It is for sale with friend Richard who trades in Russian motorcycles. A Minerva Jeep. In all his open-mindedness, he was a bit in love with the trade-in and he thought, after having played with it for a while, he could easily lose it again. Playing with it yourself went fine… Selling took a long time. Minerva jeeps have apparently not yet been 'discovered'.
TT, but not as in 'Tourist Trophy'
At Minerva the letters stand for 'Tout Terrain', so all surfaces. And Minerva? That even has unexpected Dutch roots. Silvain de Jong, born in Amsterdam in 1868, started building bicycles in Belgium in 1897 under the brand name Minerva. Through motorcycle production, that brand moved higher up the ladder and reached its peak when Minerva's started using slide engines. This patent from the American designer Knight was more reliable and much quieter than the valves of the time. Partly because of this, and because of the great attention to quality and detail, a Minerva automobile could measure itself in its time with Rolls-Royces, Duesenbergs and other absolute greats.
The crisis in the XNUMXs put an end to that dream
Truck manufacturing continued until WWII. During the war the company built aircraft engines and after the war reparations were made plus the wish of the Belgian army for its 'own Jeep' to boost employment.
Because Belgium is simply Belgium, there was of course a lot of uncertainty about who was allowed to work with which license. The potential licensors were Fiat, Willys and Land Rover. In the end, Minerva conjured up a Land Rover license after earlier fencing with a Fiat license.
Minerva was awarded the final government contract
This resulted in the delivery of CKD (completely knocked down, completely disassembled) kits based on the 80 ”Land Rover. The kits included: chassis, drivetrain and steering. Assembly would take place at Minerva, and Minerva would come up with its own bodywork. Nearly 1952 military Minerva-Land Rovers were produced between 1955 and 8500.
Then there was an argument with Land Rover because the British themselves wanted to enter the Belgian market. Much hassle later, in 1958, the curtain fell for Minerva. But until well into the nineties you could buy Minerva Jeeps from the Belgian version of De Domeinen. So they were about four decades old and often had astonishingly low mileage.
Still real Land Rovers
From 1975 the Minerva received help from a number of series 3 4X2 88 ”Land Rovers as 'side entrants'. They remained on standby until 1998. From 1985, the Minerva TTs and Land Rovers were gradually replaced by Bombardier Iltissen. This Jeep vehicle is much better known to us as Volkswagen Iltis, but Bombardier, a large Canadian concern, had factories in Belgium and thus, again with a view to employment, offered more reason for the name.
And whether the Belgians will ever drive a Landrover again? With Brexit in sight, there seems little chance of that.
Remains that the Minervas are classics, real Jeeps and not expensive. For a good copy, between 5.000-6.000 euros is asked. It will be an image issue. With our southern neighbors, we may not immediately think of conquering the world.