Tuesday, 6 May 2014


It was probably rash for Land Rover to take a full page of The Daily Telegraph claiming you could drive across Kintyre. I knew Kintyre. In 1940 I watched Donald Smith of Drumalea set off, with Home Guard* armband and rifle, to scan sea and sky for Germans. We had family in Campbeltown. My favourite uncle Johnstone Milloy; his sisters Flora, Jessie and Minnie were teachers who, it seemed, had educated generations. My step-grandmother Martha came from Drum-something-else near Machrihanish where I watched Spitfires, and Liberators from America.

So I knew the dotted line in Land Rover’s ad was a boggy hillside and challenged it. I took one of the new V8 Land Rovers on it and got bogged down. Land Rover was cross, said I hadn’t been driving it properly so sent top cross-country driver Roger Crathorne, a Range Rover development engineer, to show me how. They sent a Range Rover, with a winch and flew me to Machrihanish. A Land Rover Product Strategist, brought along the same V8 Land Rover with the same tyres I had used. A wet peat bog was passed by outflanking it. A ridge that had looked impassable because there was a ditch the other side proved no great difficulty. The secret was to tackle it obliquely so that there was always one wheel on hard standing.

The Forestry plantation, however, was impenetrable. Ditches dug to drain the hillside were too much. We could have used ladders to bridge gaps, but that, we decided would impugn the spirit of the advertisement. We tried the hill from the middle, reaching Lussa Loch by the forestry road but that was no use either. Only something tracked was ever going to negotiate the sage and peat above Putechan. The Range Rover’s winch pulled us out.

With ground-anchors, helpers and time it would have been possible, but that would have been as relevant as putting the Land Rover on the back of a tractor or lifting it across by helicopter. It turned out that somebody from the advertising agency had been told that anywhere you could walk, you could drive a Land Rover. The advertisement was duly withdrawn. It was 1980. Roger Crathorne is now retiring but not before contributing a treasured foreword to The Land Rover File, 65th Anniversary Edition

*Donald’s armband still said LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) as I recall. I was only six.

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