Forrest: I really didn’t want to do a Boy Scout Eagle project, the highest honor in Scouting. I wanted to eat, sleep and play video games. I was good at that! So Dad [Lyndon Nolan] took my Xbox away and said he’d give it back after I’d met one condition: create and finish an Eagle project.
Achieving Eagle rank in the Boy Scouts demands many steps; the final one required me to create a project involving the entire troop. Looking back on it, I can’t believe that, at one time, I didn’t want to complete it.
I thought about building nesting boxes for wild birds and trimming trees at a local park, but these were common, go-to Eagle projects. Dad suggested I do something that I’d enjoy, and that I’d feel connected to. Then he said I could even do something with the 1951 Series I sitting in the back yard (one of two, actually). I really liked that idea. Dad and I really enjoyed the old Land Rovers. The project would be, unmistakably, mine. Dad donated the Series I to the project and I got to work.
What would I do with it though? Zoo Boise already had a Series I in acceptable shape – would they want another? I designed a zebra paint scheme for the Series I and decided to remove the engine and the running gear. It wouldn’t need to run, nor would it leak – and it would be easier to push around the Zoo!
I called Zoo Boise to propose my project – they loved it. At a second meeting, Gene Peacock, the Zoo Director, said, “We even have the perfect spot for it. We’re expanding and building a new section, the Gorongosa Exhibit.” They shared in creating the initial designs with me. I loved it and was fired up!
I wrote up my Eagle Project Plan to present at the troop’s Eagle Board meeting for approval. I wanted to really make it big. I spent a week filling out my paperwork (mostly against my will. Dad had my Xbox, remember?) and started formulating my presentation.
Dad and I were huge fans of Top Gear, and Richard Hammond had done a special on the Series I Land Rover. I used a portion of it at the start of my presentation. Richard intoned that “Land Rovers only do important things.” The Council was skeptical and had a lot of questions. I answered them all to the best of my ability, then went out of the room so they could discuss it.
Lyndon: When I look back on how the project began, my first memory is shock. What do you mean, “I’m not going to do an Eagle project?” was all I could squeak out. After ten years of scouting, how do you not do an Eagle project?
So many things flashed through my mind. I recalled Eagle Scout Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, recounting a story at the Boy Scouts of America 100-year anniversary of a parent whose son had said the same thing to her, and wanted suggestions to motivate him. Mike had responded that the impetus to be an Eagle Scout had to come from within, and the axiom created a knot in my gut. I couldn’t buy entirely into that. Eagle Scout meant so much more than Forrest could understand at the time, and I was still the parent. I rallied, asking Forrest what his favorite things to do were, outside of video games.
“I like working with my hands, welding, trying to solve problems and helping friends with their cars in the school body shop.”
Sometimes God throws me a bone, and I caught this one with my teeth.
“You know, I have those two 80-inchers in the back yard, one of which I found in a ditch. You could do something with one of those. I wonder who might want one as an exhibit or decoration.”
“You mean, like the Zoo?”
OMG – was it going to be this easy?
Going to the computer, I pulled up a picture of the zebra-striped Jeep pickup from Daktari, a favorite childhood TV show. “You could pull the power train from one of the 80-inches and paint it like that, then offer it to Zoo Boise as an exhibit.”
We spent the next hour casually discussing how this could, possibly, come about – he’d need to sell the idea to the troop Eagle Board, approach Zoo Boise to gauge interest, convince his shop teacher to accept it as a project in the body shop and figure out how to secure a donation of paint. In the end, however, I heard the magic words, “Let’s do it, Dad.”
What followed was a series of unexpected challenges, the first of which was Zoo Boise, which had tired of conjuring up Eagle Projects. Forrest, however, had a project already in hand and ready to pitch. This quickly netted him a meeting with Gene Peacock, the Zoo Director, whose enthusiasm nearly overwhelmed us! Zoo Boise was expanding in a partnership with Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, and they knew exactly what they were going to do with their new Series I! The Director even showed us a map of the expansion and pointed out where the Land Rover would be situated.
Forrest’s proposal to the Troop 97 Eagle Board was inspired: he presented a fully fleshed-out project plan, renderings of the completed project, a Richard Hammond video and responses to every potential objection. After Forrest left the meeting room, some Board members expressed skepticism about the project’s community value. I sold as it as hard as I could, eventually winning the vote.
Forrest: I started by getting Scouts together on Saturdays to tear down the Land Rover in my Dad’s garage. I worried whether the volunteers from the troop would show up, but I had a huge turnout every time! I showed them all the organization of my Dad’s tools and assigned each volunteer a portion of the truck to disassemble. I answered all the questions I could and helped with the tough portions. I loved this part of the project. We all had a great time; this Land Rover brought friends together.
After the teardown, I took the body panels to my school’s body shop. As a student in Collision Repair 3, I could use class time to work on the project; when the work went past the end of the school year, the teacher arranged for Dad and I use to use the paint booth for another week. We got the white areas painted, but didn’t get the black zebra stripes painted in time. So we built a custom paint booth in our driveway and asked my sister, Reilly, an artist, to outline the zebra stripes . We taped, scuffed and painted the stripes in the driveway booth.
Lyndon: Henceforth, I served as the technical advisor, supplier of tools, occasional garage manager, paint booth builder and project Sherpa. In an Eagle Project, the scout runs the show, relegating the parents to sit on their hands. I oversaw the teardown and body removal in the garage, and removal of the engine, gearboxes and prop shafts. I pictured this as a ‘sit-on-my-stool’ task, directing an occasional activity and sagely answering the odd question, such as, “Mr. Nolan, why does this wrench say ‘Whitworth’ on it?”
Half a dozen root-beer swilling Boy Scouts tearing down a Land Rover generates a lot of activity, but not much productivity. The event might have been a little more civilized than a pack of dogs being thrown a single pork chop – but not by much. There wasn’t much sitting on my part after all. The volunteers reduced the 80” to its components in just a few sessions. I lost zero tools (color me impressed!), and we transported the project to the school shop for body prep.
Forrest: After we got it all put back together, we hooked it up to my dad’s 1971 Series IIA and towed it to the zoo the next day. Dad then asked me a simple question that I still think back on regularly: “Would you rather have been doing this or playing video games?” I told him that I couldn’t decide, and he told me to get my priorities straight, because I had an addiction that I needed to deal with. Looking back, I recognize that he was so right; now, I thank him for taking away that game console.
Zoo Boise loved the Land Rover. They hosted my Eagle Scout Court of Honor and the feeling finally sunk in. I was done. The Project was complete. We said our goodbyes at the end of the night and we all went our separate ways.
Lyndon: I might tear up writing this. Project delivery was a powerful set of experiences. Upon towing the 80” to the zoo, we found the Zoo Boise staff waiting for us, applauding. The moment we unhitched the 80” was a bit melancholy, perhaps, but was accompanied by sighs of relief and a huge sense of achievement for a long and arduous job well done.
Forrest had to close out the project with the troop Eagle Board in a final review, where he was quizzed diligently about how he had managed the project, stayed on plan, worked to get paint donated and keep his workers motivated. You might think that this final review is an administrative “check the boxes,” but I’ve sat on a few Eagle Boards of Review, and it isn’t. Fail to make written milestones or meet expectations, demonstrate personal growth from the project or misrepresent achievement, and an applicant will not achieve Eagle rank. Another complication was that Forrest was a week away from turning 18 years old. If the board didn’t approve this project, he would age out of scouting without time to create another. In the end, though, it all went successfully.
In appreciation, Zoo Boise hosted Forrest’s Eagle Court of Honor one evening at dusk. The Eagle Presentation was made in the classroom on the courtyard, which shared a glass wall with the lion habitat. I believe it was the only Eagle presentation in scouting history that had lions roaring in the background. The Land Rover was recognized by the staff as the first element of the Gorongosa Exhibit expansion.
But Wait, There’s More!
Forrest: I look back on everything that started with that Eagle Scout project, and it’s difficult to wrap my mind around all of it. After graduating high school,I enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard. I wound up leading over 2,000 volunteer hours of labor, developed leadership skills and found myself rewarded professionally when the Guard started me at a higher rank because of my standing as an Eagle Scout. I wouldn’t have done any of this without my Dad. He pushed me when I needed it, guided me when I couldn’t see a clear path. In the end, we accomplished a lot together, and that little Land Rover holds a special place in my heart because of it.
Five years into my service in the Guard, the unexpected happened – Zoo Boise announced that the Gorongosa Exhibit was finally opening! In the interim, many staff members that I had worked with on the original project had departed and the new staff wanted the Series I to become a sales kiosk for the exhibit. Would we consider accepting a paint color change – something similar to that of the Gorongosa Park Rangers’ Land Rover – and if so, would we also tackle the repainting?
Lyndon: That Land Rover had sat for half a decade. Fundraising for the Gorongosa expansion had taken much longer than anticipated, and Zoo Boise, wisely, doesn’t borrow money. Zoo Boise wanted some changes to match the new vision of the expansion. After some collaboration, we proposed an original Land Rover color: Bronze Green. After some consideration, the zoo staff agreed. Then, they asked if Forrest would do the work. He and I looked at each other, and just smiled.
Forrest: A local company, National Coating and Supplies, donated the paint and supplies. We built another paint booth in our driveway and began disassembling the body panels.
Lyndon: I approached Mark Letorney for a period canvas hood and hoop set for an 80” because the Land Rover needed a cover – no small request when you know what they can cost – and he graciously donated both without hesitation. Mark, it turns out, is an Eagle Scout.
Forrest: We faced a tight timetable of only a week to complete the four coats of spray, baking and reassembly. To our surprise, it looked simply stunning in the sunlight. The Zoo loved it and we put it right in its spot for the exhibit grand opening.
Lyndon: You never know where life will ultimately take you, or what results your actions will ultimately deliver, but if you don’t start something, or figure out how to jump start someone, you’ll never know. My son and I have continually respected each other even though we’ve not always seen eye to eye. His Eagle project is, and will remain, a flagship of many once-in-a-lifetime experiences we have shared.
You know that Land Rover housing wasps and growing weeds in your back yard? Gather your sons and daughters around a Rovers North catalog, break out your tools, and roll up your collective sleeves. The adventure that you begin may only be to the local car show – or it may well change the world.