Words by Patrick Cruywagen Pictures by Patrick Cruywagen and Alison Cole
The first-ever Landy Festival was held at the Malojeni Guest Farm near the Vaal River on 3 and 4 March this year. This was probably the biggest-ever gathering of Land Rovers in SA, but its primary intention was to break the Guinness World Record (which stands at 348) for the most Land Rovers on parade.
It felt like a dream. There I was driving along a quiet, old road between Heidelberg and Vereeniging. All around me were Land Rovers of every description. Original G4 and Camel Trophy unit, Forward Controls plus a Series 1, arguably one of the oldest Landies in SA.
Approaching vehicles pulled off the road, bowing to our superior engineering and off -road capability. A passing Hilux driver pulled off too, stopped, waved and jumped out to take a picture of this extraordinary gathering to show his mates. This convoy of Land Rovers was over 1 000 strong; the biggest yet in South Africa and perhaps the world!
Well, it wasn’t a dream but rather the culmination of lots of hard work by the festival organiser Craig Dutton, his wife Cherise and dozens of volunteers. The two-day festival ended with the attempt on the world record for the most Land Rovers on parade. The previous record which stood at 348 was achieved in April ’11 by the Convoy of Heroes in the UK. Some of you might recall the Kingsley Holgate world record attempt before that when we had 347 Land Rovers in a convoy from Cape Point towards the Winelands.
In true South African style this wasn’t just an attempt to break the record by one or two Landies but rather smash it into tiny little pieces. Once the final registration and lining up had taken place the official figure for the Land Rovers taking part in the record-breaking attempt stood at a whopping 1 007! That’s 659 more than the last record. Mission accomplished!
Most festival attendees decided to camp out at the Malojeni Guest Farm the night before the record attempt. This gave them the opportunity to take a stroll around and look at some of the colourful characters and vehicles in attendance. There’s something about being a Land Rover owner that many don’t understand. They think we’re mad because our Defenders are box-shaped, slow and uncomfortable.
But our vehicles are like a child you’ll love no matter what. Everyone was happy to be amongst their own at this festival. That little green badge connects everyone who drives one, irrespective of social standing or religion. In fact, if you drive a vehicle with that green badge it doesn’t matter whether you shout for the Bulls, Sharks or Stormers.
This is what Land Rover MD Roland Reid had to say about the festival. “What amazes me is the number of Defenders here today. I’m absolutely staggered by the number of people who just pitched up, rolled out and came to enjoy the day with other likeminded souls. These are Land Rover people who are here to enjoy the company of other Land Rover people with their Land Rovers. You won’t see this number of Land Rover people and Land Rovers together again, unless we do it again next year. Looking at the turn-out today we might just need to find a bigger facility.” In order to get an idea of how many people would attend the festival and world record attempt, 4×4 accessory supplier Front Runner ran a Pimp my Landy Competition for all those who pre-registered for the festival before 24 February. A massive 850 people entered the competition by pre-registering and the winner, Ulrich Niehaus, was contacted just before the festival. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more deserving guy as all he had on his 2.8 Defender was a pretty old wooden roofrack! Fitment was done at the Front Runner stall during the festival so attendees could walk by and watch the R67 000 worth of accessories being fitted.
The day of the record breaking attempt was a hot one. From early morning those who had not camped started arriving from all corners of southern Africa. I met two Aussies at the event, saw one or two Botswana-registered Landies and even spotted some friends from Gateway Off road Centre in Wellington, who service my own Landy – they’d driven up in a convoy of about six vehicles. The surrounding Land Rover dealerships were well represented while some of the vehicles that took part in the recently-held Defender Trophy were also in attendance. By midday well over 700 vehicles had signed in and assembled in the gathering or holding area. People climbed out of their vehicles to escape the heat.
Aft er the 13h00 drivers’ briefi ng it was the turn of the Gabriel aerobatic team to put on a show. At exactly 14h00 the fi rst vehicles took to the 14 kilometre loop; following distances had to be short and speeds kept down to avoid a concertina eff ect. The convoy was so long that by the time that the fi rst vehicles were approaching the fi nish line the last vehicles had only just left the camp. It was mad to look into your rearview mirror and see a line of Landies as far as the eye could see.
I saw one or two Landies broken down along the route and I heard later that, unoffi cially, 1 002 of the 1 007 had crossed the line. Th e verifi cation of the record takes some time so unoffi cially the record had been smashed but we are still waiting to hear if the substantiating evidence application was successful. What we can confi rm is that this will happen again next year and that it will be bigger and better.