November 2004

Mnyameni Transkei September 2004                by George Goswell

 A last minute trip to Mnyameni during the long weekend in September saw nine Land Rover turn up. Just after turning off the tar road on the dirt road down to the camp site we picked up Paul Chantler and his convey on the radio.  A few km down the dirt road the 1st disaster of the weekend took place. The Defender 90 is his group lost its offroad trailer. The trailer came loose and turned over spilling its contents in the road. No major damage to the trailer only its lid broken off and a dent or two.

Once the camp had been set up the rain started to come down and it rained like it had never rained before. By the morning almost everything was wet, and with no sign of the weather clearing, 4 vehicles in the party packed up and went home.

Editors Note : The names of the fair weather campers will not be published but buy me a beer and we will talk about the trip.

Saturday mid morning saw 3 Land Rovers and my son and myself on our bikes go out for a trail ride in the pouring rain. Mud, water, mud, water and more was the order of the day. By early afternoon the cold started to get the better of my son and myself and we headed back to camp, changed into dry clothes and headed out with the Landy to meet up with Paul and co. We picked our way north along the coast behind the dunes along some old trails. An excellent trip and just what the Land Rovers where designed to do.

The wind picked up on Saturday night and blew gale force all through the night. Tents and awnings could not take the force of the wind and by morning not much was standing. At 03h00 my son and I ditched the tent and took refuge in the Land rover. Trees and local houses had been wrecked during the night storm. Pity about the weather but we made the most of it .


















Nathaniel and Cecilia Fortoen                              Westville                                   Defender 130 d/Cab

Remember it’s your club and you will get out of it what you want to. You have purchased THE BEST 4 x 4 x FAR and now its time to use it. See you at the next club event.

When What, where More Info.
NEW DATE    27-28 Nov Eston Farmers Club GATES & TRAIL

Saturday. Gates event at the Quarry site above the Club. Camp over at the club on Saturday night.  Sunday. A trail ride around the farms in the area on part of the route used by the Sugar Belt 400 off road race. More info below.

16-19 Dec Transkei

Trip cancelled.

27-31 Dec Lesotho

Give George a call if interested in exploring the South West area of Lesotho.

20-22 Jan 2005 Duzi Canoe Marathon

Spend 3 days in the Umgeni Valley helping out with marshalling. More fun than work. Give Henry a call for more info.    Cell : 0829220370

Feb 2005 LROC KZN 16th AGM

More info to follow







Club Dates For Your Diary

PLEASE NOTE NEW DATE   Eston Farmers Club. GATES & TRAIL 27-28 November 2004. 

The Eston Farmers Club has offered the LROC the use of the Club Grounds and full ablutions for a weekend camp over.

On Saturday the LROC will organise a Gates event in the Quarry area above the club. Attempt the obstacles or watch others have fun. The Gate’s event to start at 12h30.

Saturday evening will be a braai at R45.00 per head organised by the Eston Farmers Club. The braai will consist of Wors, Chop, Steak, 2 salads and a roll. Saturday evening will be a social in the Club Bar with the LROC showing a few off road and driver training videos etc on the TV.

Breakfast on Sunday will be in the Eston Club at R17.50 per head OR book before 18 November and pay a deposit of R50.00 per vehicle and your breakfast will be covered by the LROC.(Members only). The R50.00 deposit will go towards your braai on Saturday night. You cannot loose unless you book and do not turn up.

The trail on Sunday with the local farmers will be around the farms in the Eston area, following part of the Sugar Belt 400 Off Road Race route. Trail will start from the Eston Club at 09h00.

Its going to be a good weekend and booking is essential before Thursday 18 November. Come on guys lets support the Eston Farmers Club as the farmers are going out of their way to accommodate the LROC.

PLEASE NOTE. The event will only take place if we have a least 20 vehicles and payment of the R50.00 per vehicle is received by the 18th November.  Give George Goswell or Peter Bassett a call for more info.




Ken and Betty Gordon 

My friend, the boldly striped skink has just circumnavigated my chair. It’s bone dry here at Maroela Camp, Kruger Park, before the Spring rains and the skink usually wriggles forth from a cleft in the tree as soon as the tap is turned on.

Those of you who know Ken and his 20 year old, much-loved, Landrover, will be aware of the painstaking preparations to ensure a trouble-free trip. New tyres were the initial necessity, the tyre expert at Continental grimly informing us that two of them were 11 and 12 years old by which time even if the tread is fair the walls are disintegrating. The ball joint fixed to the drop arm of the steering mechanism was next on the list, followed by the humiliating experience of wheel alignment. The frustrating part these days for Ken is that he simply does not have the strength to tackle all these jobs. At the first attempt of wheel alignment the front wheel bearings were slightly loose and had to be re-adjusted. After spending a morning up to his elbows in grease, Ken drove back to Park Rynie to try again. This time the ball joints on the rear track rod were rusted in place and could not be adjusted. Ken is one of those stoical, placid souls devoid of temper and when he returned breathing fire and threatening to “put a match to it” I was seriously disturbed.

With one day to go we managed to get it all rectified plus the wheel alignment (so we didn’t have to return to the original place in case they were laughing at us) by Kelvin, our Churchwarden, in his super Umzinto Workshop.

Our first stop was at Salt Rock, Natal North Coast, visiting friends who were house sitting and where we were treated like royalty, probably in worried concern for the trials, which might lie ahead.

Futululu, near St. Lucia, was easy caravanning but a bit of a trial with first the Rugby Club and then Grade IX of Thomas More School swamping the men’s ablutions.

All Border Controls at Swaziland were quick and easy with minimum bureaucracy.  Just outside a Police Station we got caught with a R60 speeding fine.  This is “par for the course” in Swaziland where the limits vary from 60, 80 and 100 but where the signs are confusing and often the 60 zone is sudden and short with no indication of where it stops. Speed traps are often near to Police Stations. Swaziland (a monarchy) is one of the poorest nations in the world and they have to make some money somehow!

There was only one other camper at Hlane Royal National Park. We sat in the enveloping black of the night at the restaurant with its outside tables on the wooden deck and chatted to the only other couple from the Netherlands. This time they managed to keep the hurricane lamps alight but after a half-hour delay had to apologise for the wait as “the gas had run out”.

King Mswati III of Swaziland was due to arrive for the following weekend together with Sam Njomo, the president of Namibia. Hopefully the gas cylinders would be replenished in time!

But it never pays to be patronising. As always next morning Ken started up the Landy yet later when we were ready to hook it up it refused to fire. The more we tried the sulkier it became until at last there was nothing for it but to walk across to one of the young drivers of the Game Viewing Landrovers and ask for help. The jump leads didn’t work as his fan belt was slipping so we had to suffer the full ignominity of the big Off-White, Traditional, Pioneer Hunter, Explorer, World Famous, Trade Mark, Camel Trophy type V8 Defender being towed across the camp site by the perky open-air, green, khaki canvas-clad, “No-Name” younger brother. There are times when I could slap the Landy hard across its rugged unreliable snout!

Great to be back in the Park again and Berg-en-Dal its usual charming self, all somewhat spoiled by the arrival of the big truck and the 12 igloo tents mushrooming right beside us. A grand crowd of European youngsters but the noise and clatter overwhelming the sensitive tranquillity of the bushveld. We tried hard to be friendly. “After all”, I said, “You never know whether tomorrow morning we shall need them to push!”

At Maroela the small camp was very full for the weekend. Our only alternative was to park on a steep slope and everything went wrong when the caravan slid off the levelling ramp. More hitching up, more messing about with the jockey wheel, more hunting for really BIG stones, all confounded by the fact that we had had to camp in the middle of the circle of smugly positioned existing campers on the perimeter and were thus the centre for all eyes. I had to apologise for the shattering noise of the Landrover engine labouring away in its efforts to assist us in our struggles. “We would have helped you”, they said, “If only we had known what it was you were trying to do.”

Satara Restaurant with its permanent sunshine, vividly green lawns, strident birdsong and distant glimpse of bushveld has always been a favourite stopping place. At the self-service Nestles coffee bar I spied the adjoining gleaming white dispenser with its label “Cold, Refreshing Milk”. I held the cup and tried to operate the metal lever. “Pull it towards you”, advised Ken. Nothing. “The other way”. Nothing. “Press up”.  It wouldn’t go. Reluctantly we had to ask the young assistant. She looked amazed but politely leaned across us and opened the container door. Inside reposed a large glass jug full of milk. 

The 226 Km journey north to Shingwedzi was uncomfortably hot at 32 degrees C or more for six or seven hours. Betty suffered one of her heat attacks when for hours her scorching face and skin can find no relief. “Just remember my Anglo-Saxon-Viking ancestors”, she says. Shingwedzi was very full and we headed for the only patch of shade we could find. At such times we only level the caravan, connect the fridge, raise the roof then sit and wait it out for evening to do the rest. Cars started returning from their late afternoon sorties and only then did we realise that we were camping actually in the sand road and detours were being made around us. Next morning we were up at 5 AM and changing sites.

At Letaba one evening a gale force wind swept across the veld hitting our caravan, which was on the perimeter of the camping area, full square on. The clang of tent poles breaking apart and dropping assaulted our ears, not once but four times after each repair and reinstatement.

Tightening the storm strap was like playing childish games with the roaring wind. “Hold on to the centre pole”, cried Ken, “While I re-locate the Landy.” Ever since Swaziland we had put the Landrover battery on charge every night. I held on to the pole while the Landrover battery was unplugged, the lead wound up, the engine started, the vehicle brought around the caravan avoiding the trees, a rope hitched along the top of the tent poles and tied to the Landy, another rope found for the centre pole and knots and ropes tightened. The canvas flapped angrily and billowed out away from my pole. The wind blew up my shorts and shirt. Everything seemed to be fighting against me. I suddenly thought of all the years I had been “Pole-Holding” in scorching sun, stinging rain, vicious winds, on dust, mud, sand and grit. There should be a Vintage Pole-Holders medal.

As we left Letaba to drive the 200 Km south to Crocodile Bridge the sun had still not risen above the horizon. After a smattering of rain during the night the sky was like a dark grey inverted saucer but all around the edges, where the rim of the saucer met the earth, a narrow strip of clear pale baby blue sky appeared and in the east the low grey swirling mass was tinged with gold as if a row of lit candles were shining on a gloomy ceiling. Strong stubby lion-coloured grass fringed the road contrasting in perfect harmony with the deep lustrous green of the mopane shrubs. Here and there the flowering knob thorn acacias spiked the solid green mopane bushes with the soft yellow of their flowering fluffy cat’s tails.

The natural splendour and variety of terrain in the 450 x 65 Km area of Kruger Park, from low rolling hills, plains, riverine, rugged veld  to koppies and mountains is soul-satisfying in itself with or without the interest and excitement of the animals and birds.

SOME OF THE ANIMALS WE SAW   A wildly excited, gesticulating Frenchman in a little red VW anxious to tell the world about the six (he said) lions way over there behind thick bushes and grass. We could just see an occasional ear or the tip of a tail. As we drove away he was still enthusiastically leaning out of the window and telling all newcomers where to look.

A big herd of elephant playing in the water. Although the adults indicated it was time to browse and led the babies out of the water the little ones kept returning for more fun. They submerged themselves completely, even their trunks and were obviously loving it.

We heard Nightjars every night at Berg-en –Dal, Moroela and Shingwedzi. Lion and Hyaenas only at Moroela.

There was a tall dead tree on the Red Rock Trail at Shingwedzi on whose branches were perched 30 vultures like some sombre unmoving death-watch parasites. When we stopped we saw more vultures on nearby trees, over 100 in all.

At Shingwedzi one late afternoon we were told of a leopard in a tree only about 3 Km away. With an hour to go before camp gates were closed, we shot off only to be halted almost immediately by an old elephant standing unmoving full in the road, trunk down and curled onto the ground, absolutely frozen into complete stillness. Was he asleep? Was he ill? We could only wait patiently and eventually one foot was lifted slightly and moved slowly a little forward. More petrified stance for a while before another foot moved. In this way he gradually crossed the road and was heading for the river pool on the other side. Thankfully we set off again and wonder of wonders a Honey Badger raced across the road in front of us and we watched him make off along a donga on the other side. (Two days later we saw him again).

It was easy to spot the leopard by the number of cars pulled up alongside the tree. We would never have spotted the leopard without this typical Kruger Park signpost and were grateful rather than irritated. We watched him for twenty minutes or so as he slumbered on his stout branch, legs and tail dangling down in complete relaxation. He looked plump and was probably well gorged with the impala on which he had been feeding. The sun was setting in an African red ball and a full moon was high in the sky as we drove back to camp.

Three sightings of Bateleur eagles. One was early in the morning perched on a dead tree alongside the road with the slanting sunlight full on him. We could see the glint of his eyes as he gazed along the sun rays until he hooded them against the glare.

Seven lionesses at Shingwedzi. 5.30 PM and the gates close at 6 PM so we backed off, away from the other cars and headed for camp. Ten minutes later we weren’t getting any nearer. We were heading in the wrong direction! Back the way we had come. No cars beside the lions. Getting dark. Can’t read the signposts and no time to stop. Just made it back to the gates at 5.57 PM (by ignoring the 40 Km speed limit). The lions must have been laughing their heads off!

At Letaba we spent a morning at the most impressive and beautiful Bird Hide of our entire experience. Beside the great expanse of the Letaba River swollen by the Engelhard Dam into a broadly tranquil deep pool stretching from east to west as far as the eye could see. In addition to the unlimited birdlife every sandbank displayed an adornment of  massive, lethargic crocs while others glided through the water like silent arrowheads. Groups of hippo were dotted around sending grunting messages across the water to each other. In the same vicinity we saw a pair of fish eagles feeding their young. I actually saw the eagle raise her head and I watched her white throat throbbing as she sent her haunting, wild, African call echoing across the water to her mate.

What is a VELAR   

VELAR was the name used to disguise the true identity of prototype Range Rovers when they were road tested prior to the launch date.

The name was fitted to the bonnet on a black strip and the letters were sourced from the P6 Rover parts bin - the A was an inverted V.

VELAR is traditionally thought to stand for Vee Eight Land Rover, or V8 Engine in Land Rover. However, the name had already been used on a prototype Rover sports car, of which only one was made and is now at Gaydon. The name is derived from the Spanish Velar meaning to look after, to watch over, or the Italian Velare meaning to veil or to cover. The name was created by Mike Dunn, an engineer at Alvis and was created out of the letters in ALVIS and ROVER. So the VELAR motor company was used by Geof Miller (the Range Rover's Development Engineer) as a decoy name for registering pre-production Range Rovers. As such the company, which was registered in London, is credited with making one sports car and forty or so station wagons.

The first VELAR was made in the summer of 1967, after which six further engineering prototypes and a driveable chassis were built. The last of this run, built in January 1970 was virtually production standard.

During 1969, a production line was constructed at the Solihull Factory and twenty eight pre-production prototypes were built. These vehicles were assigned production chassis numbers from 35500001A to 35500025A (and 35800001A to 3A left hand drive) and assigned London registrations of the series YVB 151H through to YVB 177H. Whilst these VELARS were intended to be production standard, they bore various prototype features such as aluminium bonnets, smooth dash boards, Land Rover type seats and hand-made roof panels. Many of these vehicles were despatched to the engineering department and were used for on-going development and conversion. A few of these Velars were used for publicity (notably YVB 153H and YVB 160H) and featured in promotional film footage such as 'A Car for All Reasons' and magazine test reports.

In May 1970, a batch of 20 production standard Range Rovers were built, 5 red, 5 white, 5 blue and 5 green. These were used for the press launch in May/June 1970 at the Meudon Hotel near Falmouth, Cornwall. These Range Rovers were assigned Solihull registrations NXC 231H to NXC 250H consecutively with chassis numbers 35500025A to 35500045A.

Until recently, only one engineering prototype was thought to survive (AOY 289H chassis number 100/6). However, chassis 100/7, registered YVB 150H, was recently found and is now undergoing full restoration. Only three of the 'YVB' pre-production prototypes remain unaccounted for, although many are in need of, or are undergoing full restoration. Seven of the press cars are still missing.

With the passing of time and natural wastage through scrap yards, all surviving early Range Rovers may be assigned the noble status of classic car. In particular, these few Velars are increasingly sought after and the beautifully restored YVB 151H is reputedly valued at £100,000. Despite their rarity, VELAR owners often gather through the Range Rover Register and a convoy of twenty of so VELARS may be spotted on the leafy lanes of Warwickshire as if through a time warp of nearly thirty years.  

Engineering Prototypes

The first VELAR was made in the summer of 1967, after which six further engineering prototypes and a driveable chassis were built.

Pre-Production Prototypes

During 1969, a production line was constructed at the Solihull Factory and twenty eight pre-production prototypes were built.

 Press Launch Vehicles

In May 1970, a batch of 20 production standard Range Rovers were built, 5 red, 5 white, 5 blue and 5 green.

 What the Papers Said ...... 1970

"Most certainly this is one of the most significant new cars to emerge for some time - setting new standards for go - anywhere ability and saloon car development. The leisure market is an area of rapid expansion and I am sure that the Range Rover will be a big winner."

Brian Groves
Motoring Correspondent, Daily Mail

"For a vehicle designed to cope with a rough terrain as well as normal road conditions, my first impressions of Range Rover are of the absolute smoothness and good handling characteristics. There can be no doubt that the demand for this vehicle will outstrip production very rapidly."

Ted Ives
Midland Editor, Autocar

"The point which struck me about the Range Rover is that it is neither a de-luxe Land Rover nor a conventional saloon, to which 4-wheel drive has been added, but something completely new from the British Motor Industry. It should have a very strong appeal to all who need cross - country transport for their leisure pursuits, but who do not want a purely specialised vehicle which is inappropriate for normal motoring. Its comfort on the worst cross - country going sets new and very high standards."                                                                                 Harold Hastings             Midland Editor, Motor


Note : of the first sixty-five range rover chassis, the fate of only ten remains unknown.

Last Modified : 07/02/2006 13:49