 people would you pick to travel around in your Land Rover with for 3 months?
My wife - Mrs JLR, and... I might struggle to find two other willing participants for a three month trip in a noisy Land Rover!
Do you have any other exciting Land Rover projects on the horizon?
For now, I am going to just enjoy using Grandma and getting her running perfectly. I really do not want to embark on any other major Land Rover projects - I suspect running three Land Rovers will be fairly time-consuming as it is!
When are you coming to the UK and visiting Exmoor Trim HQ?
Now that just depends on when you would like to buy me a ticket! I would absolutely love to visit and a trip back to the UK is definitely long over-due. You can be sure when I return I will absolutely be calling in to meet the team!
Follow Jack and his Land Rover projects on his Instagram here.
Grandma BEFORE and AFTER