HERITAGE - 23: WHAT KIND OF AUTOMOBILE would you prefer but can't afford new?
The ideal family runabout can go almost anywhere (no Chelsea Tractor this - with a front bumper-mounted winch only a vertical cliff is off limits!)
Go anywhere with these wheels!
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.
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.
Having driven Series IIa, Series III (x2) and Discovery...
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.
Land Rover Defender
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. .
Discovery Series 1 is a risky option, with rust and suspension problems and a good likelihood of rot on the sills. Series 2 was better, a great improvement on its predecessor. Of course, with care they are both good vehicles with strong engines. A handsome vehicle with wide-screen front aspect for safe driving.