The view from faraway farm: Up in the high meadow

I was at the Manchester car show a few years back when I happened upon a very impressive collection of Land Rovers. I am a sucker for British cars and motorcycles, so I went over to take a closer look. A fellow was standing next to a miniature Land Rover, in perfect scale. I'd never seen anything like it. I began asking questions about it, and came to find out it was basically a golf cart with an electric motor for silent running. It was custom built by hand and it utilized a number of original Land Rover parts, heavily massaged to fit the scale. One question led to another and I found out that I was talking with Glenn Parent, a fellow local who works for High Meadow Farm Rovers situated on a lovely hill farm near Saxtons River, just a few short miles from my home. Glenn invited me to stop up some time and see the shop and car museum where he is the head technician.

This encounter triggered a search for a reasonably priced Land Rover, and within two weeks I was completing an internet transaction at the Walmart parking lot in Bennington with a fellow from Stockbridge, Mass. Driving that 1982 Stage One Land Rover was like taking a step back in time. No power steering, no sound deadening material, inadequate brakes, right-hand steering and questionable electrics. I was able to squeeze 60 mph out of it going downhill on Route 7, and that was as fast as I ever wanted to go in that thing. However, I was smitten. Rides to the Dari-Joy on hot summer evenings were a blast until the alternator gave up the ghost and I drove it home with just the parking lights in the pitch dark. The fiance was not able to discern any of the romance and adventure that I experienced on that ride. In fact, she had very little tolerance for the Land Rover after that.

I set about correcting things that were wrong with it, adding sound deadening (in retrospect I shouldn't have bothered) replacing the alternator, having the radiator re-cored, etc., etc. In the end, all this made me want to do was purchase another Jeep Cherokee so I could go off-road in air-conditioned comfort and get more than 11 mpg. I sold it to a British fellow who could not have been more thrilled with his purchase. I'll admit that I really enjoyed the experience of driving and working on the Land Rover and having another is a real possibility one of these days. In all that time I still hadn't visited High Meadow Farm Rovers, mere minutes away.

This past week I decided to take some time off and do a bit of roof work on a garage. I drove right past the road to High Meadow Farm Rovers on my way to the hardware store, so on the way back I took that turn and drove up to the shop and private museum. I was greeted by Glenn and given the tour. They have a beautifully equipped shop where a number of Land Rovers were in various stages of restoration. A brand new galvanized steel frame was sitting there waiting to be mated to an aluminum-bodied Land Rover, and all by itself, the frame was a thing of beauty. However, it paled in comparison to the 1947 Land Rover centre steer prototype replica upstairs in the museum, where all the perfect completed Land Rovers are housed.

As the story goes, Rover Cars LTD's Chief Engineer Maurice Wilkes had a decrepit old WW II Ford built Jeep on the family's country farm in England. It was extensively used for work on the farm, but it was on its last legs. Maurice had the idea to build a similar replacement vehicle from Rover components on the still intact Jeep frame, with material assistance and the blessing of his brother Spencer Wilkes, the head of Rover. The farm project turned into a Rover R&D project and in 1947 a centre steer four-wheel drive vehicle was built. It was the original prototype for the famed Land Rover, but it was lost to time. Some believe it still exists, yet it has never been found.

Dr. James Macri, owner of High Meadow Farm Rovers is an astute and dedicated Land Rover enthusiast who decided to direct his considerable management acumen to re-create the centre steer Land Rover. The project was mapped out with precision, a visit to the UK ensued, photographs of the original were procured, and a metal fabricator was contracted. They found an original Ford GPW military Jeep frame, just like the one used on the original Centre Steer prototype. Then Glenn Parent and his staff Dana Earthrowl, Technician, and Jacob Parent, Assistant Technician, set out to build the most accurate replica of the famous Centre Steer Land Rover in existence. I got to stand next to this holy grail Land Rover re-creation and take in the beauty and craftsmanship of a true hand-built classic. That's what I did on my vacation when I paid a visit up in the high meadow.

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Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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