Pensioner fits steam engine to his Land Rover

The classic Land Rover has had more engines fitted to it than most people have had hot dinners – from the Rover V8 and Ford diesel engines put there by the factory, to insane conversions by dedicated enthusiasts.

But a pensioner from Oldham has gone one further than most and fitted the craziest powertrain we've seen yet – a steam engine.

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Thomas the Tank Rover (affectionately christened 'Mildred' by its creator, Frank Rothwell) has had its 2.25-litre petrol engine replaced with a custom-built steam engine. The vehicle is now fully coal-powered, makes all the required chuffing noises and is capable of 15mph.

Rothwell, a 67-year-old traction engine enthusiast, said he was looking for a project to keep him out of the pub in the evenings. "We all need a hobby and I like doing things that are difficult," he said.

"I'm always looking for challenges, something that hasn't been done before. And there's not many things that have not been done before!"

Rothwell thinks the project took him around 400 hours – split between building the engine from scratch, and converting and restoring the Land Rover. The 50-year-old machine looks remarkably close to stock, but the tall funnel protruding from the bonnet marks it out as rather special.

'Mildred' gets through coal at the rate of around 45kg an hour, with the firebox accessible from the driver's seat. Currently, top speed is only around 15mph, but Rothwell reckons with some fettling higher speeds could be achieved.

"We've just increased the pressure to 200psi," he said. "I'm expecting it then to do about 12 or 15mph max. And, if I'm going from here to work, I don't do much more than that anyway. There might be a couple of bits where I might hit 25mph but that's it, so... I'll be able to go to work in it in summer."

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