This is a five-decade-old series Land Rover that has been converted to run on steam. That’s right, it swaps the regular engine for a steam-puffing, chimney-clad, coal-fired burner.
At a cost of £24,000, the deep irony of the build isn’t lost on us. The car that became the Defender, itself a vehicle that EU law has deemed archaic and no longer fit to meet emissions rules, has been adapted to run directly on the external combustion of coal to fire a steam engine; a technology that peaked in the 1800s. For that reason alone it’s bloody wonderful.
The external crankshaft, traditional steam engine nose and the fabulously old-fashioned choice of name (Mildred) are more reasons why we love it.
Pensioner Frank Rothwell, from Oldham in the English North West, spent over 400 hours on the astonishing project; 200 building the steam engine from scratch and another 200 integrating it into the car.
At the moment its top speed is projected at 12-15mph, and it hasn’t really got the guts to climb hills very well, but it’s still a glorious example of proper British shedgineering.
Rothwell, 67, is a retired engineer and businessman, who, by his own admission, “likes doing things that are difficult.” No kidding. “We all need a hobby,” he says in the video at the top of this article. Hats off to him for doing this instead of building ships in bottles or collecting stamps…