- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

Every other vehicle on the road today appears to be a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle. Three decades ago, however, such vehicles were few and far between.

Hans Salzinger was a man ahead of his time when he went shopping for a new set of wheels in the autumn of 1974. He wanted something that would take him to sandy, inaccessible fishing spots as well as to remote locations for hunting.

He lived in Annapolis at the time and all summer long had seen a limestone cream over pastel green Land Rover station wagon every time he passed by the showroom of Capitol Motors Inc. on West Street. “It intrigued me,” he recalls.

The appealing, seven-passenger car is an inch and a half shy of 12 feet long and rolls on an 88-inch wheelbase. At 77.5 inches tall, it is more than a foot taller than it is wide, but it is still able to turn in a 38-foot circle. It was built by Rover British Leyland U.K. Limited in February 1974.

More important to Mr. Salzinger was the 7-inch ground clearance and the four-wheel-drive capability.

He stopped at the dealership on Sept. 25 and offered to pay $500 less than the asking price. To his surprise the offer was accepted and he drove home in the brand-new Series III Land Rover.

It came equipped with a single throat Zenith carburetor perched atop the 2.25-liter, four-cylinder, overhead-valve engine. The four-speed manual transmission is synchronized.

In 1975 Mr. Salzinger drove his Land Rover to California and back with a side trip down the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. “My back hasn’t been the same since,” he says. With leaf springs at all four corners, Mr. Salzinger reports, “It is not built for comfort.”

Fuel economy doesn’t vary much with reported city mileage of 15 to 16 miles per gallon and highway figures of 16 to 17 miles per gallon.

Mr. Salzinger took Becky as his bride in 1978 and the following year convinced her that driving the Land Rover to Cape Hatteras on a fishing/camping trip would be a good idea. Driving to North Carolina was a chore in the fully loaded vehicle. “At 60 mph it was all wound out,” Mr. Salzinger says.

Thereafter, the Land Rover was driven on an almost daily basis until 1990 when the transmission pressure plate failed with 70,000 miles on the odometer as Mr. Salzinger parked the car.

He couldn’t bear to part with his old four-wheel-drive friend, so he stored it sideways in the back of his garage at his new address in Arlington. After a decade, Mrs. Salzinger became disenchanted with the immobile vehicle.

In the fall of 2000 Mr. Salzinger began a total restoration. “These cars assemble and disassemble like an Erector set,” Mr. Salzinger says. “The body is a magnesium/aluminum alloy called Burmabrite that is corrosion resistant.”

The body was in great shape, but the steel frame was shot. A new frame of galvanized steel was ordered from a supplier in New York.

“I jacked up the body and rolled out the old frame,” Mr. Salzinger explains. The new one slid right into place and all the old parts bolted on.

The engine, which has a capacity of 8 quarts of oil, was pulled and rebuilt with the addition of a two-barrel Webber carburetor and an electronic ignition and a hot coil. Consequently, the original 81 horsepower has been boosted up to 100 horsepower.

All of the various components of the steering and braking systems were replaced. The transmission and transfer case were also rebuilt with the addition of overdrive. The speedometer can register speeds up to 95 mph but even with the overdrive Mr. Salzinger says, “It’s never been there. I’ll guarantee you.”

The operation of the four-wheel-drive system with three levers, each one capped with a knob — one black, one red and one yellow — is easier done than said.

In order to engage four-wheel drive the front hubs must first be locked. Then, the yellow lever must be pushed down to lock 4WD-high. When the going gets really rough, the driver pulls back on the red lever to engage 4WD-low.

“We’ve come a long way,” Mr. Salzinger says, recognizing the ease of switching late-model vehicles into four-wheel drive.

The spare tire, originally a 7.10x15 but now replaced by a 9.50x30 model, is mounted on the sturdy, hinged rear door. Other spare-tire mounts are behind the front seats and on the engine hood.

For open-air motoring, the top and the rear door can be unbolted and the windshield can be lowered onto the engine hood. To increase cargo space, the pair of facing rear seats can be folded up against the outside walls.

If the top is left in place, there are three tie-downs on each side that can be used to secure luggage on top of the car.

Inside the Land Rover are passenger grab bars for when the going gets really rough.

While seated behind the three-spoke steering wheel, Mr. Salzinger proclaimed the Land Rover’s restoration complete this spring, a mere 2 years from the start of the project. He even painted it himself.

“This vehicle, when geared in extra low, will go anywhere,” Mr. Salzinger says. “The only thing that can beat it is a Humvee.”

Land Rover made the Series III to be as versatile as possible. It even has a power takeoff at the rear, exposed when the back door is open.

Pleased with the outcome of the restoration, Mr. Salzinger says, “I would categorize it as an SUV, that’s with a small ‘S’ and a big ‘U.’”

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