Before I came to BestRide, I used to work under the inscrutable bootheel of one Brian Lohnes, the editor and chief toilet scrubber at BangShift.com. He put up a post the other day about Diggerland in New Jersey — which you need to see for yourself — and something definitely caught my eye: The Land Rover Go Karts.
Diggerland is the kind of theme park you think up in fever dreams (“Yeah, it’ll be a place where KIDS can run CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT!”) and then your lawyer socks you right in the solar plexus. Apparently, the lawyers are still tied up in the trunk of a Lincoln — this is New Jersey, after all — because Diggerland is a fully functioning theme park where boys and girls of all ages get to run actual construction equipment in a controlled atmosphere.
All of the equipment is JCB, which is based in Staffordshire in the UK, so it stands to reason that the go-karts would also be British-themed.
The more obvious model is the Series I Land Rover, with its familiar close-set headlamps.
Less obvious are these, which at first glance look like a more generic Jeep-like 4×4.
They’re not, though. They’re actually pretty faithful representations of the Land Rover Lightweight Half-Ton, which is also referred to as Airportable.
In the late 1960s, the smallest Land Rover available was the Series IIA 88, which was too heavy for the Royal Marines to sling under its Westland Wessex helicopter. These Airportable Land Rovers were designed for exactly that duty. They’re four inches narrower than a standard Land Rover Series IIA, with unique half-shafts, which allow the Airportable to be strapped to a standard pallet.
Many of the body parts — the doors, the windscreen, the hood and even upper body parts — are all removable. Fully assembled, the “Lightweight” actually weighs more than a standard Series IIA, making the name confusing, but with all the body panels stripped, the Lightweight comes in under the conventional Series IIA.
The first production models were completed on 11 November 1968, and production continued until 1984.
I’ve seen several Land Rover electric go-karts from Toylander, and from a company that my pal Jay Holdash just turned me on to in Brazil, but I’ve never seen one of the Airportable models. Maybe the folks from Diggerland can chime in and provide some more information on where they’re sourced from.
(IMAGE SOURCE: BangShift.com, DiggerlandUSA.com, TheOneCar.com)