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Now, here's an interesting thing to find whilst sitting in your office at work!

There I was, sitting in my new office, doing nothing in particular, just waiting for the 'phone to ring as usual, when a guy came in to deliver the stationery I'd ordered. We started to talk about cars, as at the time I had the Subaru parked in the office carpark - a British registered car in a carpark full of Belgian cars. We talked about the Subaru, and how I was planning to use it on the farm but how it wasn't really satisfactory. What I needed was a Landrover. "Oh, I've got an old thing. I'll sell it to you if you like. It's a Minerva"

Minerva Land Rover built under licence in Belgium

So, what's a Minerva?

We go back to 1951, when the Belgian army announced a contract for the purchase of 2500 4x4 vehicles. And Willys applied - and no-one else. The Belgian car manufacturer Minerva had fallen on hard times and was manufacturing Standard Vanguards in their factory, and they had plenty of spare capacity. So, the chairman had an illuminating idea. And off he trotted to Rover. An agreement was reached that Rover would supply 2500 knocked-down kits for Minerva to assemble with their own bodies and sell them to the Belgian army. Minerva won the contract, and started to supply the Belgian army in June 1952. And the one you see here is September 1952!

Minerva Land Rover built under licence in Belgium 2

She is totally complete, running, and original, even down to the split rear lights. Because this is an ex-ambulance (it even has the signs with it), the spare wheel mounting is on the front bumper rather than mounted on the back tailgate with a jerry can, which is the common arrangement. This makes it even rarer , . It runs in all gears, in 4x4 mode - everything you want. totally original. It needs a little bit of work but nothing when you think of what a newish Discovery wants after 10 years! And for three hundred quid! It even has a current controle technique. What about that?

They are very similar to Landrovers, except that they are steel-bodied and the front wings are squarer and slope forward at the front. Because this is an ex-military model, it's a canvas soft top with no exterior door handles (you put your hand through a hole in the door) and with two front seats (in the centre is a toolbox) but no PTO (bugger!).

So no PTO and too good to wreck off-road - so I'm not going to use it down to the farm. I'll just have to use the Subaru intstead, unless someone wants to give me a knackered Landrover.

Minerva Land Rover built under licence in Belgium 3

So early one Sunday morning when there was no-one about, little traffic and no police on the road, Marianne and I went out to this forest near Enghien, between Brussels and Lille, and now the Minerva lives quite happily in a big brick-built barn in Breendonck, near Antwerp.

And what a drive. All 50/60 kilometres (35 miles). It only broke down once (the points closed up on it) but that was quickly remedied. But, I must have aged 20 years during the trip.

For a machine that's 50 years old nearly, and based on a prewar design, and deliberately intended to be as primitive as possible, you can't get anything simpler than this . This is a machine for real men to stare at. Only heroes can drive this.

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page last modified 09:04 24/01/2007
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