The Old Steel Dinosaur2 Comments
This is a 1974 Series 3 109 4-door Land Rover with right-hand steering – a behemoth much like Dan's Deziree, which is a 1970s Series 3 109 3-door with a retrofitted hardtop. Since Deziree is on display at the Dan Eldon Place of Tomorrow in Nairobi, the team wanted to find a Land Rover as close to the make and model as possible to display at traveling Dan Eldon exhibits here in the States. This vehicle has done some trekking – it's originally from the UK, and the Eldon family acquired it from a man who shipped her from Spain to Florida, and from there she was sent to L.A. just a few months ago.
“We envision this vehicle will be great fun for kids – who may not be familiar with cars that don't have tinted windows, video [players] and power everything. You actually have to look out of the windows and get involved in the world,” said Kathy.
We got the vehicle back from the auto shop just in time for the Dan Eldon Project Fall/Holiday 2011 Look Book photo shoot.
Below is Dan Eldon Project graphic designer Jeff Skene's personal account of retrieving the old thing from the mechanics shop with Kathy.
“The Old Steel Dinosaur”
by Jeff Skene
edited by Alisa Damaso
There was steam in my breath from the early morning air. We had all arrived before the sun and the bustle of life that routinely follows. You could still hear the melodic crashing of waves against the stony stops of beach homes which lined Los Angeles's coast. The sound would soon be swallowed by the buzz of rushing cars competing in symphony as weekend warriors dip and dodge, too eager to wait in line for their turn to choose a space for the day upon the golden sand.
Today we're shooting the 2011 Dan Eldon Project Spring Look Book. This is a collection of garments composed of light weight tees and fluffy fleece inspired by the life and images of Dan Eldon. The production of the line had been the primary focus of our attention for weeks, and everyone was excited to finally see it come to life. We had chosen the Eldon beach house as home base for the photo shoot. From there we would run across PCH and duck under the restricted signs finding a little sliver of Malibu's still-undeveloped canyon set behind the polished buildings and shining signs that line the highway. It was here where we'd capture "Old Malibu," rustic and raw in nature, weathered by the harsh elements of the sea. It was here that we found a setting that complemented the lifestyle of Dan and the brand he inspires.
As more of our party filed into the long and narrow driveway, I was suddenly met by Kathy, Dan's Mom, on the outside patio. Full of energy even in the early hours of the morning, she excitedly proposed for me to accompany her in picking up the 1974 Land Rover. This was very close to the same model vehicle that Dan had driven in his journeys over Africa's most rugged and dangerous countryside. His Land Rover, Deziree, had been the focus of many of his artistic journal entries, and because I had spent many hours viewing Dan's art, I had a great vision of the Rover without yet seeing it in person. After much searching, the Eldon family found this vehicle in Florida and had it shipped to their home in Malibu. From there, it went to a small, specialized vintage Land Rover mechanics garage located in the heart of Venice. We had planned to use it as a prop for the shoot, and as a certified "Car Crazy" guy, I had really been looking forward to a chance to see it in person. Needless to say, I gracefully accepted the invitation, and we embarked on our journey up the coast to retrieve the old steel dinosaur.
With the rising sun in our eyes, visors down, and the pedal to the metal in Kathy's electric Prius, we rode amongst the stream of vacation-bound cars towards the busy city of Santa Monica. I had only met Kathy a few times at the Eldon beach house and we hadn't yet had the opportunity to really talk to one another. But in the car, we were without a moment of silence as we shared stories – I mostly about my family and career path as a graphic artist, and Kathy mostly about her children, Dan, and the charities she's involved with. Distracted in conversation, we soon found ourselves lost within the complex streets of Venice, looking for the small mechanic shop – which the owners felt didn't need a company sign, or posted address for that matter.
We finally cut traffic, taking the cross street from Lincoln Boulevard, and pulled along the curb in front of a tall, rusted chain link fence enclosure lined with wood that reached so high it blocked the sun. We both began to walk the perimeter, uncertain, looking for an entrance within the crudely fashioned barricade. I put my fingers to the rough wired metal and spread a space wide enough to catch a glimpse of the inside. Within the lot I saw skeleton frames of old safari vehicles powdered by dirt, sinking beneath the soil like the scores of old ship wrecks lining Africa's uninhabited coast.
I was then startled by Kathy calling out, "Peter!!!!... Peter!!!!... Peter!!!!," and I quickly pulled my face from the fence. With no response, Kathy yelled again – "Peter!!!!... Peter!!!!... Peter!!!!" Finally, there was a sound of creaking and grinding coming from an interior garage within the fortress. As it opened, I could barely make out the silhouette of a short but strong-looking grizzly of a man slowly approaching the fence. Kathy waved and happily exclaimed, "Peter!" – shoving a digital camera into my hand and swiftly saying to me,"take lots of pictures." I turned the camera on and began to document the interaction between Kathy and Peter. I was introduced to Peter and immediately detected what I believed to be a strong Russian accent. He was dressed in a pristine white workman's shirt, navy work pants held up by thick suspenders and a black beret -- he had a look more sophisticated than your average vehicle mechanic. The combination of his clothing, accent and classic reading glasses tucked within his pocket gave him the throwback style of an early 60s immigrant making his way in a new world. I took his large coarse hand in salutationand we all stepped into his shop.
Passing the melting motor artifacts that lay in the dirt lot out front, we stepped within the dark cave of his workshop. Once inside, my nostrils filled with the aroma of a multitude of lubricants and cleaning products, which overwhelmed the subtle hint of decomposing rubber seals and old brittle plastic parts and wires. Taking a look around, I was impressed by the order and structure in Peter's assorted tools and mechanic supplies. On the floor in a corner were the large intestines of an old transmission. As Kathy spoke with Peter I circled the shop, taking pictures of rows of wrenches hanging in place above the nuts and bolts and shells of Land Rover parts.
But before I could truly inspect the shop, we were guided out to where our Rover was parked.
She stood proud amongst its fellow broken transports. Here, nestled between close friends of similar design, she seemed so practical and well-suited. Her dimpled and flaky paint job showed experience of a life well traveled, and across the front were the words “LAND ROVER” – which she wore like a badge of honor. She stood upon thick knobby tires that were designed for mud and snow. Her simple composition read functionality before comfort, and safety in strength. I knew she'd stand out against the new Mercedes' and Cadillacs of Santa Monica Boulevard.
As we all climbed inside the beast, the first thing I noticed was that the steering wheel was on the wrong side. There was a strong smell of petrel. Other than the brand new leather front seat bench, which had just been replaced, the rest of the inside looked more worn than its shell. The door handles were nothing more than canvas straps. The dashboard reminded me of an old cigarette machine, and the vents in the dash led directly to the engine.
Peter demonstrated how to start the old Rover, how to pump the choke and how to set it to idle. He explained how to shift with the clutch, use the emergency brake, and how to put it in four wheel drive. And although I couldn't understand the majority of what he said because of his heavy accent, I already had a basic understanding of how to start primitive motors like this one, since I grew up riding old motorcycles. And after some basic instruction, it was time for a test drive around the block.
I pressed in the clutch and turned the ignition. The machine began to rattle like an old fishing tackle box and then suddenly jumped to life. After adjusting the choke I brought her to idle and we all sat shaking with the cylinders, wondering whether or not we could really drive this monster home. Our first destination was the gas station which was just a block down the street. I eased on the gas and released the clutch, pulling the Rover into motion. The diesel engine rang out and we were on our way. The gears were low and reminded me of driving a John Deer tractor. We moved at a strong and steady pace with high acceleration for the speed we carried. As I felt through the gear box in an effort to find second, I began to lose momentum. I already noticed the line of impatient cars building up behind us. I looked at Kathy and then at Peter, and we all laughed. I was finally able to push it into second gear and roar down the road to the gas station.
Peter helped us fill up and then we dropped him back at his shop. After taking a few photos of Kathy and Peter in front of the Rover, we said our goodbyes. Kathy jumped into her Prius, and I climbed into the Rover – it was time for me to navigate the beast home. Once I got the Rover started, I felt a sensation of excitement as I realized it was just me now, with no one there to guide me and laugh at my inexperience. I felt at ease cruising at low speeds down Lincoln Boulevard, smiling at passing cars with their drivers gawking in disbelief. Coming to a stop, I realized the brakes took a lot of man-power to finally bring the beast to rest. Kathy was looking out her window, smiling, laughing and taking pictures from the safety of her modern day vehicle, a luxury I hadn't come to truly appreciate until now.
It wasn't until we jumped aboard the 10 and then onto PCH that I really began to experience just how difficult this Rover was to drive. Her heavy tires and non-existent power steering made it nearly impossible to helm. She would set a line like a champion sail boat racer against the wind and hold it. To counter steer would only send her in a new direction locked just as tight. I ping-ponged between the medians until I realized the less forceful I pulled the wheel, the more control I had. The beast was its own animal and I had to let her lead. I put her into fourth gear and soon we were home.
When we arrived at the house, everyone exclaimed in joy as they went over the vehicle with great care, pointing out her primitive features and amazing utilities. I felt pride in having accomplished the difficult drive home and happy to have shared such an exciting experience with Kathy and the rest of the gang.
Kathy with Jason Bleick, creative director of the Dan Eldon Project clothing line
For more information on Peter, the magical mechanic who brought our new old Land Rover to life, visit his website: englishcars.com
NAME THE LAND ROVER CONTEST
You've heard her story, now help give her a name! The Dan Eldon Project is hosting a contest to name the new old Land Rover on our Facebook page – “Like” Dan Eldon Project, click on the contest, hit “I'm Attending” and post your entry on the event page. Join in on the fun!
Grand Prize: A Dan Eldon book signed by Kathy Eldon and Dan Eldon Project T-shirt
Runners-up: Dan Eldon Project tees