Ida getting messy

Imported Classics: IDA the Norwegian Rover


Not all Landies are what they first appear. Charles’ Series 1 Norwegian returnee has a Mazda drivetrain, power steering – and has more charisma than Sputnik, as he explains.

This is Ida, she is a Norwegian Land Rover, supplied new in 1957 to Norway. She is a Series 1, 88 inch. She led a long and hard life in Norway, having had at least four or five owners. She did her duty – including a role as a local ambulance and rural video delivery service. This is of course in addition to the role she was made for – she was a farm workhorse for at least 20 years of her life. But those days are behind her.

Her body has been raised about 2.5 inches off the chassis. I can only presume that was for increased clearance in snow and mud up in the Norwegian mountains. She lived in some very remote places. By looking at the addresses on Google Maps she spent most of her time in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere along the line, her original Land Rover engine either died or was deemed not powerful enough, so she now actually runs a two-litre Mazda engine – one from an early 626. This is mated to the Land Rover gearbox, which is quite an interesting combination. Even more interesting is the fact that she also runs power steering. This makes the car totally usable around town.

Ida, from the side, in front of a row of garages
Ida has had a hard life, but her tough upbringing means she doesn’t need to be parked in a garage like a relic. Picture: INFLUX

My Norwegian friend Fredrik bought this car from the motherland in 2016 – and Ida came in a cool package deal with a Citroen DS – another really interesting car, of course. She ran, but she had no brakes to speak of and you could barely get her into gear because the clutch was struggling. The brakes we fixed relatively easily, but the clutch was the problem. It had been made up to suit back in the mid-80s, nobody had any record of it, it was not a standard Mazda item. But thanks to my amazing friend Nathan at Garage 26 we managed to re-engineer a clutch. We got a Mazda one that was the right circumference and bolts etc, and he remade that clutch to make it work. With that done, we were in business.

The day after we got her running, it should have been a week previously, we put her straight on a 4×4 day out in the Surrey woods – she came through without missing a beat – all while stuck in hi-range. Uphill and down dale, we put a lot of the more modern Land Rovers to shame, which was just superb. The guys who ran the course, who were all ex-military, absolutely loved her. She came through with flying colours. All that life history builds resilience. We can all learn a thing or two from that.

A partial front-on view of Ida.
The Land Rover might be old but it still outperforms many of its younger counterparts. Picture: INFLUX