Tony Dytrych-Cowell is a North Yorkshire postman, about to become a policeman, who used to race Land Rovers in the Army.
In 2019 he applied to take part in the new series of Wheeler Dealers: Dream Car, which features car dealer Mike Brewer and ex-Formula 1 mechanic Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley, trading up cars to help participants get their dream set of wheels.
Tony talked to us about why he applied, why the Land Rover Series II was his dream car, and what taking part in the TV show was like.
“my first introduction to cars”
Tony’s love of Land Rovers is a long-standing one with very clear origins.
“My dad had Land Rovers, and at 6 or 7 years old that was my first introduction to cars,” Tony recalls. As a child going caravanning towing with his Dad’s Land Rover,
His dad also used to take the Landy when he went sea coaling – collecting waste coal, washed up along the northeast shore from power stations, to bring home and dry out in the garage.
“My dad was a mechanic and very keen that I follow in his footsteps,” recounts Tony. “When I was about 9, he tried to show me how to change the plugs and pipes in his Land Rover; at the time though, I wasn’t interested at all!”
Having driven, lived and even slept in Land Rovers during his 23 years in the Army, Tony can now do that and much more. “I wish I’d paid attention! I’m pretty self-taught when it comes to Land Rovers. But that’s the joy of them – anyone can figure out how to take them apart, clean them and put them together again.”
“The epitome of the Land Rover”
Despite loving Land Rovers all his life, Tony had never owned his own. When he spotted an ad on a Facebook car forum about a TV show that was looking for people who wanted to trade in a car to get their dream car in return, he was intrigued.
The Series II, to Tony, was the obvious choice as his dream car. “The one I’ve got through the show is a 1964 model, and my Dad’s were 1965/66 so pretty much the same. It’s the epitome of the Land Rover – the ones you see in films, roving over deserts and adventuring around the world.”
“the filming was all done out of sequence”
“I was one of the first people to contact the production company, and there were a couple of months of back and forth while they confirmed that yes, they wanted me to take part, and they were sorting out the filming schedule with me and the other participants.”
Tony was trading in a 51 plate Mini Cooper that he’d only had for about 9 months. Presenter Mike Brewer and the film crew came up to North Yorkshire for 3 days, which Tony says gave him a fascinating insight into how TV shows are produced.
“The filming was all done out of sequence – on day one, they took my Mini out for a drive around the Yorkshire Dales and filmed it on the road. On day two, they filmed me at home and I had some chats with Mike and to the camera. It wasn’t until day 3 that they actually filmed me handing the Mini over!”
Between parting with his Mini and finally having his Land Rover revealed – a gap of a few months – Tony went down to the British Motor Museum at Gaydon to spend some time with the film crew at the Land Rover Show that took place in May, which celebrated 70 years of Land Rover.
Tony tells me that the British Motor Museum is the home of Huey, the first ever production Land Rover. Huey (so named because his registration plate reads HUE 166) rolled out of the factory in 1948, some 10 years before the Series II was put into production.
“this one isn’t yours – oh wait, actually it is”
It was August 2019 that the production company invited Tony and his son, Alex (also a Land Rover owner) down to Sywell Aerodrome for the final reveal. The premise of the show is that the original car donated, in Tony’s case his Mini, is the starting point for a maximum of five trades, ending with the Wheeler Dealers team finding the participant their dream car.
Producers had also invited the local Series II owners club to the aerodrome, and Tony was filmed walking down a line of Landys, chatting with Mike who eventually, after a bit of a double bluff, revealed one of them was in fact his – and handed him the keys.
After 23 years of Army service, and driving, fixing and even racing Land Rovers, Tony has finally got a Land Rover of his own. It’s a pastel green – the same colour as Huey – and Tony says it even has a Huey sticker on the side: an homage to the now iconic original.
“It’s 56 years old and bound to break down at some point”
From Tony’s perspective, working on the Land Rover is inevitable and one of the perks of ownership.
“Old Land Rovers are known to leak oil – the story goes that a Land Rover owner gets worried when it isn’t leaking! But anything that needs doing, I can do myself. Land Rovers are there to tinker and play with, to enjoy.”
Having said that, he’s not likely to take his new pride and joy out on any extreme off-roading trips, preferring a spot of green laning. He’s joined the Series II Land Rover Owners Club but is yet to make it to a club meet – that’s also pretty high up the list of things to do. Alongside this, he plans to get back into events with the British Army Motorsports Association.
“I don’t want to race anymore; I’m a qualified Marshall, so I can go along, support the events and get it muddy without having to worry about competing.”
Tony is looking forward to years of enjoyment with his dream car. “It’s cold, noisy and hard to drive but it’s a smile a minute. If I want to be warm and comfortable, I’ll take my Kia. But if I want to have a laugh, I’ll take the Landy. That’s what it’s all about.”