Land Rover from the sixties has a fascinating history - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Land Rover from the sixties has a fascinating history

Avatar of inke inke - 08. March 2019 - Discover Namibia

Since the end of 2018 this Land Rover of the 109” IIA series is as good as new again. Photo: Brigitte Weidlich

Brigitte Weidlich

A dilapidated Land Rover from the famous 109” IIA series of the 1960s, which once belonged to the son of a German aristocratic opponent to the Third Reich, has been refurbished after standing idle for years on a farm in Namibia’s Kalahari Desert. 

The Land Rover was discovered around 2007, after the blue-blooded owner had died and the estate had to be dealt with. It took until late 2018 to have the Land Rover refurbished. 

From old to new

After Prince Friedrich Wilhelm zu Solms-Baruth died in early 2006, his sons sold Dabib farm. The executors of the estate from a Windhoek law firm visited Dabib. Their lawyer, Claus Hinrichsen, a passionate Land-Rover fan, discovered the old blue Land Rover pick-up, broken down and virtually forgotten. After the farm was eventually sold, Hinrichsen communicated with the new owner to buy the Land-Rover wreck and succeeded.

This dilapidated Landrover was discovered on the Anib Farm. Photo: Mannfred Goldbeck

“It was in quite a sad state, even the chassis was broken. Another issue was tracing its original documents and to find out in which year exactly it was manufactured,” says Hinrichsen. 

That is still a mystery, with the only indication being the vehicle’s headlamps in the middle; the Rover Company only moved the headlamps into the wings of the cars in February 1969.

The Landrover was completely stripped and the chassis was also overhauled. Photo: Claus Hinrichsen

Hinrichsen found a company in the Western Cape, South Africa that specialises in rebuilding Land Rovers and in 2016 the dilapidated vehicle was transported there. The job took altogether two years. “It was not a 100-percent restoration to the fully authentic appearance,” says Hinrichsen. “They did what was doable and practical so that the car can be driven again – apart from giving it back the characteristic Land-Rover look.” 

The restored oldie, which once belonged to a German aristocrat returned to Namibia towards the end of 2018. Asked about the refurbishing cost, Hinrichsen would only reveal “it cost an arm and a leg, but it was worth it.”

The Spartan interior of the Land Rover. Photo: Brigitte Weidlich

The Land Rover has an interesting story to tell

The farm Dabib near Mariental was originally 49,582 hectares big. In the sixties, three vast tracts of Dabib were sold as separate farms, one of them became known as Anib of 10,000 ha. Anib changed hands again in 2004 when the tourism company Gondwana Collection bought it. Anib became the Gondwana Kalahari Park, where tourists enjoy their stay at the Kalahari Anib Lodge

Dabib was bought in 1937 by the German Friedrich Hermann zu Solms-Baruth, whose family tree can be traced back several hundred years to Lower Silesia and Baruth east of Berlin. The Prince was strongly opposed to the Third Reich and the Nazis. Since they came to power in 1933, he saw a dark future for Germany and his own family ahead. Prince zu Solms-Baruth knew the prominent German-speaking business man, Albert Voigts, in then South West Africa, now Namibia. Voigts often visited Germany. He advised the aristocrat to buy a farm in Namibia, which he did and he became owner of Dabib.

The Second World War changes everything

The Solms-Baruth family owned large estates east of Berlin. During World War II the Nazis had - without the knowledge of the Prince - established a camp for Russian prisoners of war on his land. The Prince found out from one of his workers and rushed to the sport. To his dismay he found the prison camp on his property. He protested strongly, also against the inhuman treatment of the prisoners. Solms-Baruth became very unpopular with the Nazi regime. He was close to the ‘Kreisauer’ circle, the group under Ludwig Beck and Count Claus von Stauffenberg who planned the assassination of Adolf Hitler for 20 July 1944.

The attempt was unsuccessful, Hitler survived and the ruthless Nazis arrested hundreds of people. Solms-Baruth was arrested a day after the assassination attempt and was kept in solitary confinement. Due to his family ties with the Swedish and British kings and the lack of evidence against him, he was released in March 1945 and told to leave the country. The Nazis confiscated his country estates.

Emigration to Namibia 

The family managed to find temporary shelter and they lost everything. The only solution was to immigrate to then South West Africa, now Namibia. South Africa’s Prime Minister Jan Smuts personally intervened so that the family received visas, since Solms-Baruth was a proven opponent to the Nazi regime. The family arrived in 1948 by ship at Walvis Bay with their 22-year old son Friedrich Wilhelm. 

Dabib became a successful sheep farm a few years later, but Friedrich Hermann did not live to witness the success. He died in 1951 after an operation. He was buried at his favorite spot on the farm, near a cattle post, called ‘Solmscher post’. This part of the farm was sold in the sixties and became Anib. To this day a tombstone marks the burial place of Friedrich Hermann.

"Solmscher Posten" in Gondwana Kalahari Park. Photo: Mannfred Goldbeck

His son Friedrich Wilhelm inherited the title Prince, continued farming and married in 1963. Two sons were born to the couple.

Land Rover pick-up is bought

In the 1960s a long wheelbase (LWB) Land Rover of the 109” IIA series arrived on the farm. Of special interest is that this vehicle appears to be the only one of its kind in the country since its loading space was converted into a pick-up. 

The exact purchase date cannot be traced but the metal plate in the cabin of the four-by-four vehicle states "manufactured by the Rover Co. Ltd, Solihull, England." A second, smaller metal plate underneath the speedometer states “Rover South Africa manufacturing Pty Ltd, Port Elizabeth”. 

The Land Rover Series 2 was the first upgrade to the original Land Rover Series 1. The body shape changed significantly to the iconic Land Rover shape known worldwide and to remain largely unchanged right up until the last Defender production in 2016. 

The series II A vehicles had a 2.25-litre petrol engine and a109-inch (2,769 mm) chassis. Export vehicles were the first Land Rovers to get the 2.6-litre petrol engine and only from 1966 to1971.

Another change in 1968 was the introduction of the “1-ton” Land Rover. It looked exactly like the standard three-quarter ton II A-109 car but it had several upgrades to handle heavier loads and towing. 

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