1975 Land Rover 101 Forward Control VAMPIRE - SOLD

This amazing 1975 Land Rover 101 Forward Control VAMPIRE (Vehicle Army Mobile Position Interferometry Radio Equipment) is one special Land Rover to say the least. Of the four production Land Rover 101 Forward Control body styles, the VAMPIRE is by far the rarest.  Rumor has it there is somewhere between 9-18 built. Due to its special cargo, the entire vehicle is classified and still protected by the official secrets act (OSA).  All in all, the Vampire is basically a special type of 101 Forward Control Radio Body that has giant antenna mounted to the roof and an insulated interior. All of the equipment is pulled out of the VAMPIRE as well as the original antenna. Dunsfold DLR still has the original mast and special equipment. 76FL29 was one of the nine VAMPIRES to arrive at 14 [UIN A0402A] during 1984 arriving on 7/17/1984. On 2/9/1993 76FL29 went to 237 [UIN 0402H] where it was V1 and Alan B was Det Cmdr. On 2/14/1996 it went to Brawdy and was cast 7/19/1999. It was one of the 4 Vampires to go through the auction at Newport. It was exported to the US via Dunsfold Land Rovers soon after the auction in 1999.

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What we did with the VAMPIRE

This VAMPIRE came to use through Halifax, Canada. We flew up and drove it back over 800 miles in 3 days to Brooklyn Coachworks. All four shocks were replace with Genuine Land Rover 101 shocks. The 101 had front brake shoes and drums replaced, as well as all the rear shoes and drums. While we were in there we replaced the wheel cylinders on all four corners and ran all new brake lines throughout the 101 Forward Control. A new steering damper to help keep control of this beast too. We upgraded the wheels to 20-inch Unimog 404 steel wheels with 11.00R20 Michelin XZL tires standing at a lean 43” tall. This really changed the dynamic of the drive. 70mph was now achievable (not recommended) on the highway because of the very high 5.57 differential gears. The VAMPIRE comes with a upgraded 4.0 carbureted engine from its original 3.5. Land Rover used their military LT95 gearbox with intergraded transfer case with PTO winch that was usable through the front and rear.

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Land Rover Military One-Tonne by James Taylor

The Vampire was a special hard-body version of the 101 that was used for electronic warfare purposes. Briefly, the Vampire was designed to operate close to the FEBA (forward edge, battle area) where its task was to intercept enemy battlefield communications. It then encrypted those communications and relayed them to an Intercept Complex that had been established further back, typically 5km behind the FEBA. The Complex then analyzed the communications and send appropriate information to headquarters. The Intercept Complex itself consisted of five or six vehicles and was originally based on a Land Rover Series III 109”, but in the early 1980s was transferred to a rare variant of the 101 signal body.

The Vampire system was developed in the late 1970s as a replacement for the German-made Telegon 4 system and was late entering service. The first units reached 14 Signal Regiment, the electronic warfare regiment attached to the 1st British Corps of the BAOR, in November 1983. The Regiment was then garrisoned at Celle in West Germany. 

The prototype was built on 964-0004A, which carried registration number 54 BT 07. The basic box-bodywork on this and on the production batch was constructed by Mashall’s of Cambridge. It had a lower roofline than that company’s contemporary ambulance bodies for the 101, with a single access door (including a window) in the right0hand side and a ladder at the rear that gave access to the roof. Some Vampires, but probably not all, were fitted with a Sperry Navigation System, characterized by a long arm that projected over the front of the vehicle love the cab. An early version of this had been tried out on prototype 101/FC/6.

A best guess is that eighteen Vampires (plus one prototype) were built. The first one was delivered in September 1983, and research suggest that each vehicle cost over £440,000 ($575,000) when new. As each vehicle also towed a special equipped trailer, the total cost per vehicle must have been considerably higher. All the vehicles appear to have been built on the left-hand drive 24V chassis, probably taken from the store of unissued vehicles at Ashchurch. 

After bodying at Marshall’s, the vehicles were then delivered to Plessey Avionics, who fitted them with direction finding  (DF) receivers of their own manufacture. The aerials for the DF receivers were attached to a pneumatically-operated Clark elevating SCAM mast, located in a hinged mounting at the rear of the roof. When traveling, the mast was carried diagonally across the roof, but when the vehicle was operational, it was raised into a vertical position and its lower section was secured to the vertical rear panel. When fully extended, the mast reached a height of 21 meter (69 feet) from the ground, and carried a Narrow Aperture Adcocks array. This was a cross-piece receiver aerial with a total of eight dipoles, two on the end of each ‘arm’ of the aerial. The mast was normally secured by cables, but would often have additional protection from wind is the Vampire unit was deployed in woodland. Further stability came from leveling jacks on the rear corners of the vehicle.

All this produced an extremely heavy vehicle, with a totally weight of around 3.5 tonnes (7750 pounds). The Vampires also had a high center of gravity—located just below the driver’s shoulder level—and were known to keel over sideways on occasion. The Nokken winch that was standard equipment must have come in handy if pressed. Other accidents were not unknown; the vehicles would usually be deployed away from roads and in the dark, and one story tells of a Vampire that ripped off other its axles when it hit a pile of logs in the dark.

Each vehicle towed a specially equipped Sankey trailer. One early Vampire (75 FL98, 964-00100A) used a standard one-ton trailer (19 GJ 43) that had been equipped with a tall and heavy looking box-body. However, this may have been unique; subsequent vehicles seam to have used more stable-looking standard open trailers fitted with a number of tailor-made boxes.

The trailer carried a wide aperture ground array aerial system and when loaded it added another 1.1 Tonnes or more to the gross train weight of the Vampire system. The ground array consisted of three freestanding monopole aerials that would be deployed in the form of an Isosceles triangle, together with a test antenna that would e located in the centre of the triangle. Its functions were to increase the accuracy of the Vampire system and to enhance the frequency range that was being searched. However, it was not always possible to use the ground array operationally, as it required as area about one third the size of a football pitch for full deployment. When used, it was set up between 100 and 150 meters (328—492 feet) away from the Vampire vehicle and was linked to it by 32-core cables that were normally carried in the trailer. 

The interior of the Vampire body was specially prepared for its task, with fully insulated walled lined with aluminum and painted light green. The body was arranged to be light tight, and the small window in the side door has its own sliding cover. To provide heating for the body, there was a small petrol-powered heater mounted just behind the driver’s seat, and there was also an air-conditioning unit in the grey-painted box. In 14 Signal Regiment, there were four Vampire Troops, with four Vampire vehicles in each. The regiment probably kept two more vehicles in reserver. Each Vampire was supported in the field by a series III109” that towed a standard Sankey trailer. The vehicle and trailer carried all the kit belonging to the Vampire crew, including their 9x9 tent. The fourVampire united would be deployed in a line (usually known as the ‘baseline’), around 1 to 2 kilometer (1/2—1-1/4 mile) from the FEBA (forward edge battle area) and with around 3 to 5 kilometer (1-3/4—3 miles) between each unit. So deployed, they had a range of around 50 kilometers (31 miles), line of sight dependent. During the Cold War, the Vampires seem to have spent most of their operational life with 14 Signals Regiment in Germany. They would have been regularly deployed on exercises to train for their wartime role. However, once the Berlin Wall came down and there was a thaw in relations between East and West , their usefulness was reduced. Some Vampires lost their electronic warfare equipment at the start of the  First Gulf War, then it was transferred to FV432 Armored Personal Carriers for use in the desert. Supposedly, four or six FV432s retained this equipment until the late 1990s.

At least four and possibly five or more Vampires nevertheless remained in service for several more years; among them was 75 FL 93 (now the most complete surviving example), which served in its original role with 237 Signal Squadron after the squadron relocated from Germany to the UK in April 1993. The final example is thought to have been ‘cast’ on February 29th 2000. 

- James Taylor