Keith’s Blog: Kids, Dogs, Mud and Diesels

Early Saturday morning in the pouring rain, I was chugging up the Cedar Tree trail in Oregon Tillamook National Forest.

I wasn’t wondering why a manual-transmission-equipped late-model Ferrari brings such a premium at auction. I wasn’t figuring out how to source the FISPA fuel regulator I need for my Giulietta Sprint Speciale. Installing studded snow tires on the SCM Suburban wasn’t on my mind.

Instead, I was drinking in the glorious feeling of off-roading in the forest with 19 other vintage Land Rovers ahead and behind me.

The Pacific Coast Rover Club’s annual Holiday Run is one of its best-attended events. Rover Club events are the most “kid, family and dog” friendly of any car events I attend.

This year, Bradley and his good friend Grayson were in the backseat of our RHD 1984 Defender 90 200 TDI. His father Jeremiah was my navigator.

We met at 7 am at the Starbucks across from my condo in downtown Portland. It was a quick 30-mile run to Banks, Oregon on Highway 6. I figured out just how much to block the radiator off to get cabin heat in the 38-degree weather.

We topped off with diesel in Banks and joined the other Rovers gathered in the parking lot of the local Thriftway supermarket.

There were a variety of rigs from 1960s Series machines to late model supercharged V6s.

Grayson was a first-timer off-road and Bradley regaled him with excited stories about “almost tipping over” and “coming close to falling off the road.” One of his favorite stories involved another run where we were moving so slowly in compound-low that all the kids jumped out and ran alongside the trucks. Kids and dogs both, actually. I haven’t seen that happen on a Porsche club event…

After checking our CB radios, we drove another 20 miles to the Browns Camp OHV staging area. There we “aired-down,” lowering our tire pressures to about 15 psi for better traction.

With its industrial-style diesel engine, the Rover just clattered along the steep, twisting trails. The sweet spot for the engine is just off of idle in compound 2nd gear, when it is just coming onto the turbo boost.

There are always lots of stops on Rover Runs, as various rigs get stuck and we clamber about helping the driver pick out a different route — or use a different driving technique to overcome an obstacle.

For kids, it’s a chance to play in the forest, throw snowballs and find big sticks to swing around like Jedi swords.

Bradley has done enough runs to know that he needs to wear his Wellingtons; they are perfect footwear for mud, snow and puddles.

Our D90, with an on-board ARB compressor and locking rear end, conquered the trails on our easy route with ease.

It was snowing above the 1,500-foot level, a welcome change from the rain. For the kids, it was an opportunity to throw snowballs at the rigs and each other.

We completed the route without incident. As we “aired-up” to 36 psi for the drive home, I reflected on what a satisfying day it had been. The rig performed perfectly, and the kids had a great time.

The D90 was performing its most-important role, as a facilitator for kids and adults to come together. For Bradley it was another entertaining day spent in a vintage machine, around adults and kids who were enjoying themselves.

At the end of the day, a good time was had by all – smiling adults, muddy kids and wet dogs. A perfect combination.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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