The London to Brighton Land Rover run is organised annually by the South London & Surrey Land Rover Club SLSLRC. This has now been run for the last seventeen years with entry open to all Land Rovers, with old and interesting models being especially welcome. Entering the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) attracts a charge of £200 a day for non-compliant vehicles. Accordingly the start has now been moved just outside the LEZ to Epsom.
As SARS has several members with Land Rovers we decided to participate in this years run, combining this with a radio communications exercise. Barry G8DXU entered his 110 Defender Tithonus * FFR travelling to the start at Hook Road Saturday afternoon.
One of the many rows of vehicles at the start. Best Series One and Best Military
Jon M0JAO and Richard M6EYO had intended to join us in their Series One’s, but unfortunately Jon’s vehicle developed an exhaust problem requiring work. Jon tackled the problem in time to make a day entry on Sunday, entailing a start at 0300! My brother Peter and I decided to travel to Epsom on Saturday afternoon and camp overnight at the Hook Road site. On approaching our destination the GPS took us on a circuit of the area, with the Postcode entered resulting in two possible locations. We arrived at the entrance and were greeted by Wade an SLSLRC marshal, who I had met two years ago at Lidl in Eastbourne. Wade had given me leaflets about the run of which I was previously unaware. I had intended to enter the run last year which was prevented by the impending change of engine.
The Hook Road start venue was in a large park where the Marshalls directed us to one of the well spaced lines of Land Rovers. The evening was relatively warm and without any wind, some of the entrants had taken advantage of the good weather for Barbeques and enclosed fires. After pitching our tent, we dined out on military rations complemented with a glass of French Cabinet Sauvignon.
Early in the morning we made a brew and unusually, used hot water on the Muesli from the rations for breakfast. This was an interesting, but tasty mix, as the rolled Oates in the Muesli turned to Porridge! I received a call from Richard at 0700 to let us know that they had arrived ready for the drivers briefing at 0730.
The brief centred around staggering the times of vehicles leaving Hook road so as not to all arrive at Brighton together and causing traffic chaos! The club groups were to leave first at 0800, followed by day entrants, including Jon and Richard, which gave us about one hour in which to strike camp and prepare for the start. Having travelled light we had not taken the 9*9 tent and had used an old light-weight camouflaged civvy item. This had served us well but as one of the zips was faulty we decided to consign it to the nearby skip and save the time in repacking!
The run back to Brighton was largely uneventful with the traffic flowing well on the M25, M23 and A23. We stopped at Peasepottage Services for refreshments, the car park being almost completely full of Land Rovers who’s owners had the same idea.
Andy M6GND was to open the Societies Beachy Head Radio Site (BHRS) with the intention of establishing VHF communications with our vehicles at various points on the journey. From feedback that I had received it appeared unlikely that we would leave Epsom until around 1000. With things running very smoothly we had made much better time and would unfortunately reach Brighton before BHRS was ready for our calls! Nevertheless I put out calls at 0930 on 51.60MHz and 70.40MHz FM just in case Andy had set up early. Regrettably Andy was single handed at BHRS and deploying the 4m beam was taking longer that anticipated.
We arrived at Madeira Drive Brighton around 1000 and joined the queue of vehicles. Whilst waiting I was interviewed about the vehicle over the radio microphone. I explained about the Army’s, Life Extension Programme (LEP) called project Tithonus. This was intended to extend the working life of Land Rover Defenders from 20 to 30 years. And at the same time make these vehicles safer and more comfortable. Being conscious of boring the audience I tried to give the microphone back the announcer who promptly, returned it to me for more information! What I had not considered was that those listening had a sympathetic ear for all things Land Rover! The microphone was eventually returned to the announcer who said that if there was a prize for the days best interview, I would have won!
We moved off and soon passed Jon and Richard who were parked early in the line on the seaward side of the promenade. Our position in the landward display line was almost at the end of Madiera Drive and adjacent to the Arches, many of which are now fenced off awaiting structural repair.
Line-up of well presented Series Two Land Rovers
I set about fixing the Clansman Elevated VHF (EVHF “Pineapple”) aerial to the 8m RACAL mast on the FFR and elevated this to about 6 metres. Both of the RT353s were powered up with one being tuned to 51.60Mz on the Tuning Unit Automatic Antenna Matching with 2m long Whip. The other was tuned to 70.40MHz using the EVHF aerial. I put out a call to G1KAR/P and was immediately answered by Andy M6GND, with 5/9 reports both ways. The 70MHz three element Vertically Polarized beam was apparently working very well. This was despite a problem with the aerial rotator at BHRS causing Andy to adopt a manual method of rotation using a rope!
Communications back to Beachy Head were also established with Richard M6EYO and Jon M0JAO using just 4 Watts from their RT351 manpacks. However these contacts were all on 4m with our usual preferred channel 51.60MHz not producing adequate signal levels. This was probably due to EVHF aerial problems at BHRS could not be investigated further at the time. As we had the good link on 4m, problems on the 6m band were not of any particular consequence.
We talked with Andy over a period of a couple of hours, which was an excellent way of demonstrating the equipment in my Defender FFR to the large number of visitors. Some of these had ex-military FFR Land Rovers that did not have any radios installed and were interested to receive information on the equipment. It is easy to forget that when most military vehicles are sold by the MOD much of the equipment has often been removed. Sourcing all of the necessary mountings required, then the correct radio equipment and interconnecting cables is quite a task. One is then often faced with the question “does the radio equipment function” In my experience only about 40% of the Clansman radio equipment placed on the surplus market works correctly. There is then the task of carrying out tests and repairs, on sometimes, very complex assemblies often requiring the acquisition of specialist test sets, jigs and board extenders. In short this can be an expensive and time consuming process, that is not often appreciated by the unenlightened.
Early 1948 belonging to Richard M6EYO Award for Jon’s 1948 posted on windscreen
Jon and Richard had both left their Series One Land Rover exhibits and we all met up during viewing of the many vehicle displays and trade stands. On returning to Jon’s vehicle he exclaimed “I have won a prize”. On the windscreen was the notification that his vehicle had won “Best Series One” and that the prize presentation was to be at 1500. Jon’s Series One Land Rover, manufactured in 1948 was in the Judges opinion an excellent example of this early vehicle. Jon had purchased the vehicle in a terrible condition where it had been retrieved from a hedge and had a tree growing through the chassis! After many hundreds of hours of rebuild work Jon’s hard work and dedication to the restoration of ERX 621 had been recognised by the judges.
As there was an hour and a half or so before the prize presentation I returned to my vehicle. Andy M6GND was still on 4m, having also made contacts with a station on Ditchling beacon, who was unworkable at my location. I prepared to switch off the radio gear and left Andy working a station near North Foreland on 70.425MHz
Defender 110 “Tithonus” FFR belonging to Barry G8DXU
With the time for the presentation approaching we moved in a Westerly direction along the promenade, admiring many of the fine vehicles on display. There was a Land Rover Tithonus which was probably the best in show, but had not won any prize! In fact my vehicle was the only Tithonus FFR on display, and perhaps I was slightly biased. However I really do think that there should be some recognition for those that have spent many hours ensuring that their portable and vehicular radio equipment fully functional. All too often radio equipment is either, non-functional, incorrectly installed, incomplete, or of incorrect type for the of vehicle. There would of course be an exception for equipment that is un-licenceable in the UK. Often the vehicle owner does not have an amateur or any other licence that would make working installations legal.
It was now 1500 hours and the winners of various classes:- Best Military, Best Series One, Best Series 2, etc. started to line up in front of the table of trophies. Jon accompanied by Richard and Baxter were one of the first vehicles to arrive.
The line-up of winning vehicles Jon giving a brief history of the rebuild.Trophy awaiting!
Overall the weekend was a very enjoyable one with excellent weather for the time of year. Thanks are most certainly due to the officials and marshals of SLSLRC for such a well run and organised event.
Members of the Southdown Amateur Radio Society enter various similar events and rallies each year. Several of us are interested in both Land Rovers and radio. Military radio is also an associated interest for some members with special focus on Larkspur and Clansman equipment. If these are your interests too then we would be pleased to hear from prospective members. Members are very pleased to pass on their knowledge or learn from novices and experts alike! Prior knowledge of radio is not necessary, just an interest to learn. We have a training programme for all levels of amateur licence with RSGB registered tutors.
* Tithonus A Son of Leomedon, King of Troy. Arora, Goddess of the morning (Eos in Latin) fell in love with him because of his uncommon beauty. She obtained immortality for her husband from Jupiter.