Journal: The Camel Trophy Was Land Rover’s Tastefully Adventurous Overland Challenge

The Camel Trophy Was Land Rover’s Tastefully Adventurous Overland Challenge

By Joel Clark
February 3, 2016
4 comments

Photos Courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

Here in the UK, the recent news of the final edition of a car to roll off the production line has generated an unusual presence in the national news. Social media was no different, with endless accolades and heartfelt mourning trending across both Facebook and Twitter.

I am, of course, referring to the end of the Land Rover Defender’s production run. I have no doubt this news has already reached every corner of the world—which is very apt for a vehicle that’s probably been to all of them.

But for every incarnation, none for me were more iconic than the Camel Trophy vehicles. The Camel Trophy was the ultimate test of mechanical and human endurance, for the ultimate 4×4. So my tribute to the car—one that I learnt to drive in, aged 15, on the farm—can only be that of the Sand-Glow Yellow Defender. The best 4×4 by far.

When I’ve been discussing race car liveries, the majority have, of course, featured designs based on tobacco company sponsorship. Putting aside what terrible products cigarettes are, as a brand, Camel really can lay claim to having strong brand ties to the philosophy of the event. Although being an American brand, it traded on the mystery and exoticism of the desert and Egypt. For many years, the imagery in Camel ads would be that of the symbolic hero camped in the wilderness, a loner, a man free from the impediments and obligations of civilization…all of which would make a pretty good ad for the Camel Trophy.

Even though this particular livery is nothing more than three or four stickers stuck around the car, it’s the uniformity that appeals to my eye. I don’t know of another single-make event where every single car is identical. To this day, whenever I see photos from a new car or bike launch, I still find the row of identical machines all perfectly lined up to be totally amazing. On one level, it gives me a small idea at the sheer number of machines that must get made—but it’s mainly because I do love a fleet. I grew up around the haulage industry, so my fascination in seeing a fleet of vehicles all in the same livery stems from my first automotive love as a child: trucks.

Land Rovers were used as the sole manufacturer in the Camel Trophy from 1981 to 1998, with every car being built by the factory’s special vehicles department. This meant every single vehicle was identical and by being so, added another equally important design factor to the equation: the extras.

The black roof-rack, quad roof-mounted spot lights, black trimming, and Camel-liveried headboard all make the iconic look what it is: the best version of the best 4×4. With so many variations and accessories available to owners and modifiers nowadays, I still find that none can capture the adventurous spirit of Land Rover better than that of the tastefully-prepared Camel Trophy cars. Think about it: whenever we had chance to see this fleet all together, it would be as a row of mud-caked vehicles emerging from the depths of a rain forest, along the most treacherous of vehicle defeating tracks.

Whenever I spot a Camel Trophy-liveried car, I get a sense that perhaps the driver is some kind of free-spirited adventurer, a notion that the official film on the event does little to dissuade.

So you want a yellow Land Rover yet?

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Peter InshawPaulTellurideEric Holland Recent comment authors
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Peter Inshaw
Peter Inshaw

Just bought a 67 n can’t wait to fall in head first.

Paul
Paul

I had the opportunity to meet these guys as they came into Belize City and we shared a hotel. What a fun bunch. I love racing and this was just the best. The stories in the bar made the vacation.

Eric Holland
Eric Holland

Thanks for the write-up. A couple of years ago I purchased a Discovery that was supposedly used in a US-domestic series and then as a trainer for the US team for the Camel Trophy. I have never been able to confirm if that was the case, but you can see where the previous stickers were peeled off, and the Camel Trophy stickers added. If one were going to make a clone I would think you would just make a clone of the actual thing rather than a trainer, but who knows.

Telluride
Telluride

I used to own an actual event truck. Pics of said vehicle? Where did you purchase the truck from?