truth about 74GJ36
In life there are
certain things that you must do. They are your destiny.
If you repeat them, they become a habit. So you should do
them only once. For me building my own Land Rover was one
of life's destinies. I read in the stars that I must buy
an aging Land Rover and take it apart. This would leave
me with a chassis and then I would weld, galvanize and paint
until I had a shining, rolling chassis with new wheels and
new tires, so fresh they would still have their rubber hairs
on. That would then be the perfect platform for my once-and-for-all
rebuild. On our drive way. Where it never rains or freezes.
First step was to find sufficient time. This took 32 years.
The second was to find a suitable vehicle. This victim vehicle
should not be too good - no use in finishing the job within
one weekend - and should not be too bad. It proved hard
to find. All candidates were too bad or it was too bad that
they were too good. Then, one morning I stared in the eyes
of a Land Rover that was not a Land Rover. It was huge.
It was too good, but that didn't matter. I'm not the kind
of person who makes a habit out of following his destiny.
74GJ36 aka 95900575A aka. Zwelgje came to life on August
17th, 1977. We bought her on her 23rd birthday, by which
time she had been converted to an ambulance. As such she
had served the British Forces in Germany from June, 1982
to March, 1999. There is no indication of real military
action in her many layers of NATO green. During the Golf
War and save in Germany, she received a new, freshly painted
engine. That's about all I know about her military achievements.
It is enough. Between March 1999 and August 2000, 74GJ36
was waiting for us in the yard of a military vehicle trader,
together with two of her sisters. When we first entered
the yard, I had never seen a 101. Ten minutes later I had
to choose between three of them. It was the same problem
They say that it is still greatly unclear how the human
mind works. What triggers mine to be attracted to such an
ugly thing as a 101? It will remain a secret for some time.
The scientists are still investigating the phenomenon. They
do this by placing electrodes on my head and me on a chair.
I have to look at a large screen and they project colorful
pictures on it. They can see my brain activity. (If any,
Margriet adds). Football, fashion, the Dutch queen and Ferrari
score low. Women, females, girls and Land Rover 101's score
high, as do faces. My mind reacts very strongly when faced
with a face that is looking at me. Female, male, animal
or even dead matter, if it can be interpreted as a face,
I most urgently will. The scientists repeated the tests
on Pim. The results were more or less the same. Then came
Paul and Andreas. In short: all participants of the third
European Continental 101 Meeting took the test. It made
no real difference. Then they tested random humans, chimpanzees
and even women. The subjects reacted different from us to
bananas, alcoholic beverages, 101's and most other pictures,
but faces stayed the strongest triggers. Faces are universally
recognized and immediately feared by everything that wears
electrodes and is not a mushroom. It shouldn't come as a
surprise. Soldiers have known this for decades. They paint
irregular shapes on their faces, just to break the pattern.
They also do it to their cars. The three 101's that I had
to choose from in that yard that morning, came fresh from
the army and had irregular shapes painted all over them.
The art work on the back doors was very symmetrical. though.
It was, well, a face.
Fig 1: Humanoid
101 in a war zone (Hilversum 2000)
The face was a joke. A military joke, so it was repeated
over and over again. Since that first encounter I have seen
about twenty "German" LHD ambulances in original
army colors. One was faceless, two had a Martian face and
all others were humanoids, that you could recognize from
miles. Even after the whole 101 had disappeared, you would
still see that face at the horizon, shouting "Shoot
at me, shoot at me." The British forces in Western
Germany turned a blind eye to human evolution, hoping the
Russians would do the same and got away with it.
Fig 2: Martian 101
before the battle (Noordwijkerhout, 2000)
It is possible to go to a Land Rover dealer, test drive
three 110s and then select the best one. That is why
the dealer wont like you doing it. With military vehicles
it is the opposite. The dealer won't mind but it cannot
be done. Military vehicles were maintained the same by the
same owner and they all look the same. Some have been standing
for a long time, others for a very long time. You can test
how they drive, but you have no idea how they should drive
and neither how they will drive when properly oiled and
refreshed. No wonder the trader generously invited me to
thoroughly test all three of the 101's as much and as long
as I wanted to. A few days later I returned with two V8-experienced
friends and at the end of that afternoon we knew which ambulance
to take. It sounded right, it had "Dont slam
the door" lettered on the inside of the doors (so must
have had one caring driver) and there were spots of oil
under it (meaning it leaked, but only moderately and there
was still oil in it). Also we had not looked at the other
two yet - except for the faces. And the yard owner wanted
to go home.
We live in a tree rich area, an area where you would expect
a well camouflaged car like 74GJ36 to go unnoticed. It turned
out to be true. A few times I had cars coming towards me
that didn't seem to notice me. When parked next to the house
it was never overlooked, though. The neighbors didn't like
the skull. Margriet didn't like it. I didn't like it anymore.
It had been funny for 1 day. So I bought an electrical heat
gun and began scratching. I started at the back. It was
like spelling "banana", not difficult but the
problem was knowing where to stop. Ultimately 74GJ36 lost
more than her face.
Fig 3: Incognito
It was never my
intention to paint 74GJ36 more than once, but that is not
the way it works. Land Rovers follow the law of inexperience:
you either learn or you repair; there is no such thing as
learning by doing. In practice this means at least three
phases. The first is the high expectation phase, after which
you know what you did wrong. (In this case: use expensive
2 component car paint. It dissolves rollers.) Then comes
the optimistic phase: you think you know what you should
have done and you do it. (Buy old fashioned synthetic paint
and roll it on, on a sunny day). It is followed by the repeating
despair phase, during which sometimes it suddenly works.
This exception is called the "never change a winning
team" state. It is there to enjoy. (E.g.: tell yourself
it is a military vehicle, after all)
One year later Andreas Pfau invited me to the third European
Continental 101 Meeting in Saverne, France. It was phenomenal
- read his article in this issue - but it was nothing compared
to what happened in the following week. Rather than driving
home that Sunday, we drove straight to Rotterdam where we
loaded 74GJ36 in a big ship. I always thought of shipping
cars as a rather slow process, but this transport went very
quick and exactly one week later we were driving 74GJ36
through Yosimite Park in California. Of course we had to
make a photograph of 74GJ36 under a Sequoia tree. Because
the two subjects of our picture were of really different
dimensions - it is unbelievable how tiny a 101 looks next
to a Sequoia tree - I had to move the car to get an acceptable
composition. I climbed in, drove the few meters and stopped.
There were two loud bangs. They meant that I had forgotten
to fasten the rear doors. They swayed wide open when I drove
away and shut themselves when I hit the brakes. Nothing
to worry about, but Margriet did. She was waving and yelling
at me and I could even hear the words she was shouting.
"A bear. A bear. You caught a brown bear!" I started
to laugh, but then felt the car shaking. Something substantial
was moving inside the patients area.
Fig 4. 74GJ36 in
front of a Sequoia tree
I jumped out of the car. "I saw it walk in. I think
it is a black bear. And then you drove away!", Margriet
explained with big eyes. "I told you not to eat cookies
in bed." It was clear who was guilty, but what to do
next? Someone had to open the door and let the bear out,
but there were no volunteers who were willing to face an
angry bear. We had to find an expert. One of those friendly
men with dented hats who warn about bears and who drive
around in police car like cars. But how to find one? Meanwhile
our bear was furiously ramming the rear doors. There was
a real danger that it - unlike any normal patient - would
manage to open them from inside. Where could we go? There
was only one choice left. We quickly climbed into 74GJ36
and firmly shut the doors. Instinctually I started and drove
away as fast as 74GJ36 could.
There are two windows in the wall that separates the main
compartments of a Land Rover 101 Ambulance. They are square
holes with two sliding windows in them, one of dark glass
and one of metal to protect patient privacy. As long as
the bear didnt know they were sliding windows, we
should be safe, I thought. But bears learn quickly, especially
in a racing 101 on a scenic American road where sliding
windows slide without any friction. It must have taken me
a lot of skill and concentration to keep the car on the
road, but I have absolutely no recollection of the ride
itself. Instead I am completely aware of every of the bears
moves. It was as if I was continuously looking at this fearful
hole. I remember the terrifying claws with the long nails
reaching for us. Then he tried to squeeze his gigantic head
through the hole. It was impossible, but he managed. Then
I woke up.