Durban - A vintage Land Rover relegated to rot in a field on
a farm in South West Australia has been given a lifeline by a KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
man, and three years after being salvaged from a certain rusty grave, has been
restored to its former lustre.
Francois Davel’s labour of love, a 1951 Series 1 Land Rover,
has been affectionately been named "Keith" after the Australian
village where he was found.
Land Rovers have become a ubiquitous workhorse the world
over and Keith’s provenance has been traced back to bush clearing in Australia
during the early 1950s.
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Davel said that a passion for Land Rovers had sparked his
bid to salvage the vehicle when he first saw it three years ago.
"I was in Australia and a friend of mine showed me this
Landy parked in the middle of the field. I asked the owner if it was for sale
and I managed to buy it for a case of beer," he said.
Davel said that a year later, Keith still stood on the farm,
and he had accumulated another Series 1 Land Rover from another Australian
"I went to go and consolidate them all at my friend's
place in South East Australia and while I was there I thought I was short of
one door. I heard that there was another one on a farm on top of a hill. I went
out to the hill and there was one just sitting on top. The farmer said it
wasn’t his and at the end just gave it to me," he said.
"We brought all three out to South Africa. I had
managed to strip another two on that side for parts and it all came in a
40-foot container and that was about three years ago."
Davel said that Keith had been used for bush clearing and
had then become a delivery vehicle.
"It became a delivery vehicle, but I can’t decipher the
name that is faded on the side of the canopy."
Davel, a businessman, said that apart from 30 nuts and
bolts, the entire vehicle had original parts.
"Those 30 bolts will be replaced in due course and it
will be completely original."
"My father had a Series 3 and I have always wanted a
Series 1. It was a lovely project and if it was not my son encouraging me and
being my moral compass, I wouldn’t have done it. It would still be on stands in
my yard," he said.