So far, the examples used in our sporadic Phoning It In series have been the sorts of things where carmakers seemed to just not really give a shit, and the results have been certainly lousy, definitely laughable, but almost always generally harmless. I think in part this is because none of our Phoning It In examples have been designed to be ambulances made to operate in war zones. Until now. My friends, please thrill to the non-giveashittery of the effectively literally half-assed Land-Rover Minerva ambulance.
I saw this remarkable car at Goodwood, where it was up for auction, perhaps to complete the collection of a fellow phoning-it-in appreciator like myself. The car, a 1952 Land-Rover Minerva ambulance, is interesting for a lot of reasons, even before we get to the phoning it in part. First, and most obviously, there’s the name: Minerva.
Minerva was once, long ago, a maker of expensive and elegant cars based in Belgium. The marque had a lot of respect for the quality of their cars and engines, but the financial fecalstorms of the 1930s effectively stopped their business of luxury automobiles. After WWII, the company pivoted to building licensed Land Rovers for the Belgian army, which is what the example we’re looking at now is part of.
You may notice a few differences in the Minerva-built Land Rovers, like the sloping front fender faces (which I’m sure solved every aerodynamic issue the car had) and that oddly angled spare tire mounting setup.
Oh, and of course there’s the huge MINERVA badge on that more ornately-shaped grille, too. That’s a big tell.
But, none of these details are why I consider this ambulance phoned-in. This is why:
See what I’m getting at? This might make it clearer:
Yes, it’s the fact that the bodywork of this thing is really only enough to enclose half a human body, lengthwise. There’s room for two stretchers in there, but it still really only comes out to one person, because you just have two halves actually inside, and two halves outside, hanging hilariously out the back.
Well, it’s probably less hilarious if you were a wounded or injured person and half your body – hopefully the lower half, but there’s nothing to say they couldn’t have loaded them in the opposite way – is bouncing around out behind the ambulance.
The flimsy-looking framework that supports the paired halves of stretchers and their unfortunate occupants is a V-shaped bit of pipework that seems to be connected to the rear tow hitch assembly on the Land Rover. You’d think for something as important as an ambulance they’d be willing to spend the time and money to have an extended wheelbase vehicle so you can at least get the entire body of the injured soldier actually inside the vehicle. This is like half an ambulance trying to do the work of a full one, right?
Well, maybe. But this is one of those rare cases of Phoning It In where there are actually reasons for it beyond being a cheapskate and/or being lazy and just not donating a brace of BMs. In this case, there’s actual reasons, ones that have to do with the grim realities of war.
In the case of this ambulance, the thinking was that a general-purpose Land Rover was valuable enough that it made more sense to make an ambulance that could be dismantled and the base vehicle easily returned back to general-use Land Rover style. This does accomplish that goal very well, since I bet you could de-ambulance this inside of ten minutes.
Also, it’s worth noting that this is hardly the only absurdly sketchy-looking military ambulance. Look at some of these WWII- and post-era Jeep ambulances:
See? Not so different. In fact, those ones with the two stretchers each on the front and rear seem even sketchier, but I think the primary goals here were to just move the injured people away from where they got injured in the first place, as fast as possible, and I think all these machines did just that.
So, I guess we’ve got a first for the Phoning It In series: the kind where it almost makes sense. They pretty much had to phone it in, because phoning it in was all you could really get away with, given the situation and circumstances.
Even so, I bet the poor bastards who got halfway shoved into one of these sure wished they had a whole ambulance.