I have to confess that although I was aware of individuals who had rallied Land Rovers in British events over the years, I assumed that they were most likely entered as “sweep” cars to pick up the pieces left behind by the top runners.

Not so, as I soon found out when I read the rollicking good tale of Les Dalton and the Army Land Rovers in which he contested local and major international rallies for over 10 years. And by ‘major international’ rallies I mean events like the Scottish International, the Welsh, the Mintex and the RAC Rally of Great Britain.

As a soldier in the Army, Warrant Officer Les Dalton was familiar with the Land Rovers, the Army “Green Machines”, and after proving himself as an above average driver, convinced the top brass that he should be given the opportunity to prove himself even further than the Army’s official rally team had allowed him to do until then.

So began a part-time rally career that encompassed 55 events from 1969 until his eventual retirement in 1982, the majority of which saw him at the wheel of lightweight Land Rovers, but also in a stock-standard Austin 1800 Land Crab, and a Mini.

However, it is obvious that Dalton’s favourite vehicle was a lightweight “Landie” that was breathed upon by tuning guru, Alan Allard, in the form of a Garret turbo running 10 lbs of boost and which boosted power by around 50%! Any wonder the book’s title, “Fly Army”, is appropriate as the Land Rover was more often flying through the air on the stages and therefore giving Dalton and his Army mates, not to mention the spectators, something to cheer about.

Forget about your desire to snigger about such an unlikely vehicle competing in rallies. Necessity, it is said, is the Mother of invention, so Les Dalton’s choice of vehicles made sense because it brought with it the not-inconsiderable resources of the British Army, which allowed him to continue indulging in his passion. It also guaranteed plenty of publicity wherever it went. Yet it wasn’t all about winning trophies – the post-event parties stick in Dalton’s memory (well, most of them anyway!).

“Fly Army” is well worth a read even if your list of favourite rally cars doesn’t include an all-terrain vehicle fitted with a turbocharged Fergie tractor engine. The book (despite its very sloppy punctuation) is light-hearted reading, and runs to 165 pages and includes lots of period photos and “in the air” shots that will surprise and amuse you.

“Fly Army” – Army Rallying with Les Dalton is avaiable for purchase HERE.
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