LIZ SWANTON REPORTS . . .
. . . to our North East Victoria and Southern Riverina readers on the Land Rover 75th anniversary celebrations in Cooma this Easter
Landies to the fore in Cooma
Story: Liz Swanton
Photo: The Monaro Post
LAND Rover lovers from across Australia are flocking to the NSW town of Cooma this Easter, for the 75th anniversary of the marque’s involvement with the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.
Cooma Car Club is co-ordinating the celebration, which is fitting given Cooma is the spiritual home of the brand in Australia and where the Land Rover journey really began. The vehicle was launched in 1948 and construction on the Snowy scheme started a year later.
Management of the Snowy Mountains Authority had initially tested ex-army Jeeps for the gruelling work, but the new British imports soon proved a match for the remote mountainous terrain. More than 700 would make their way to the High Country, making up one-third of the total Snowy Mountains Authority fleet.
However, while Australia’s largest and most complex hydro-electric scheme helped establish the Land Rover brand and reputation in Australia, it wasn’t the end of the story. As the Series 1 gave way to the Series 2, the brand popped up in service all over the place – literally. From the army to the Rural Fire Service, to Aussie farmers all over the country who needed a workhorse.
“They took their part in various aspects of Australian life and won a lot of hearts,” says Cooma Car Club president, Rogan Corbett. “As a result, our festival will show off almost every variation of this mighty machine, from renovated to restored, rare conversions, military derivatives and more.”
Mr Corbett says organisers are absolutely delighted that some Land Rover-associated ‘royalty’ are making the trek down under for the celebrations. Guests of honour include Mike Bishop from Jaguar Land Rover Classic UK, noted international motorsport photo journalist Nick Dimbleby and Bob Ives, the winner of the 1989 Camel Trophy Amazon Jungle event for Team UK.
“We will also be launching the Australian National Land Rover awards, along with the ‘Mike Bishop Award’, named for one of our special guests. This award is made to individuals, groups, companies, clubs or other entries that have made significant contributions to the preservation of Land Rover history and heritage here in Australia.”
Aside from the notable Australian-based vehicles, Cooma will be welcoming arguably the most famous Land Rover in the world. The Oxford was one of two Series 1 Land Rovers that took part in the historic Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern (first) Expedition of 1955.
Way back when, a young BBC producer called David Attenborough commissioned a TV series from a team of six university graduates who planned to become the first people to drive from London to Singapore. Their six-month epic journey became the stuff of legend. The car was also the star of the recent four-part TV series The Last Overland, Singapore to London, filmed in 2019 and seen on SBS earlier this year.
The Car Club’s clubhouse (11 Bolaro Street, just up the road from the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, which is well worth a visit) will be the hub of the administrative aspect of the event as entrants and exhibitors begin arriving in town on Wednesday, April 5 but activities don’t get properly underway until Good Friday (April 7). There is a full weekend’s program of navigation trials, off-road trials, tag-along tours to visit local sites of interest, live music, and a gala dinner.
Once everyone has registered, the heart of the action is ‘Land Rover Central’ at the Cooma Showground, which will host most of the events including swap meets of parts and memorabilia, interviews and book signings with the international guests, and the ‘show and shine’. Organisers are confident the 2018 record of more than 700 Land Rovers in one location will be broken.
On Easter Sunday, Cooma’s main street will come alive with the grand parade. All the vehicles registered for the event will take part in the convoy down Sharp Street before heading back to the showground for a final display and judging of the Land Rover national awards.
The final event of the weekend is a farewell breakfast at the showground from 7.30am on Monday, April 10. No doubt all involved will be planning to reunite in Cooma in five years’ time, for the 80th anniversary celebrations.
For more information, contact Liz Swanton: firstname.lastname@example.org; 0417 232 643