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One of the first people I met in the Land Rover community was a gentleman and Land Rover buff named Jeff Aronson. At a time when ECR was comprised of only myself and a gravel driveway, Jeff would stop by and offer words of encouragement about Rovers. He was one of the few that encouraged me during those start up years. Most everyone else wrote us off and said we'd never make it. Even ECR's first mention in a Rover publication came because Jeff worked it into the publication he works for, the Rovers North Newsletter. I've traveled in convoy with him to many a Land Rover event and he stops by the shop to shoot the breeze periodically and drop off donuts for the crew. ECR has done some work on his Series IIA 88" Land Rover, that he calls the QE I (Queen Elizabeth I), over the years. Some routine maintenance and some not so routine. On more than one occasion I have pulled into ECR to find a badly battered Series IIA left by some 24 hour tow truck driver the previous night. Those mornings all of us at the shop chat about what we think happened and play a round of "Guess what Jeff did now." in anticipation of the phone call that always comes shortly after the 88 arrives on our doorstep. The stories are usually worth the wait, as they are not your typical, "It just died." or "I have a dead battery." problem. It is never that mundane with Jeff's escapades. The stories usually sound like an adventurer's diary with elements like: "Then suddenly out of the snow storm appeared a looming dark figure. It was a horse and the next thing I knew I was on the roof." or "I later found the 88 and the vandals damaged my dashboard while hot wiring it." We know the stories will be interesting because Jeff does most of the work on his Rover himself, so we know if we see it sitting at the shop, the story of why he can't fix it himself must be a good one. Often times Jeff will "rent" space outside the shop to do his repairs. This rental agreement consists of my letting Jeff work on his Rover outside the shop and in exchange we get to help him when need be. Our end of the bargain is that we have Jeff on a pretty strict diet of sarcasm regarding the condition of his Rover. My mechanic, Ian has his own name for the stately QE I, he calls it the "Exxon Valdez". As you can imagine the oil slick both under and attached to the underside of this 88 is legendary here at ECR. Jeff also takes our ribbing over his love and ownership over the years of some of the "finer" British automotive masterpieces, namely the MGB (rubber bumper), the Spitfire and the TR7, but not normal cars, all must be from the Leyland years and seasoned with lots of New England rust. Why, with a shop as busy as ECR, do we enjoy Jeff's visits and tales of the road? There are a number of reasons. In more than a decade of knowing Jeff I have watched a lot of things come and go. Big time Rover collectors who come on the scene with a big splash only to shortly thereafter slowly sink under water without a trace have graced our door, numerous "We are going to take over the Rover industry and put ECR out of business." companies have come and gone, and customers of all types have gotten "into" and "out of" the Land Rover lifestyle, but Jeff has been one of the constants. Jeff also lives the Land Rover lifestyle, and that doesn't mean he has a Discovery, a new Range Rover and keeps his Series IIA on hand for shows or sunny weekends. It means that out of all the Series IIA 88s I have ever seen, the Rover he calls QE I easily has the most miles put on it of any other Series Rover I know of, or have heard about. A conservative estimate is about 400,000 miles in the years I have known him. No one really knows the real miles for sure as the odometer has been replaced a few times. Jeff's 88 is driven everywhere, in any weather, to any location, be it a meeting in New York, an off road event in Vermont or a teaching job in Northern Maine, the Rover takes him there, and back. Jeff has told me in the past that his Land Rover enabled him to gain a reputation with New England's humanities councils as the discussion leader who would go to any rural location in any season, now that is what a Rover is all about. He is currently a school principal and is, and has been, involved with 1,000s of reading and discussion programs in libraries throughout New England. He works with literacy programs for all types of people including inmates and men and women on probation. He volunteers time to help kids in need and the list goes on. Jeff is a good soul. There is no other real way to describe it, if you have met him you know, if you haven't met him, you probably know someone like him. In my opinion he is one of those people that gives back more than he gets.
Over the years Jeff's Rover has been used as it should be, both on road and off, but of late the 88 has started to have seen better days. The Rover spends a lot of time on an island in Maine, so the salt air has really taken its toll on the steel parts over time. Many years ago we gave the 88 a paint job, and Jeff has treated it to mechanical parts as required, but decades and decades of faithful service have been catching up with this Series IIA and it was in dire need of a refit, but it was still in active duty. All of that changed one of those mornings when I pulled into ECR and saw the 88 in the driveway. This had to be a good story, coolant was dripping out from underneath. The right fender was pushed in and the radiator support was broken in half. After a quick look over and a quick game of "Guess what Jeff did now." the crew of ECR and I knew that it had once again been large mammal vs. Land Rover. In this case, they both lost. In Jeff's previous encounters the animals had won the day. The typical battle of vintage Land Rover against the insurance company was lost, and the QE I has been dry docked at ECR ever since. The accident damage, extensive rust and a looming state safety inspection, now long overdue, keeping it from road use. The latter being the real difficulty. The new accident damage combined with the ever growing concern of rust in the bulkhead and badly aging mechanical systems meant that there was no quick or easy way to get the QE I sailing again. Jeff had patched the Rover one too many times, and at this point it was becoming a major safety issue. Jeff likes to consider that needing to pump the brakes a few times is "quirky", but I call it scary, and the brakes were really only the tip of the iceberg. Jeff and I had a number of conversations about what to do and it was left at, "See if you can patch it." However, for what Jeff got from the insurance company, there was no way the 88 was going to be on the road again in anywhere near a safe condition. The Series IIA 88 had appeared to have come to the end of the road, as there was no way it could be patched.
As the QE I sat on ECR's lot over the last year or so with no real hope of getting back on the road a lot of new TV shows caught my interest. MTV's "Pimp my Ride", TLC's"Overhaulin" and even ABC's "Extreme Make Over: Home Edition" were showing what can be done when a skilled team is put together to help out a hopefully deserving person(s). At some point the light bulb went off and in a combination of that genera of TV show, mixed in with hopefully a little "instant karma", to quote Mr. Lennon, I figured we could repair the QE I, if we could get some help. So the calls went out in hopes that, for once, the good guy would finish first. Luckily, Mark Letorney of Rovers North pulled out all the stops and sent us a long laundry list of parts that we had asked for, including a new galvanized frame, a full parabolic suspension, Mansfield heater kit and much more. Those parts, combined with what ECR and a few other suppliers would be donating could make this Series IIA 88 ready for a few more decades of faithful service.
The parts then arrived it was time for Jeff Aronson to get his Series IIA 88 "Rover-Hauled".
Oh yeah, and did I mention that the fact that we are giving ourselves 6 days to completely refurbish this vehicle from the frame up. Why you ask? Well, first to see if we could pull it off, and second because we are so busy with customer vehicles that we can't take anymore than a week to complete this project.
On "Overhaulin" they have a team of about 30 people, on "Extreme Make Over: Home Edition" they have hundreds. We have four.
1 battered Series IIA 88, 4 ECR staff members, 6 days... Go!
Click the days below to see the progress of that day. These pages have lots of images.
DAY 1: THURSDAY
DAY 2: FRIDAY
DAY 3: MONDAY
DAY 4: TUESDAY
DAY 5: WEDNESDAY
DAY 6: THURSDAY
East Coast Rover Co.