Every hardcore automotive subculture defines themselves, at least in part, with their own idiosyncratic jargon. Cars and parts of cars have nicknames and slang terms, knowledge of which helps define who’s in the group, and who’s out. I know in the air-cooled VW community you can hear weird terms like “Pope’s Nose” and “crotch coolers,” but even those strange names for parts (a licence plate light housing and quarter-panel vent, respectively) make some kind of objective sense. The Land Rover community, however, has a truly bonkers name for a pretty boring part: a radiator grille support panel. Want to know what they call it?
Yep, breakfast. Like what you euphemistically call the gin-and-Froot-Loops slurry you need to get going every morning. Like eggs and bacon, arranged in a happy face on a plate. Very unlike a stamped metal panel designed to hold an early Land Rover’s grille and headlamps.
And yet, somehow, the name “breakfast” has become an at least partially accepted name for what’s technically known as the Radiator Grille Panel.
When I first encountered it, I thought maybe it was an anomaly, or one person’s strange inside joke; while it may still be a sort of inside joke, it’s not just one person making it—a quick search finds breakfast examples all over the Land Rover online world.
So, what the hell is going on, here? Why is this stamped metal panel designed to hold a radiator grille and sometimes headlights called “breakfast?”
There’s some speculation that it’s because of old stories about early Land Rover radiator grilles being removed and used as actual cooking grilles, which certainly seems plausible when you look at the grilles themselves:
It sure does look like you could pop that thing right off, balance it precariously on some rocks over a fire, and slap thick slabs of wildebeest meat on there, no problem.
And while something like this may have happened at some point, it’s not really A Thing because those grilles are zinc-plated, which would be toxic if burned off, and then, without the zinc, the grilles would quickly rust away. And likely be disgusting traps of congealed fats and burned meat.
So, it’s not really likely hordes of Land Rover drivers were routinely cooking breakfast on these grilles—and, it’s not even the grille part that’s called “breakfast”—it’s the panel behind it.
The best explanation for the breakfast name is in some ways the most cynical, as it seems to have just started as a way, on some early Land Rover forums in the ‘90s, to mess with new members, and then it sort of snowballed from there.
One poster named TeriAnn on the Rovers North forum speculated in detail:
“Well, Near as I remember, the term was introduced by some OVLR club members into the LR mail list in the 1990's. I think it was done basically as a put on to convince a know it all newbie that ‘breakfast’ was the LR hobby in term for the radiator bulkhead.
As an explanation they said the Australian Land Rover veterans use the grille off a pre Series III truck as a grill over a camp fire to cook their breakfast. THEREFORE because they used the grille to cook breakfast, the radiator bulkhead that the grille was attached to as called a ‘breakfast’ and the grille was still called a grille. Really great logic.
At the time several people pointed out that the zinc plating on the grille was toxic. That if the zinc plating was burned off they would be left with a rusty grille on their truck. And one or two asked that if the grille was used to grill breakfast why wasn’t it used to grill dinner and why not call it the dinner?
No one seemed to ask the question “If the grille was used to cook breakfast, why call the radiator bulkhead a breakfast and not the grille?”
Somehow the OVLR club folks not only convinced their target person the the radiator bulkhead was called a breakfast because Australians used it to cook their bacon, but they also convinced a lot of relative newbies on the list as well.
The folks who started this had the Ottawa Valley Land Rover club web site and the Land Rover FAQ web site. So they added the term to both sites.
The LR email list is composed predominately of North Americans, the Two web sites are North America based, so since then everyone in North America who wanted to be a member of the Series Land Rover IN GROUP started calling the radiator bulkhead a breakfast because supposedly a unknown size group of Australians couldn’t be bothered to carry a grill in their truck and removed the grille off their trucks, burned off the galvanised coating and used the grille as a grill only to cook breakfast and not lunch or dinner.
Everyone wants to belong to something greater than themselves and using the group technical term helps them belong. But I still chuckle at people who use the term “breakfast” for the radiator bulkhead and it tends to confuse the Brits, Australians and South African LR folks who had never heard of the terms before the North Americans started using it.
Now, there’s no actual proof here, just some cynical speculation based on the fundamental human traits of liking to fuck with people, a desire to feel belonging to a given group, and an urge to exclude others from said group via language.
It’s as likely an explanation as any, but I’m not sure I really care about how it started as much as I enjoy the fact that it’s spread, and now, across the rusty, often madly overpriced world of vintage Land Rovers, it’s possible to hear someone complain about how rotted and dented their breakfast is, and how they’re going to go to a junkyard in the hopes of finding a better breakfast.
I mean, that’s just a good sentence to hear.