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DOWN & DIRTY PROJECTS: Land Rover 109





13 September 2016


Where’s a Landy whisperer when you need one?
Deziree, the vintage Land Rover 109, has given us plenty of headaches over the last few weeks. We’re still battling with the registration and she got all upset when we took her for a chassis wash, refusing to start. She’s continued to give us starting problems, but with her restoration process long stalled and the clock ticking, we made a plan…

We must admit: over the past few weeks the thought of acquiring a can of petrol and matches, and creating a massive Deziree bonfire did cross our minds once or twice. After her recent chassis wash, the old girl was, well, a right pain. She would start perfectly one day, only to play dead the next. We checked for a loose wire connection, but could find nothing untoward. We charged the battery to full capacity and then tried again. Oh dear. This time the starter didn’t even turn. Deziree just went click, click, click.

Okay, so a Land Rover whisperer would probably say something like you have to check the blue wire on the left side of the dashboard, tap it three times, disconnect and connect the battery terminals twice, and then have a go, and it will start first-time. But since we’re not Land Rover 109 whisperers, we went for option B: rent a double axle car trailer, load Deziree upon said trailer, and tow her to her first (and long overdue) stop in the restoration process: ONCA 4×4 in Kempton Park. And that’s exactly how Deziree landed up at ONCA 4×4, after we towed her there with our VW Amarok D/C 2.0BiTDI 4Motion. At the company’s workshop she was off-loaded, and owner Len Nel inspected the aluminium roof with its so-called tropical finish (the top section that is designed to channel cool air over the normal roof, lowering the temperature inside the cabin).

This vehicle was used as the ‘hero vehicle’ in the upcoming Hollywood film, The Journey is the Destination. The feature film was filmed partly in South Africa, and is about the life of Dan Eldon, a young photojournalist and philanthropist who was tragically killed in Mogadishu, Somalia. Eldon used the original Deziree – which is said to still be alive in Kenya – as his expedition vehicle for humanitarian missions. He apparently used it for photography, with a hatch in the roof allowing him to stand up and take his snaps. For the film, a relatively crude hole was cut in the roof, with no hatch. This hole was later covered by a piece of metal, simply to prevent water leaking into the cabin.

So, in our effort to recreate a modern incarnation of the original Deziree (but keeping things old-school), ONCA 4×4 is manufacturing a custom, waterproof metal hatch for her roof. The hole in the roof will still be there, but the new metal hatch will be able to open and close properly, with a latch on the inside.
“The first step is to measure the hole in the roof, and then a laser CNC machine will cut the exact size for us. The outer edges will be folded down, and the metal latch system and hinges added to both the new hatch and the Landy’s roof. The new hatch will also be powder-coated,” explained Nel.

After this is completed, Deziree’s next stop will be a paint shop, where she’ll get a new lick of the original camouflage beige, as used in the film. We are planning a few unique finishing touches, too.  Once that phase is complete, Deziree will check into a Land Rover whispering facility to sort out her starting gremlins. And after that we have a few other stopovers planned. But Deziree’s rejuvenation process is now finally, officially, under way.

ONCA 4×4 – the right  (custom) stuff
This Kempton Park-based company has been manufacturing heavy-duty 4×4 products for almost two decades. Although it specialises mostly in Toyota products (Land Cruisers are its forte), ONCA is also renowned as a custom fabricator of high-quality, one-off accessories (like the custom hatch on the Landy 109).

The company works closely with several other custom 4×4 builders in the business, and it has created some amazing 4×4 kit over the years. In addition to its workshop, fitment centre and showroom, the company’s premises also houses a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Additionally, ONCA 4×4 is a distributor of Rigid Industries LED spotlights, Safari snorkels, CTEK dual battery systems, Come-up winches, Smittybilt 4×4 accessories, Light Force and CB spotlights, several tyre and wheel brands, and many more.
More information: Tel:  011 979 2690/0150; email: sales@onca4x4.co.za; onca4x4.co.za.

Text: Danie Botha  Photos: Deon van der Walt

Fortunately,things are continuing to move forward for ‘ol Dezi. Here is the latest update that we posted on Facebook: