We love to champion the Land Rover. But Gavin Gardiner reminds us that we would be without it if it weren't for the Jeep, as he chooses his favourite bit of kit
Every true sportsman has that one bit of kit that he couldn’t enter the field without. In a new series of columns, we ask what bit of kit is most indispensable in the field. Gavin Gardiner chooses his Jeep.
Find out what Max Hastings couldn’t be without in the field. Read my favourite bit of kit: Max Hastings. Every sportsman’s choice is different, as Gavin Gardiner shows.
MY FAVOURITE BIT OF KIT
I remember the day my father came home and said, “I am going to see a Jeep, do you want to come?” I was four years old and had no idea what to expect. We drove to a remote hilltop farm and an eccentric lady took us out to a barn, where a sorry-looking 1942 Willys Jeep sat in a corner. She had bought it at a government auction 20 years previously to work on the farm but now had a new Land Rover and the Jeep was redundant. A deal was done and we headed off to collect a trailer to bring it home. Under all the mud and bird droppings it was in remarkably good condition. My father has had it for 45 years now and I learned to drive in it.
Of course, I had to have my own and, eventually, in 1991 a Jeep turned up locally. It was slightly unusual as it had been built in 1948 for the Swiss Air Force and had recently been imported. It turned out that my father knew the owner and after briefly viewing it an offer was made.
There is a utilitarian beauty to a stark piece of classic industrial design. There is not an ounce of metal that is out of place or without a purpose and it is no coincidence that the original Willys Jeep has become one of the 20th century’s most enduring motoring icons. Born out of the need for a small, four-wheeled-drive utility vehicle, the Jeep entered US Army service in 1941 and was to serve in every theatre of the Second World War. Produced in large numbers, thousands were left behind in Europe when the war was over. These surplus Jeeps were used in farming, agriculture and every walk of life.
I still have that Jeep and have done many thousands of miles in it. If the sun shines, I take it to work, I can do the shopping in it or just feel the wind in my hair. Where it really excels is rabbit-shooting. On a warm summer’s evening with the windscreen folded down, you have a 360-degree field of view. I can think of no vehicle more perfect for this type of work. It is small and agile and I can see how well-suited these original Jeeps were to the battlefield. In this country we love to champion the Land Rover but without the Jeep there would have been no Land Rover.
A bit rough round the edges, well loved and well worn, my Jeep has seen countless evenings of fun, been part of many memories and is something that I would never part with. It is already a firm favourite of my two little boys and I suspect that, when the time comes, they will have to have their own as well.
Gavin Gardiner is an auctioneer of fine modern and vintage sporting guns, rifles and accessories.