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Full Monty for fleet survivor saved by rural residents

A beloved Land Rover is to be lavished with a nut and bolt restoration after lobbying by rural driving enthusiasts.

The oldest – and slowest - vehicle on Cheshire’s patrol roster is getting a makeover after local fans took a stand to save him from the scrap man.

Monty the Rural Crime Car, a 1998 Land Rover Defender Tdi, had been languishing in a depot until countryside 4x4 enthusiasts pointed out that there was a star in their midst.

The classic car, which struggles to reach 80mph and takes nearly 20 seconds to reach 60mph, has become the hottest vehicle on the fleet.

Senior officers were unaware that the least-sophisticated vehicle available had a huge following on Facebook – including having its own Twitter hashtag #MontyRCT - among Cheshire’s farming community.

But years in the elements had taken its toll.

Sgt Rob Simpson, Team Leader on the Rural Crime Team, told Police Oracle: "Every car has a lifespan when they are more rust than metal. And sadly that's the stage Monty was at.

"He went in for routine maintenance and that's when we were told it was much more serious. It was sad as I remember him from when I first joined."

At that point, Mark Rotheram, a member of Green Lane Association (GLASS), stepped in to reveal the car has been a critical lever for engaging with off-road drivers who seek out extreme country routes. Monty's visits have been vital in ensuring they don’t damage the countryside.

He told Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer that Monty needed some TLC. And with the warning was a bid for community funding to keep Monty on the road.  

He said: “Cheshire Rural Police have been very visible in supporting legal Green Lane use and have promoted a truly positive approach to shared use.

"A big part of this is through local engagement and one of the tools in their arsenal is the ability a part of the community. This has been supported by Monty, the team’s 300tdi Defender, that not only allows the team to visit remote areas but brings a certain charm and connection to locals."

He added: “Defenders have been part of the rural community since the 1940s and reflect a way of life. Monty is no different. He’s a talking point, a connection to our past and a very visual presence on the roads. Sadly, Monty is showing signs of his age now and we really don’t want to lose him.”

The full extent of Monty’s police work has included raising awareness of heritage crime at the county’s historic sites, sharing countryside advice to dog owners and warning other Land Rover owners that their own Defenders were at risk of theft.

During the pandemic, Monty was used to deliver NHS Rainbow window displays to raise morale among farming families in outlying areas.

"He's still an incredibly capable vehicle," said Sgt Simpson. "He's the one we can turn around in much smaller areas and reach really inhospitable areas. He can really help us police the high ground in the snow."

The PCC backed the bid and the undisclosed cost of the restoration will come from cash seized from proceeds of crime.

Best still, the money spent restoring Monty won’t be wasted as the value of Defenders is rapidly rising among collectors - meaning Cheshire has a financial asset on the books.

Production has now ended and good examples are fetching between £20,000 and £50,000. Prices have been buoyed by the vehicle’s appearance in several Bond films. Restored examples are reaching up to £100,000 and owners include celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, the Queen and fashion designer Shawn Stussy.

It’s not the first time Monty has been fought for; he was added to the Rural Crime Team after being saved from auction in 2020 and given new decals.

Sgt Simpson said: "He's a great talking point and a way of getting people to open up; especially farmers who've been under the bonnet of one similar to Monty at some point."

Monty is about to have a chassis-off restoration starting this week including new body panels being fitted and should be back in time for Chistmas. But it won't be an easy life.

"He's not going to be something that we can just show. We can stop criminals too," said Sgt Simpson.

The police and crime commissioner has become a fan too.

John Dwyer said: “Tackling rural crime is a priority for me and I want to support rural communities in any way I can. In my Police and Crime Plan, I’ve outlined my commitment to rural communities and helping to get Monty back to full health is a step in the right direction.”

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