When I was turning twenty years old I bought a 1962 Land Rover with a V8 engine swap and painted Hammerite red. Unfortunately the above picture is the only one I have as this was the days before digital photography.
This beast of a machine would go anywhere, needed little maintenance but when it did it was 1960’s agricultural machinery basics – it didn’t even have carpet so the floor was sheets of metal. No one would or could steal it without a tow truck, and anything that hit it just bounced right off.
It’s a vehicle stupid adventures were made of. Midnight off road runs, picnics in the middle of nowhere, terrorising McDonalds car parks, multiple police stops and tales of rescuing cars from flooded fords (the water crossing the road, not the make of car). It also had a bench seat making it, in my head anyway, a great vehicle for mobile romance.
So, skip to to early summer in the late 1990’s. I was young, dumb and full of idiot, yet somehow I managed to convince a beautiful young lady to go on a date with me. Convince is a strong word, but I was was scruffy with long hair and only ever wore army surplus cargo trousers or beaten up Levi jeans with Vans shoes. She was immaculately turned out and when I picked her up in the Land Rover to go on the date she looked looked incredible wearing an expensive little black dress and high heels.
It’s amazing how good a cliche can look.
That day of our first date I had pulled the transmission tunnel out to paint it. Being young me, the paint hadn’t dried so I just didn’t re-install it and as a result there was a big gap for the heat from the transmission to come through. I told her to make sure she kept her legs near the door and off we went to the next village to get some food at a pub. We went the back way that involved going through a ford. If you’ve never come across a ford before, it’s basically a river crossing the road. We went slowly through the foot or so of water and up the road, then over a hump back bridge to find the pub.
After a lovely meal, we made our way back. Being a bit full of myself as it was going well, I didn’t change my speed to go through the ford and… I still cringe to this day thinking about what happened next.
That gap around the transmission allowed a shower of water to come through and absolutely drench her, and of curse her nice dress and expensive shoes.
I will never forget that shriek. It was most definitely the shriek of a young lady going from having a romantic evening with a young man, to a young lady most likely not having a romantic night with a young man.
After much apologising and making sure she got to her front door safely, somehow she found it within herself to bestow me with a goodnight kiss. To this day I don’t understand what she saw in me, but it led to a second date and a second chance.
Given how I nearly killed any chance with her by turning up in a loud, hot, uncomfortable agricultural vehicle from three decades earlier you wouldn’t have thought I would allow myself the slightest chance of messing up the second date would you?
Of course I did, and this is how:
We drove to the next town a few days later to see a movie. I was punching well above my weight here yet it all went very well, and there was even some kissing. On the way back it was getting late so I figured we could take a short cut via a little greenlane route I knew. A green lane being a type of road, usually an unpaved rural route, open to motor vehicles but mostly not navigable without ground clearance and often needs four wheel drive to get through when wet.
Basically, they are fun roads to off roaders and why horse riders hate us.
This was actually an easy one, about a mile long and even when wet was relatively simple to navigate through. It cut around three to four miles off the journey though, so I used it a lot. It had been raining earlier but I was a superb off roader in a beast of an off roading machine with a beautiful girl to impress using my clever thinking, driving skills and a little bit of brute force. What could possibly go wrong?
Oh yes. I was a world class, Grade A, Level 1 idiot.
I got the Land Rover stuck in what can be best described as a wide puddle In the middle of nowhere… late at night with a very pretty lady who had kissed me but we were only on our second date. Thankfully though I had a cell phone and a friend with a Range Rover who led the same lifestyle as me so wouldn’t be asleep. He was an hour away though, and the girl was not impressed.
Honestly, if I had sat down and planned out how to creep her out I probably couldn’t have come up with this. To say the atmosphere was tense and uncomfortable is an understatement.
The only thing that could have impressed her less would be if I forgotten I hadn’t replaced the transmission tunnel and like a moron went for one last attempt by thrashing the absolute hell out of Land Rover trying to get free, ensuring that mud and muddy water would come up through the floor and splatter all over her, and of course her dress and nice shoes. It would be even worse if we had the windows and vents all open.
So of course, I did exactly that.
You won’t be surprised that when my friend showed up and pulled us out he didn’t stop laughing the whole time. Thankfully though, that broke the tension. She even smiled at the absurdity, and thankfully my friend was one of those always infectiously funny people. You probably won’t be too surprised though that when I dropped her off I didn’t get a kiss, and even less surprised that I never saw her again.
To this day I can’t remember her name, but I’ll bet she’s told the story a few times about the idiot she can’t believe she went out with and his stupid red truck.