(Land Rover Monthly, July 2007)
A British-based Land Rover specialist, who have a unique outlook on practicalities and ethos.
Trust – like many other words in this fine language of ours, it is one often bandied about with casual disregard. What does it mean though? What do you associate it with, when you think long and hard about it?
Well, while you ponder the question in your subconscious, please open up the conscious, Land Rover-focused area of your grey matter and focus it on a leafy corner of the Essex countryside.
Foley Specialist Vehicles have been with us a long, long time – since 1966 in fact – and from their very first bit of business, they have been making Land Rover enthusiasts very happy indeed.
They do this in one of two ways: simply by giving them what they wish for, or, after careful consideration and tapping into their vast product knowledge, a vehicle or product ideally suited to the customer’s unique requirements.
Peter Foley founded the company to serve the Land Rover community and for a long time was solely based in the UK. From 1996 to 2005, however, his son Paul ran a second business in Zambia. The market for modified vehicles was strong and a genuine niche was carved out for the family.
Clients included everyone from safari tour companies (an every-growing and exciting business) to branches of African government and armed forces.
After almost a decade on the African continent, Paul returned to the UK to rejoin his brother, Stuart, who had since taken over running the firm. Sharing the same focus and determination certainly helped the brothers and they continued to uphold the values laid down by their father.
Since the brothers’ reunion, Foley Specialist Vehicles has gone from strength to strength and expanded both its product base and services on offer. These include; sales, servicing, modifications, overland preparation, parts/spares supply and the production of custom-built vehicles to suit the specialist needs of a wide variety of clients all over the world.
Passion and substance
The Foley reputation was initially founded on Peter’s willingness to build virtually anything a Land Rover enthusiast might wish for. It certainly helped that he chose such a wonderfully simplistic and versatile vehicle as his base unit for his conversion.
The remarkable ability to build ‘anything and everything’ remains, but the company has obviously had to apply some modern focus to their Land Rover madness.
Although retired and enjoying a well earned rest, Peter Foley is only a phone call away if ever his experience is required. He knows the company is in safe hands though and the initial impression you get when meeting the brothers confirms his trust is well placed.
There is an obvious eagerness to please about them, but also an underlying confidence too. This, perhaps more than anything else, is what customers who have real hard earned money to invest would almost certainly look for and be impressed by.
Another trait you notice in Paul and Stuart is a barely undisguised passion for Land Rovers. This is noticeable by such simple things as a glint in the eye when discussing a favourite project, or the occasional smile at the ceiling as one or both of them dredge up a memory from the past.
This personality, along with their father’s, has obviously been transferred to the hundreds upon hundreds of Land Rovers the Foley family have worked on over the last four decades.
Land Rovers have been used for so many reasons and by so many people since the model first appeared after World War II. Many of you will know the subssequent incarnations of that original machine by heart, but it might come as a surprise to some just what the Foley’s can do to our venerable old, and new, friend.
Stuart, Paul and their skilled staff can build you a Defender-based vehicle in a wide variety of body styles. Their 6×6 vehicles, for example, come in hard top, Station Wagon, camper, game viewer, pick up, fire tender and even hearse configurations. It is probably safe to say they are one of, if not the, foremost experts in the creation of 6×6 Land Rover.
The other area where their experience is keenly felt is with the 130 size of the breed. This Land Rover variant has been around for many years, but it is a little-known fact that Foley’s were building vehicles of this size (stretched 110s, in essence) for their customers before the official Solihull machine had been launched. This is, one would think, one of the joys of being a coachbuilder – using your experience and knowledge to create different designs and modifications for existing vehicles.
Foley Specialist Vehicles have also earned a reputation over the years for building bespoke camper conversions. Although they can still offer such a service, sadly the ever-increasing costs involved in this kind of project have seen orders dwindling these past few years. Still, it doesn’t stop people admiring the campers when they are put on display at shows around the UK and beyond.
It is in vehicles like the campers, 130s and 6x6s where you can really see the attention to detail that marks Foley conversions out from so many others. Almost every single part is either fabricated for the job or restored/rebuilt from an original item. Most of these specialist parts can be created on-site and it also helps to have a long-established steel fabricators as a next door neighbour.
It is this consistent attention to detail that has helped them earn the trust and respect of their customers around the world.
Orders come into the Foley office from many different countries, as one might expect of a modern-day company with a broad client base. Many of these customers also return for repeat business, be it for another modification or a completely new vehicle.
Several people have returned to the Foley fold when their Land Rover has suffered damage in some way. On my recent visit, for example, I spotted a lovely modified Defender 110 that’d lost most of its interior to fire. The customer, who’d bought the vehicle from Stuart and Paul in the first place, knew he could trust them to bring it back from the ashes – literally.
Several photographs adorn the office wall of crash-damaged overland vehicles originally built by Foley. On a few occasions, Stuart and Paul have used their connections around the world to repair some of these vehicles as close to the customers’ whereabouts as possible. Yet another example of the lengths this company will go for its customers.
A relatively new convert for Foley Specialist Vehicles can be found in Northern Ireland. David Wilson (a modern day Indiana Jones if ever there was one) recently bought a completely rebuilt Defender 110, specifically with the intention of using it for overland trips around the world. It was the sheer attention to detail and quality of Foley’s builds that persuaded David to part with his hard earned cash.
These weren’t the only important attributes on the agenda for David. He was also impressed with how Stuart and Paul treated him throughout their dealings together – they couldn’t have been more helpful from first contact to last.
It is this highly personal touch that can make or break a customer’s loyalty and is a trait mostly found in family-run or long established businesses (and Foley Specialist Vehicles scores there on both counts).
The word has certainly spread far and wide over the years and this can only help in a market now teeming with Land Rover specialists of one description or another.
Stuart and Paul can apply their unique, personal touch to more than just Defender based vehicles. They have also fettled a great many Discoverys for specialised use, such as overland jaunts, along with more than a few Range Rovers (both Classic and modern).
If an armoured Land Rover is required for any particular, this wont present a problem to the Foley engineers. Nor will modified vehicles such as camera cars. One national news network actually have a handful of vehicles sitting safely near Foley HQ, ready to roll at any given moment. The company’s location (near Harlow, Essex) being as close to the capital as it is, certainly helps in this respect.
Stuart and Paul can also convert your Land Rover to left hand drive if that be your specific wish – ideal for ex-pats living away from home.
The next time you need a vehicle for an overland trek, it might be worth giving the brothers a call. Their first-hand knowledge of Africa and all that most wild of continents entails, has made them one of the foremost specialists on trips to Kenya, Zambia, South Africa and many others besides.
If your budget cannot stretch to buying a custom-built vehicle, why not just hire one? Foley’s have been providing this rather excellent service for a while now and several people have reaped its many rewards. For a good example of what can be done in a ‘rental’ check out www.exfoleyation.co.uk
(Or for a more up-to-date ‘rental’, check out Copenhagen to Cape Town, leaving September 2012!)
So Foley, so good
Trust. Yep, we are back there again. have you thought about what it really means to you, or perhaps more importantly how much it does? Well, we can, at least, make one trust-based recommendation for you if we maybe so bold.
Foley Specialist Vehicles, a long running family concern, are unequivocal in the trust they both give to and receive from their customers. This has been earned the hard way, through experiences during the good times and the bad (and we’ve all had them).
If you decide to invest your Land Rover savings with Stuart and Paul Foley, we are certain you won’t be disappointed.
In the end, it’s all down to trust, you see.