About Charlie


Charlie is our Series 3 Land Rover. However,I’ve never been one to name cars, I always thought it sounded a bit geeky. To be blunt. However, this classic old Land Rover is different. I cant really explain why but it’s got something over me, perhaps I have something in common with this metal contraption. This Land Rover demanded a name, it’s more than a car.

Charlie is a ruff and tumble, likable rogue. He will give you grief from time to time, cause a few headaches now and then, isn’t the prettiest on the block but when you need a hand with anything and you need a friend to get you through he’s right there, and there to the very end.

Many see just an old car, a well used body with bumps and scrapes, they hear the starter wind over, and wind again when Charlie is hot. A cloud of black smoke squeezes from the rear, then life. And it is life, its raw, real, noisy. The thick oil takes its time before the green oil light stops burning bright, one of the few lights on the dash.

Charlie purrs with the feeling of security, its punchy. The exhaust note is clear and precise. Their is nothing fake about the heart of this creature, its their to be relied upon, and it knows it.

Charlie is a simple creature. The design started way back in the mid 1940’s with the Series one Land Rover. As all vehicles were back then, the first Land Rover was very basic, in fact it was little more than a tractor with a cover on it. several minor changes occurred over the years until the early ’70’s when Charlie and his model rolled off the production line.

The engine design dated back to 1958 so by the time Charlie was built in 1976 the engine had been in production for an astonishing 18 years and was virtually unchanged. Unheard of today where car models change every year.

The specs of this old classic don’t really make for exciting reading, the engine is small for its time being a 2.25 litre, 4 cylinder producing a sedate 55 Kilowatts, or 70 Horsepower. The offerings from Asian competitors at the time, the Toyota Landcrusier and the Nissan Patrol both came off the boat from Japan with 4.0 litre, 6 cylinder power plants claiming around 130 Horsepower each. However, Charlie towed this massive Dodge truck and trailer, a huge load of 3.5 ton for an astonishing 2000km without a problem, yes, it was a bit slow, a bit noisy. But the job was done, and that’s Charlie in really simple words. The job gets done, and that’s a Land Rover.

The driveline is functional, but equally basic. The gearbox is a 4 speed with the standard huge gear lever, The transfer case is the same as many modern 4wd’s with high and low range. This model Land Rover is the last of the part time 4wd systems, so its just a rear wheel drive car when in normal road use. Charlie has manual free-wheeling hubs on the front axle so this can be disconnected from drive to save wear on the driveline.

This also offers big advantages when Charlie is towing at maximum capacity as low range can be selected for manouvering at slow speeds, or on steep terrain where taking off is impossible in normal high range.

Charlie is completely standard engine wise,  this engine is the orginial the car came with. Some “drivability” changes have been added due to modern factors, and to aid travel.

The most noticeable changes are that the  factory oil-bath air cleaner has been replaced with a Range Rover type , this is connected to the raised air intake made from exhaust tube. The carburettor has been replaced with a Weber type that is a bolt on kit. Other than the cylinder head having hardened valve seats to allow the straight use of unleaded fuel , the engine is completely standard. I have fitted boosted brakes, but this is mainly to add dual line braking purely for safety. I’m doing some pretty crazy stuff in a car built for the traffic we had 40 years ago, things are a bit faster today and I would rather not end up over a cliff while trying to keep Charlie “pure”.

Clearly the engine bay has other wiring and extras, but that’s for travel and longevity. Charlie does have a large electric cooling fan fitted out of sight in front of the radiator, this was a preventive measure fitted prior to a huge trip towing the Dodge truck back from Melbourne, but the reality is that the fan is rarely used and is still manually switched from the cab, its not automatic.

Cab wise, basic, simple. I can’t say much here, because their is not much to say. Very simple dash with only the basics, gear lever controls and a hand brake. The cab has been lined with a noise deadening product , other than the Land Rover Defender seats the interior is the way Charlie was in ’76.

The cargo area , or rear of the Land Rover carries more than your average tool kit. I’m not going to bore you with every detail, its going to be obvious to anyone that if I’m carrying a full rear axle , gearbox and transfer case in the rear that’s bolted down for travel I clearly have a few spares. This might look over the top to many of you, but there’s a method to my madness.

I’m in Australia, its big. Much of it is open, unpopulated space. I do crazy things with a car that’s already 40 years old, so when I’m 2000km from home, with a trailer loaded to 3.5 ton and I have a problem what do I do ? Pay a tow truck thousands to get me home only to spend a few hours fitting a spare part I have in the shed ? No thanks.

This totally and completely explains the reasons I drive and explore in this Land Rover. I can replace the head gasket on the side of the road in a few hours, blown gearbox ?, no worries mate.

Not to mention that this old thing will keep me going when half of the engine is hanging out the side. No computer or silly sensor will shut this thing down ever.

One red wire it all it needs to make spark, a black hose brings fuel to the carburettor via a simple “clacker” fuel pump. When this engine stops its visual. Often its because something is running out of it, or something isn’t running into it.

Underneath you can see the three fuel tanks I fitted, all tanks were  found second hand and the body was cut to fit them in. Charlie now has a fuel capacity of approximately 216 litres and a range of approximately 1400km.   The brilliant parabolic springs supplied by Rocky Mountain from Canada can also be seen here, these springs are amazing, fantastic, beautiful pieces of equipment. I have dealt with Jeremy from Rocky Mountain on several technical issues and their support is second to none. But, the best part is the ride quality, the springs have been in Charlie for around 40,000km now and used in all situations, towing, off road, on road unloaded and city driving. All I can say is don’t drive a series Land Rover without them, ever.

This Land rover can be explained in one word. Simplicity, and it fits with me so well that I’m excited to write about Charlie. I feel inspired, free.

I have stopped thinking I should be the same as everyone else and just drive a normal car, to me, Charlie is more normal than any other car I have had.

Its time to explore, I know Charlie is ready.