11 September 2019

Cooma becomes Land Rover heaven as the iconic rural brand turns 70

| Contributor
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Cooma Showground on Easter Sunday. Photo: Alex Rea

Cooma Showground on Easter Sunday. Photo: Alex Rea

Around 800 Land Rovers lined up in Cooma over Easter for the 70th Anniversary celebration of the marque. The four-day event drew entrants from across the country.

From the very first Series 1 model imported to Australia in 1948 and those that have seen service for Australian Armed Forces overseas, to newer luxury models of Range Rover, Cooma was heaving with Land Rover enthusiasts and their vehicles.

Organisers closed the books at 1500 people registering online, with another 200 registering on the weekend on arrival. On Sunday, another 500 visitors came through the gates at the Showground.

Mark Oakes-Richards, lead organiser said there had been 40th, and 50th Anniversary events in Cooma, but this year four clubs came together to organise the 70th – the ACT Land Rover Club, Sydney Land Rover Club, VIC Land Rover Club, and NSW Range Rover Club, along with the Cooma Visitors Centre.

People from all over the world including Land Rover Executives from the UK, exhibitors from South Africa (Melvill and Moon seat cover manufacturers), Canada (Roamerdrive overdrive manufacturers), and visitors from New York, UK and all over Australia were seen flocking to the Showground, raising Cooma’s economic value above an estimated $1,000,000 over the weekend.

The Landrover Parade on Sunday through the heart of Cooma. Photo: Alex Rea.

The Land Rover Parade on Sunday through the heart of Cooma. Photo: Alex Rea.

There were stories aplenty with tales of trails blazed across the country and around the world for the thousands of visitors who made Cooma home for Easter.

Production of Land Rovers started in 1948, just as the Snowy Hydro Scheme was starting and many thousands of units were imported into Australia and many hundreds joined the mountain workforce. Their importance cannot be underestimated in the efforts to open up the Snowy area.

Oakes-Richards says that one-third of Snowy Mountains Authority fleet were Land Rovers.

The weekend included navigation and off-road trials, motorkhana events and tag-along trips, swap meets and displays. At the Cooma Showground, Land Rover exhibited its ‘Terrapod’ driving course to demonstrate capabilities of the Land Rover and Range Rover brands.

On Sunday, the crowds turned out to see the grand parade of Land Rovers starting with the 1948 Series 1 through to recent luxury models. The parade was two abreast along Sharpe St, and from Baron St to Boundary St, ending at the Cooma Showground. Of the 800 vehicles registered, around 700 participated in the parade.

While the Land Rover brand now includes the Defender, Discovery, Freelander, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover Evoque models, the early series vehicles have characters of their own. No two of the older series Land Rovers on exhibition appeared the same. All had various modifications showing ingenuity, practicality and illustrated the flexible nature of the design.

Built to last and British to the bootstraps, Land Rover was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI in 1951 and spread around the world, renowned as tough and uncomplicated to repair. The brand has been owned by India’s Tata Motors since 2008.

Many of the Land Rovers have long and riveting stories to tell of adventures, mishaps and triumphs.

A Tale of Recovery – Finding ‘Mzuri’

David Darcy and Mzuri and a copy of National Geographic featuring the African journey. Photo: Alex Rea.

David Darcy and Mzuri and a copy of National Geographic featuring the African journey. Photo: Alex Rea.

David Darcy from Land Rover Heaven in Goulburn attended the weekend with a rare find. Darcy had been collecting for years, when a few years ago he stumbled across a 1957 107 Station Wagon behind a pile of wood in Mount Beauty. The owner was not sure where it came from but thought it may have been in a film.

After popping the rego into Google, he was delighted to find that VAC 433 had been lost from enthusiasts for decades and was indeed a much-photographed car.

From new, it had been purchased by famous photographer George Rodger, a founder of Magnum Photos. Rodger and his wife Jinx kitted out for major National Geographic expeditions through Africa. The Landy they called Mzuri, meaning “very good” in Swahili, appeared in many issues with their stories.

The vehicle was then owned by The Brantwood Trust, at the former home of John Ruskin in Cumbria, UK. It still bears the name of the house on the door. In 1963, it was purchased by Sam Critchley from Victoria who modified it a bit more and toured Australia in it. Critchley died in 1985 and the vehicle was missing until Darcy bought it in 2016. It’s a heart-warming story for any car aficionado.

One enthusiast said, “75% of Land Rovers ever built are still on the road. The others made it safely home.”

Looking across the Cooma Showground of tightly parked vehicles brought up the conundrum: Just what is the collective noun for Land Rovers? A Cavalcade? A Litter? A Hum? A Range?

Words and pictures by Alex Rea

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

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