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Heritage - 23: What Kind of Automobile Would You Prefer, but Can't Afford New? (Get Pleasure From a Used Vehicle)

Updated on January 30, 2019
alancaster149 profile image

Added to my wishlist ever since mine was stolen, either a Series Land Rover (preferably), or at least a Defender 'to get away from it all"

The ideal family runabout that can go almost anywhere (no Chelsea Tractor this - with a front bumper-mounted winch only a vertical cliff is off limits!)

Red long wheelbase (lwb) Defender Estate
Red long wheelbase (lwb) Defender Estate | Source
A similar vehicle. This - or a slightly older model, I'm not fussy - is top of my wishlist for when my PPI money comes in.
A similar vehicle. This - or a slightly older model, I'm not fussy - is top of my wishlist for when my PPI money comes in. | Source

Landie number one was a conversion job from a hard-top or delivery van

A Land Rover 88 inch model. Mine was finished in Land Rover Masai red. Took her north a few times, over the North York Moors and along the coast  Sold her a year or so later. A few faults it would have taken more money than I had to fix
A Land Rover 88 inch model. Mine was finished in Land Rover Masai red. Took her north a few times, over the North York Moors and along the coast Sold her a year or so later. A few faults it would have taken more money than I had to fix | Source

My wishlist for a an automobile would have to be:

Land Rover Defender with galvanised chassis, alloy wheels, tubeless off-road tyres, 5-speed gearbox and 2.5 litre Tdi 300 engine with alloy half-roofrack.

(Dream on, Lanky. Maybe you'll get some cash on the Lottery/Euromillions/PPI repayment!)

Alternatively I'll opt for a pre-1972/3 Series IIa (depending on the cash offer)..

Why a pre-1972/3 Series IIa? Well, in this country we had a scheme introduced by John Major's government, of vehicles over 25 years being road tax-free. The scheme was continued by Tony Bliar's Labour government in 1997 when they came in, but only for those vehicles already 25years old when the scheme was frozen in early 1998. I had a Series IIa, registration year 1971 but foolishly sold it before I learned (from the DVLA) that I would have qualified for a road tax refund in January, 1997 - Land Rover registrations ran from August of each year. The full set of five tubeless tyres would cost be about £1K, a new Tdi 300 2.5 engine would cost about £2K fitted, and of course a five-speed gearbox would be a must because of the torque a Tdi engine has. Galvanised chassis would be about £600 inc fitting (the body has to be lifted off the chassis and everything bolted back onto the new one., That's about seven-eight hours' work altogether, @£50 per hour at Grawall Autos (01708 688391) £350-400 alone on the labour. The alloy half-roof rack? Add about £100 maybe. I'd be up those moors before you could say 'Grouse'! As it is i've got a serviceable Land Rover Discovery Tdi, but it ain't quite the same! The wife likes it - nice and comfy, twin sunroof as well as air conditioning., nice audio (radio cassette, well what do you expect from an 'M' Reg ,1995?), electric windows etc., but it's not the same. My Series IIa was petrol (I could have had the conversion done), and the seats needed replacing. But imagine this, a year's road tax in the UK for my 'Disco' is £220! A Fiat 500 is tax free! Why? They use the roads (the Land Rover doesn't need roads, I can use mountain tracks!) same as any other vehicle. It's just a political gimmick! These small cars go Congestion Charge free in London as well, but they still take up space on the road! My Discovery isn't a hreat lot longer than a Fiat 500, either. So if I can get an old 'Landie' and get it fitted up with new kit, why should I cough up for road tax? I can out-gimmick these wishy-washy Liberal Democrats and Socialists. Diesels are more efficient, I could get other cars out of trouble in floods or snow drifts (true, we haven't had one of them in London these last few years, but I don't want to spend all my time in London or on A roads! There's a world out there beyond 'the Smoke' (GB nickname for London, just look south from the M25 and see that 'halo' over the capital... it's pollution!) There's moorland tracks to explore, neglected old public rights of way etc. People call my 'Landie' a Chelsea Tractor, but just watch their jaws drop when I climb up a 1-in-3 as if it was almost level. A lot of London 4X4 drivers never get the best out of their vehicles, but then they're also safer on public roads. Bash into my 'Landie' and you'll come off worse, and I'll still be able to drive away - short of being hit by an articulated lorry (a 'rig' to you in Oz or the US)!

I have a few pix of my previous 'Landies', but not digital. I'd have to see how I can convert them for the benefit of my readers. (These pictures are from the Internet, none are copyrighted).

My first 'Landie', a 1981 Series III was bought in 1995 from a small workshop near Hertford (England), converted from a 'hard-top' to estate with collapsible seats in the back and painted in 'Masai Red'. I changed the seats after a while for benches. A few trips up north revealed some weaknesses, namely in the engine (an original Land Rover 2.25 capacity model) and the gear jumped when i was in 2nd.

Next, in April 1996 came a dark green, Long-wheelbase 1971 Series IIa, bought from Mark Leader on Angel Lane, Stratford E15. She was a bit basic and the indicator slipped on the steering column. Still, she could shift. I did 75 on the M11 without even realising! She had a thirst as well, but petrol was only about 75p per litre then. The seats in the back needed replacing, and I could have done that from the lump sum I got from my Telegraph Pension fund except I sold her late in 1996 before realising I'd have got a rebate on the road-tax!

So next up was another 1981 Series III, blue this time, bought April 1997. Also Long-wheelbase. This one travelled quite a lot. A lot of remedial work was needed and I had the 'dished' bonnet replaced with a plain one, the spare wheel mounted on the rear door. Parking in London isn't easy with a hulking great spare wheel under your nose! One of my daughters bought me a wide angle rear-view mirror to clip over the original one inside, cutting down the 'blind spots'.

I must have gone round the clock a few times on mileage in the 14 years or so (four months short of 15) I had her, up to Hadrian's Wall a couple of times, over the North Yorkshire Moors umpteen times, as well as around the Dales and as far as Windermere in the Lake District. Last big job on her was the alternator and she had five months' tax to go on the disc when she was stolen a couple of miles from home. Shame about the trolley jack, steel wheel-brace, full set of Ordnance Survey maps for northern England and not forgetting the wide-angle rear-view mirror!

(That meant) I had to get another 'Landie'! The wife was fed up with my Series III anyway. Draughty, let in water over some of the windows and a bone-shaker! (And there was a hole in the floor). Well, apart from that she was a good runner (at least I thought so, aside from the jobs that needed to be done). I had to wait for the insurance to 'cough up', which didn't take too long. £4,000 minus the £100 excess. Still, I had a £2,000 roof job to pay for, so that left £1,900 'to play with'! After consulting the people at Grawall Autos (Graham and Harry) I knew I couldn't get a lot for my cash. I was also warned by various associates here and there that my stolen 'Landie' was probably in bits somewhere in a container bound for ****** (well, wherever). Another one like it - preferably better - would go the same way, as they are easily dismantled. So I opted for a Discovery. After a few jobs on it, and another couple of less urgent ones, she runs well. Next month (June 2012) I put her to the test, back up north again (Dales, Moors and Coast, kith and kin). Alas she didn't pass her MoT test and I had to sell her as scrap for a few hundred £££'s in April, 2013. I didn't even have a digital camera to take pictures for this page.

What to look for when buying a second-hand Land Rover/Range Rover 4X4 motor? First off, when you're taking the vehicle on a test drive - with the vendor seated in the passenger seat - ask when the vehicle was last used, whether on a long journey, off-road or just to the shops/school/sister/brother around the next corner. Listen out for any anomalies in the tone of the engine, how the gearbox sounds when you're changing up/down. Try all the gears - including low and high transfer, reverse, fifth gear etc. If you're desperate for a vehicle and have bottomless pockets you'll buy what you're driving even if the gears clunk on changing and the engine won't get you beyond the next road junction. As Mark Leader told me many moons ago, you'll never be wealthy if you drive a Land Rover, but there's no need to invite disaster! I've made mistakes, believe me, my bank balance would attest to that, but if you can get a Land Rover in reasonable condition they're worth a bit of investment. Look out for rust, check the log for work done on chassis and body, mainly under the body. The early Range Rovers used to be rust prone, tailgates mostly. I've seen 'Rangies' with really bad rust - but still running! A workshop will not pass a vehicle on its MOT (Ministry of Transport) Test if the stays are rotted. 'Iffy' outriggers can be overlooked, but they'll need work doing or the body sags and if you're out off road that would spell disaster! Look at door bottoms on older Series Land Rovers, they collect damp around the turned-up edges. Roof rack clips might accumulate rust where the water can't escape along the rain strip. Steel engine pipes shouldn't be rusty if the vehicle is in use, and watch out for plastic or rubber pipes that are in contact with parts that get hot in use. They can be held in place with plastic strapping used for large bags or else you could find yourself losing coolant or brake fluids etc! The air pipes should be checked regularly. You don't want them perforated. Look at the bracing on the exhaust pipe. Is it loose? How much would you have to lay out if all these things were to go 'on the blink' at the same time? Does the engine lose oil? Look for drips underneath. If there are black patches under the vehicle you could be in line for a costly ride. Check the oil levels regularly anyway, and if you can't do the gearbox oil yourself take your 'Landie' to a workshop for it to be done on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly. Check tyres for wear, damage and tread depth. Check headlights, indicators, rear and brake lights. The cops would have a field day if they found all these faults on your vehicle and you could be faced with having to get public transport home from God-knows where! Do yourself a favour, don't make yourself a target for promotion-happy policemen.

Spreading my wings. Landie number 2, 109 inch Series IIA Station Wagon

Mine was a lighter shade of green, a Dulux green that was fairly close, painted that colour when I got her in 1996, and with the spare wheel mounted on the rear door as here
Mine was a lighter shade of green, a Dulux green that was fairly close, painted that colour when I got her in 1996, and with the spare wheel mounted on the rear door as here | Source
The Series IIA dashboard was pretty basic but it made for enjoyable driving without distractions: speedometer, fuel gauge. What could be simpler? Mine - a 2.25 petrol version - got the family and me to the tops of the Dales and Moors with ease.,
The Series IIA dashboard was pretty basic but it made for enjoyable driving without distractions: speedometer, fuel gauge. What could be simpler? Mine - a 2.25 petrol version - got the family and me to the tops of the Dales and Moors with ease., | Source
109 inch Series IIA Station Wagon enters the water in classic off-road form - it's as well to gauge the depth of the water to be crossed to avoid disaster. Take a stick with you to help measure and stay out of trouble
109 inch Series IIA Station Wagon enters the water in classic off-road form - it's as well to gauge the depth of the water to be crossed to avoid disaster. Take a stick with you to help measure and stay out of trouble | Source

Go anywhere with these wheels! Series III 109 inch Estate

A good starting point. Land Rover 109 inch galvanised chassis awaiting transfer into the vehicle ahead during extensive restoration
A good starting point. Land Rover 109 inch galvanised chassis awaiting transfer into the vehicle ahead during extensive restoration | Source
Series III doing what she's made for - this is where the galvanised chassis comes in handy
Series III doing what she's made for - this is where the galvanised chassis comes in handy | Source
Blue Land Rover 109 inch Safari roof estate - pressurised ventilation - with bonnet mounted spare wheel as mine was purchased in May 1997
Blue Land Rover 109 inch Safari roof estate - pressurised ventilation - with bonnet mounted spare wheel as mine was purchased in May 1997 | Source
Series III dashboard is the same in 88 inch or 109 inch models, fairly basic but not as basic as the Series IIA
Series III dashboard is the same in 88 inch or 109 inch models, fairly basic but not as basic as the Series IIA | Source

Built from the early 1970s to early 1980s, the Series III is a rugged machine to go exploring in, a good way of getting into off-road driving. Variants are many, from short wheel-based 'hard-tops' (van type) and canvas roofed ex-military pick-ups to long wheel-based Estates. The original diesel engines were not as powerful as the petrol types, especially the V8, nor were they as thirsty. Gear boxes as fitted were four-speed, although with Overdrive they were both faster and more economical to run over long distances - and not as noisy.

A one year relationship... Discovery 1

Discovery 1 finished in Epsom Green. very handsome, but problems lay ahead...
Discovery 1 finished in Epsom Green. very handsome, but problems lay ahead... | Source
The driver's seat and dash. Much more involved than in either Series IIA or III, with a lot more to learn about engaging off-road gear - read the manual, it's an enlightenment....
The driver's seat and dash. Much more involved than in either Series IIA or III, with a lot more to learn about engaging off-road gear - read the manual, it's an enlightenment.... | Source
The rear seating looks roomy, but where do you put your tools, anti-freeze, engine oil,  brake and gear oil etc... or jack come to think of it. Bit crowded then!
The rear seating looks roomy, but where do you put your tools, anti-freeze, engine oil, brake and gear oil etc... or jack come to think of it. Bit crowded then! | Source

The Discovery models, Series 1 and 2 have several issues with rust and rot, (as does the Classic Range Rover). If you're looking for one of these refer to the Price Guide in the Land Rover Owner International magazine, where you'll see listings for Classic Vehicles (Series 1, II and III, 1948-1983, Range Rover 1970-1996 and Forward Control 101 inch chassis), as well as later models, (County, Defender 90/110/130, Freelander 1 & 2, Discovery 1, 2, 3 & 4, Range Rover P38, L322, Evoque). Insurance and taxation guides are included with the details of vehicles bought second-hand wholesale (dealer prices) and retail in various states of roadworthiness. .

Having driven Series IIa, Series III (x2) and Discovery 1...

Having driven Series IIa,(1971) Series III swb and lwb (1981) and Discovery I (1995) wouldn't be so brash as to say 'I'm an expert' on any of them, least of all the Discovery Series I that I had for a year. To be honest I preferred the earlier two for their simplicity. I'd like a County or Defender 110, the natural successor to the Series III, for its ruggedness (and height off the road, better for driving moorland tracks with deep ruts). I went off-road frequently between Essex and Northumberland (near Hadrian's Wall), mostly in North Yorkshire on Forestry tracks, on the high moor east to west between the coast and the Dales. With Overdrive I was able to reach over 75 mph on the motorway when returning from the north in my 4 cylinder petrol Series IIa. The second Series III I drove, a long-wheelbase vehicle, had a Perkins 3500 diesel engine when I bought it, but when this went up the 'swannie' I had an unused Land Rover 3000 put in. That went through the old gearbox and overdrive like a hot knife through butter, although it could cruise at 70 mph on the way north to Thirsk. A replacement gearbox was found, but not overdrive so I had to 'toddle' back south to London at about 55 mph. When the five-speed gearbox was added it went like a dream. One-in-three gradients on the moors were a doddle! Too bad somebody 'half-inched' it at th e end of January, 2012, just after I'd got it through another MoT test and emissions test! At the moment I'm driving my daughter Joanne's VW Polo, until either she wants to sell or drive it again.

**Cross fingers everyone, for a decent win on the Sun Bingo/Euromillions/Lottery.

*** Footnote: As from 2014 Land Rover has announced production of the 90 and 110 Defender will be curtailed. Second-hand ones may well go up in price as demand grows, as with their predecessors, the Series I, II, IIa and III. Older Range Rovers in good condition already fetch premium prices, although if you're willing you could buy a second-hand one in less than mint condition and work on it/have someone work on it for you (a lot pricier)..

Land Rover Defender, 90" and 110" wheelbase, an advance on the Series III with better engines and reliability, also came in a variety of shapes and engine types. The new turbo diesel engine that came with five-speed gearbox could wipe the smiles off saloon car drivers' faces, although the reason for buying one of these vehicles is not to chase along motorways. They also came with V4, V6 and V8 engine specifications to tackle different road conditions, again obviously thirstier with V6 and V8 engines. I prefer the diesel for its economy of fuel use.

(What I drive at the moment):

My daughter's 2003 VW Polo at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough - Mecca for Teessiders. So far this car's been everywhere from the South Coast to the tops between Swaledale and Wensleydale. Almost a 'Landie'.
My daughter's 2003 VW Polo at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough - Mecca for Teessiders. So far this car's been everywhere from the South Coast to the tops between Swaledale and Wensleydale. Almost a 'Landie'. | Source

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Too right, Jemjoseph. Anyway your eyes will tell you if there's trouble ahead (let's face the music and dance, we know a song about that, don't we).

      My last Landie was a 'Disco' (Discovery). Didn't make it past its MoT (road viability test, if it fails you're on the lookout for an old banger if you haven't the cash to get the work done). So now I've got my elder daughter's VW Polo. What a come-down, eh? Still, it's mobility of a sort until I get the wherewithal for a 'County' or 'Defender'.

    • Jemjoseph profile image

      Jemjoseph 

      4 years ago

      You seem to have enough experience with Land Rovers to know exactly what you're looking for in your ideal vehicle. The beauty of the Land Rover and similar vehicles really is their off road capabilities. Personally I'm often impressed by luxury vehicles with all the bells and whistles like automatic parking, a blind spot monitor, forward collision warning and the likes, but to get away from it all it's great to have a good old all terrain vehicle.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Here the price of diesel is at cheapest £1.36 per litre (a filling station a mile and a half or so from where I live. Some places (greed knows no bounds!) around the same area sell it at about £1.43 - around ten miles away in semi-rural Sewardstone (part of Chingford, London E4) diesel is on sale @ £1.48! We have to plan our journeys better these days.

      I get reasonable value for mileage with this Tdi, about 35 mpg. I shall be doing a bit of 'green-laning' (easier off-roading) when I go north in ten days' time, up in the Dales and on the Moors.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Alan, we've got some similar tastes here!!!

      My family was fairly well off when I was a kid, my first vehicle was a totally decked out 1986 Ford Bronco - it was a luxury 4x4, but not so fine as a Land Rover.

      I'm in a rural area...and before the senseless wars when gas was cheap - I used to go driving for the sheer pleasure of it!

      Those days are gone forever.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Anjili first: What engine you have in a 'Landie' determines its viability and economy. An old diesel engine - there can't be many originals left, they were under-powered and prone to blowing their heads - wouldn't be much use for long drives along the A-routes, let alone M-ways! Then there are the old petrol engines. My second one, the Series IIa, came under this heading. Good performance on the M-way even, but thirsty (about 25mpg at best), but she was great over the moors! Then the third one, originally bought because of the Perkins diesel engine advertised. Good performance, but age got the better of it, and I was driving it too fast. It wasn't really meant to go at more than about 55mph, and ended up belching out black smoke! The workshop I took it to insisted in putting in a more modern Tdi300, 2.5 litre meant for a 110. Good performance again, about 30-35mpg (that's good for a 'Landie'. Then there's the 1995 engine I've got in my 'Disco', even better! I'd say I get upwards of 35mpg from this one. If you had a V6 or V8, you'd need a bottomless wallet. Ideal for short distances, and lots of climbing = Plenty of torque, but downright THIRSTY. I know some people who have older 'Landies' whose vehicles only do UP TO 20mpg! Not as good in performance any more, either, but it depends on the quality of maintenance. Pure'n'simple.

      John Holden: My last SIII had free-wheel hubs as well, but I think I hit some rocks somehere and one side was cracked, leaking. Nevertheless it wasn't the end of the world. I got another few hundred miles out of her before she was 'nicked'. Now she's probably in bits somewhere. She had a few issues at the end, though. The alternator went up north last October, the job wasn't properly done so she was back in the workshop a couple of weeks later. There were too many other issues to list here, but she might not have sailed through another MoT test next January. I was on a 'green-laning' day out a few years ago, slogging through thick mud but still going. Fellow in front of me drove a Range Rover with road tyres, get that! Enough to say he got stuck and I had be towed out as well after that. I've been over moor and field before, never have I been stuck until this comedian got in front of me! I shall soon see what this one's up to, nevertheless. Plenty of places to test her out on over the North Yorkshire Moors and western Dales.

      Glad you both appreciated this.

    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      7 years ago

      Ah, memories of my much loved and much missed SWB series IIa. I used it for work, I was foresting at the time. Free wheel hubs, range rover tyres and a petrol engine. The petrol engines of the time were much more powerful than the equivalent diesel and as I did a fair bit of towing, needed every ounce of power I could get.

      One day when driving along a particularly muddy track with a blowing head gasket the engine finally refused to pull any more and left me knee deep in mud replacing the head gasket! Oh wonderful days :)

      I wont go into the reasons for its demise here, they still sadden me too much.

    • Anjili profile image

      Anjili 

      7 years ago from planet earth, a humanoid

      Your knowledge of the landrover is quite impressive. You must have driven one for many years. Quite a handy vehicle when it comes to tough jobs and terrain. What do you say about its fuel consumption and cost of spare parts? Thanks for the share. voted up

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