An offroader named Deziree
We open our 2016 project vehicle account with a classic: a 45-year old Land Rover Series 2A. This is the beginning of this Land Rover Series 2A’s new story.
Meet Deziree, the Land Rover 109.
She is a 45-year-old Series 2A that is powered by a 2.6-litre straight-six engine that delivers 57kW of power and 178Nm of torque.
She is in pretty good shape for a well-matured lady who probably has quite a few tales to tell.
She is also a movie star. Deziree was ‘hero vehicle’ – movie-speak for the leading vehicle – in the Hollywood film The journey is the destination. The film was produced here in South Africa and is based on the life of photojournalist Dan Eldon, who was tragically killed in Somalia in 1993.
Before we get to Deziree, a brief trip down memory lane. Eldon was born in London in 1970. He had a British father and an American mother, and when he was seven, the family moved to Kenya.
His humanitarian relief attempts started at the age of 14 when he raised funds for a young Kenyan girl. Although he managed to raise the money for the girl’s open-heart surgery, she sadly died because of neglect at the hospital.
After finishing high school, Eldon moved to the USA to further his studies, starting off in New York but ending up in Pasadena, California. He missed Africa though, and soon organised an adventure to take young students on a charity drive through Africa. Dan and a friend used Deziree, Dan’s Landy 109, to research the planned route – and apparently had to fend off thieves and border guards as they travelled through five countries. In the end, they locked themselves in a local jail for the night… finding this to be the safest overnight method!
Back in the States, Eldon’s adventures and charity soon drew attention, and accumulated $25 000 of relief aid funding. Over the next few years, he returned for more relief mission work with his Student Transport Aid organisation, including a stint to Morocco in another Land Rover.
In that country, Eldon was attacked by thieves and the Land Rover ran into major mechanical issues – it was a less-than-ideal outing.
In between working as a lowly crew member on movies made in Africa, Eldon took a lot of photographs and, in 1992, started recording the plight of the people of Mogadishu, Somalia. His emotive photographs soon drew the attention of international news agency Reuters, and by the end of that year, he was a Reuters ‘stringer’, or contracted freelance photographer.
At the time, Somalia was in turmoil as civil war, accompanied by unspeakable atrocities, ravaged the country.
On 12 July 1993 fate intervened. The US-led United Nations launched an air strike on what they believed to be the headquarters of notorious warlord General Aideed. But instead of taking out Aideed, the strike killed about 50 innocent Somalis – men, women and children.
Dan Eldon was one of four international media correspondents who raced to the scene of the strike to record the mayhem. An enraged mob met them at the site though, and Eldon – along with his three colleagues – bore the brunt of the Somalis’ anger. They were stoned to death.
Although Eldon was just 22 years old at the time of his death, he had published several highly influential books and his humanitarian initiatives continue to this day. Check out www.daneldon.org for more info on this spirited young man.
The vehicle you see on these pages is a replica of the original Deziree – the one he used for that first overland adventure and the subsequent Student Transport Aid trip.
So what are we to do with Deziree? As mentioned, she’s in reasonably good mechanical shape, so that’s a good start. Sure, she leaks oil. Sure, the steering bushes are in need of replacement. And sure, the interior needs a bit of TLC. But overall, she’s in pretty good shape.
We had two options. The first one was to ‘go big’ and install a big-power engine, add big wheels and trick suspension, and so on.
But since Deziree is Deziree – and since she carries a legacy on her shoulders – we’ve decided to go retro – so she will be restored and upgraded but will essentially just be a rejuvenated, modern version of the Deziree that served Dan Eldon on his adventures.
In the meantime, Land Rover headquarters in the United Kingdom are assisting us in tracing the specific origins of our Deziree, in particular, exactly when and where she was manufactured, her original colour, and so on.
The tale of Deziree the Land Rover continues next month…
Land Rover Series 2A 2.6 – Specifications
Engine Straight six, 12 valves
Capacity 2 625cc
Power 57kW @ 4 500r/min
Torque 178Nm @ 1 750r/min
Gearbox Four-speed manual
4×4 system Part-time 4×4 with locking centre differential, low range
Traction aids DTCS (driver throttle control system!)
Brakes (f/r) Drums/drums
Top speed (claimed when new): 115km/h
Top speed (actual, now): About 80km/h
Fuel consumption Yes. A lot.
Photographs: Deon van der Walt