Whanganui High School students revive 1969 Land Rover

Photo / Bevan Conley

Today we launch our Petrolheads series, which tells stories of Whanganui people and their vehicles. To begin with, Laurel Stowell visits Whanganui High School to check out the 1969 Series 2A Land Rover restored by a group of students.

Whanganui High School automotive students have totally made over a Series 2A Land Rover that was bought in 1969 to work on Ross Richardson's Waitōtara farms.

Richardson's wife Joan is now 93. She was very excited to ride in the revived vehicle last month, after its five-year renovation.

For the school's assistant automotive teacher, George Jones, it was a case of back to the future. He was 15 and working on the Richardson farm when the Land Rover first arrived, shiny and new.

He had been driving on farm paddocks since the age of 12, and used it right from the first day. The crate he helped add to the back was still attached when he bought the vehicle more than 40 years later.

Joan Richardson was amazed by the transformation.

"I only ever saw it clean once, when it was brand new. It was muddy inside and out when we had it.

"They have done a wonderful job," she said.

Her daughter, former Finance Minister Ruth Richardson, is now 70 and still buys and drives Land Rovers.

"She's small and she feels safe in them, and needs the protection of being up high."

The Series 2A long wheel base six-cylinder 2.6 litre Land Rover the students had made over was relatively rare, Jones said. When it arrived at the farm it had a lot of mechanical problems.

A fellow Richardson worker, Ray Flutey, said a four-cylinder machine would have been better.

When Flutey left the farm in the 1980s, Ross Richardson gave him the Land Rover. He didn't use it much after that.

Fast forward to 2015, and Jones is in the automotive department at Whanganui High School. The Land Rover is still sitting in Flutey's shed.

Jones owns an Austin Champ, which is similar to a Land Rover. The school's automotive teacher, Jim Lees, is also a Land Rover fan. He has done a Land Rover project, and wants another one.

He encouraged Jones to buy the unwanted vehicle, and Flutey sold it to him for $1200.

Since it arrived at the school it had been completely taken apart, Jones said, and the students did three quarters of the work to restore it.

They took it apart, catalogued and stored the parts, and cleaned them. The chassis was sandblasted and painted, the engine lifted out by a forklift.

The students did the panelbeating and spraypainting.

They refurbished the cooling system, overhauled the fuel system, replaced brake components, installed a new clutch and overhauled the suspension.

Jones bought paint and parts, and "scoured the world" for a water pump.

Finding new components for an old vehicle could be quite a process, he said.

"It's a bit more involved than a quick trip to Repco."

The final re-assembly and auto electrical work was done in Ashurst this year.

Year 13 student Scott Emerson said working on the Land Rover was quite different from working on a modern car.

"The kids learned a lot of skills from it that you wouldn't normally get."

The revamped vehicle had its first drives last week, in Springvale, and the engine went better than it had on the farm. It was an exciting ride for Scott Emerson.

"There's no power steering, and you double clutch for first gear. Everything is just old. It's quite an experience," he said.

Everyone is now asking what will happen to the Land Rover, Jones said. Technically it's his, because he bought it and the parts used to fix it.

It's staying at the school for now, for use in other student projects.

Whanganui Chronicle 9/1/21

(*) Last Reviewed: January 10, 2021

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