Love for the Landies – The Rover Social
We’ve been around long enough now to witness many a fledgling classic car show fall by the wayside, whether it be through lack of vision, poor management or simply a case of wrong time, wrong place. Whatever the reason, it isn’t easy to spearhead a new event. It’s even harder to make it a success in such a way that its future as a regular feature in the classic car calendar is ensured, but that’s exactly what Ian Higginson and Simon O’Leary have achieved with the Rover Social, and Car & Classic were there on Sunday to support this fantastic event.
The Rover Social isn’t your typical Land Rover gathering. Co-founder Ian describes the event as being a more community-based affair that’s as much about the people as it is about the cars and that was definitely the case this weekend. The coming together of like-minded fans with a shared love of the outdoors was the order of the day and the whole event exuded a friendly, all-inclusive atmosphere.
With such a breadth of vehicles, stalls and points of interest on display there was something for everybody, which is no mean feat at any car show, let alone one focussing on a sole manufacturer. But then that’s the beautiful thing about Land Rovers – everybody’s is different. With a show featuring so many of what is essentially the same few models from a single company, every Land Rover on display, from original Series I examples and military-spec Forward Controls, to painstakingly restored 110s, factory fresh Discoveries and everything in between, including a Tesla powered car, was unique in its own way.
Not only that but everybody was keen to chat about their specific Landies. There was not a hint of snobbery or exclusion and it was great to see owners and fans of all types of Land Rover mingling and enthusing about their shared passion.
The vibe throughout the day was truly convivial and as we were strolling among the multitudinous models dotted about the beautiful Loseley Park setting, admiring a rather lovely Series I, its owner Craig graciously pointed out that his Land Rover and the one next to it were both originally Civil Defence vehicles with sequential number plates. Having decided on a Series I Craig actually bought SXF780 from the Car & Classic classifieds in October last year and has been in love ever since. “I own a Porsche 356 too and I wish that started as well as the Series 1”, lamented Craig.
Everything was Land Rover, and we really do mean everything. From the four-tap bar inside a Land Rover Defender keeping everyone suitably lubricated, to the pop-up Compact Disco Defender mobile DJ booth providing tunes throughout the day. Even lunch came courtesy of the “Land Douhgver” – a wood fired pizza oven stuffed into the back of another converted Defender. With stalls aplenty selling vintage clothing, miniature models, electric conversion kits and even Defender rear tub flower planters there was more than enough to satiate even the most unquenchable Land Rover thirst.
In a bid to lend a level of legitimacy to this inaugural event a number of high profile Land Rover legends were invited to appear too. Happily and graciously accepting they connected with the crowds and spoke at various points throughout the day in the main tent. Notable names included the 1989 Camel Trophy winners and Land Rover royalty Bob and Joe Ives – the first and only Brits to ever win what is widely considered the most gruelling off-road competition ever conceived. Bob was keen to chat to us about his surprisingly near stock 110 that safely took the two brothers to victory all those years ago. A lovely chap, an incredible car and an astounding achievement.
Other ambassadors of the brand were former Land Rover PR manager Kim Palmer and renowned automotive photographer and Land Rover aficionado Nick Dimbleby, who arrived in his ’95 Range Rover Classic Autobiography to talk about his new book: “Camel Trophy – The Definitive History”. Nick told us how the book is a labour of love for him, going on to say: “I wanted to tell more than just the story of the event. This is everyone’s story, I was just the mouthpiece”. Echoing Ian’s sentiments about the Rover Social Nick went on to affirm that “the people are what make Land Rovers special” and after having witnessed it in person on Sunday we couldn’t agree more.
Alex Bescoby was also on hand to discuss his exploits recreating the historic First Overland expedition of 1955, driving 19,000km from Singapore to the UK with the original Series I that was used for the journey. With a book and TV series coming next month it was fascinating to hear of Alex’s and the car’s exploits following the return leg of that epic adventure and it was a real treat to be able to see the actual “Oxford” Land Rover first-hand.
Having these luminaries of the Land Rover world in attendance, rhapsodising about their cars and accomplishments just goes to show the belief in, and passion for the event from the start and the collective will to see it succeed. We sat down with co-founder Ian in his Series 3 for a chat and waxed lyrical on a hugely successful endeavour: “It has completely exceeded expectations and was everything we wanted and hoped it would be”, he said effusively and expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in making it such a triumph.
With so much to see you’d think there wouldn’t be time for anything else but oh how wrong you’d be. There was an opportunity to put your Land Rover to the test and drive “The Rover Social Recce” where fully trained drivers were on hand to teach you new skills and realise the capabilities of your car through the beautiful Surrey hills that overlook the Loseley Estate. And for those yet to earn their driver’s license there were miniature Land Rovers to pilot as well as radio-controlled models to manoeuvre through a specifically designed 4X4 course, although we may have seen more adults getting involved than the kids!
There was just enough time left at the end of the day to award the Car & Classic trophies too. We’d been poring over the myriad models all day, putting our collective heads together to pick the best of the bunch and with so many interesting and alluring examples it was far from an easy task, but in the end we settled on these winners:
This 1990 Discovery 1 was factory fresh, even down to the original stereo and was in pristine condition inside and out. Early Discoveries just don’t survive in this state and its overall appearance was testament to the owner’s care and attention.
Best Restoration AND People’s Choice
This long wheelbase Series 2 had been lovingly restored by its proud owner on his driveway at home and with a photo album full of pictures documenting the process it was great to see the passion for the project shine through with the whole family getting involved. That’s precisely what it’s all about and so we had to give the Best Restoration award to EDM801J and the crowds at the Rover Social agreed as they voted for it too in the People’s Choice category.
Best in Show
We decided to give this award to SFX780 – the ex-Civil Defence Corps Series 1 we mentioned earlier. Craig’s enthusiasm for his Land Rover was infectious and we loved the car’s story – from being a military support vehicle and part of the Bedfordshire fire brigade to its current life of further off-road adventures with Craig and the whole family.
We love a Forward Control and this particular model, complete with trailer and Minion pilot, was a top-tier example.
Car &Classic Award
The coveted Car & Classic award had to go to the British Trans-Americas Expedition Range Rover. Part of the esteemed Dunsfold Collection this particular Range Rover is a pretty special car having travelled from Anchorage in Alaska on the December 3rd 1971 to the southern most tip of Terra del Fuego in South America on June 10th 1972 and it’s still going strong to this day. It’s cars like this that are living proof of the sheer ruggedness and go-anywhere nature of Land Rovers and what makes it such an endearing, and indeed enduring brand.
The Rover Social captures the new wave of Land Rover enthusiasts whilst retaining those old values that make them such captivating classics and judging by the success of Sunday’s event we’re sure to see it deservedly become a regular highlight in the classic car calendar and definitely one to attend if you’re a fan of Land Rovers, the outdoors or simply a great family day out in general for that matter. Plans are already underway for an even bigger and better event next year so keep your eyes peeled for the second instalment of the fantastic Rover Social and we’ll see you there!