Life's Great Adventure

Originally Published: April 2014

Three years ago, Toby Barnes-Taylor was getting ready for early retirement after serving nineteen years in the armed forces. A few months before returning to civvy street he bumped into his old friend Woody.

‘He had a Defender 130 which he
used to take his family on camping
holidays in North Africa,’ Toby explains. ‘In the Easter of 2011, he invited me to go on holiday with him.’

And that was when it happened. 
‘I went with my son Joe and it 
absolutely fundamentally struck me that this was what I wanted to do with my children. The adventures, the 
stories, the sleeping under a million stars in the desert, the freedom… 
I came back utterly changed.’

Arriving home from a fortnight’s holiday and announcing that you plan
to spend a small fortune on a car might be considered a delicate subject. ‘My wife thought I was utterly crazy, but immediately understood what I was trying to do. So I was very pleasantly surprised that she agreed with the idea of having adventures, and that the memories our children would take from them would be just as important as the education they receive in school.

‘Hotels are so sanitised and so safe. You could be in Spain or France or Portugal or Turkey… Wherever you go, the food’s almost the same, the pool’s the same…’

1000 adventures

By contrast, here’s what the family 
did in August 2012: ‘We took the children into the desert and the Atlas Mountains. I taught my son how to drive on a dried lake bed. And we just had a thousand adventures. Camping
out, playing cards in the evening, sleeping out under the stars and filling their brains with all the things we did for fun. We’re planning to take them to see the Northern Lights next.’

Toby specifically chose to buy his 130 new from Roger Young Land 
Rover in Plymouth. As well as being a franchised dealer, this particular outfit has a fabrication shop on-site which could build him a bespoke overlanding version of the Quad Tech backs it puts on Defenders for utility companies and emergency services.

With the shell of the truck now ready to fill with goodies, the story of the build turns into a who’s who of the off-road aftermarket. Devon 4x4, Extreme 4x4, First Four, Craddock, Paddock, Trek Overland, Protection and Performance, Nene Overland, OEC… each of these and more played their part as the build was planned over the course of several months.

Toby decided that the two areas in which he could least afford to cut corners were roll protection and suspension, wheels and tyres. So the cage was supplied by Protection and Performance, whose full external 
unit was fitted by OEC International. The same company also did all the electrical work – and as work goes, that’s a whole lot of it.

Starting the engine continues to be the job of the original primary battery, but that’s all it’s there for. An intelligent management system keeps it charged, while also maintaining an Odyssey PC1500 which runs all the vehicle’s auxiliary draws.

Anderson connectors front and rear can be coupled to jump leads, an air compressor or a demountable Champion 9500 winch. And as well as not one but two fridges, further goodies in the cab include a 7” display running a pair of rear-view cameras and a 10” screen for a roof-mounted DVD player.

Putting some juice back in is a 4.5W solar panel, and a 240v external hook-up is installed to remotely power the vehicle through a separate fuse box. Down below, those wheels and tyres are 285/75R16 Cooper Discoverer ST Maxx fitted on Pro-Comp Extreme alloys. A bit of an unusual choice in Land Rover circles, possibly, but width matters more in the desert than on the average British lane.

Holding it all up is a set of Old Man Emu springs – but not just any set. Those at the rear are heavy-duty units, and for obvious reasons they’re backed up by helpers. Similarly, the shocks are doubled up on the rear axle, and damping of another kind comes from a Terrafirma Return-to-Centre unit on the steering – no small matter with tyres this wide.

It all adds up to a stupendously cool boy’s toy, and as well as carrying Toby around in magnificent style the 130 has already started to repay his 
investment by delivering the first of those thousand adventures. He was a man with a great vision, and now he’s a man with a great truck.

Even in pure financial terms, what Toby has done with this vehicle makes complete sense. He expects to keep the Land Rover for at least ten years: assuming that without it, he’d be buying five new family cars in that time and trading each of them in on its second birthday, the 130 is his protection against around £50,000’s worth of depreciation. After ten years of seeing the world in a truck like this, the memories you’ve got are way better – and there’s a vehicle on your drive that’s still worth a handy sum.

But this Land Rover isn’t about 
dull care and commonsense. It’s about doing something a little bit crazy. ‘I had that one chance of the retirement money from the army to buy this and set the family on its way,’ admits Toby, and it’s a chance he took hold of with both hands.

He’s a man who’s made the most of his good fortune, for himself and his family alike. And you can’t imagine that they’ll ever stop being greatful to him for it.

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