It's not just tyre-kicking buyers who can be total time-wasters

3

Author: Martin PortPublished:

Have you ever been so furious that words fail you, that for a minute you can do no more than stare straight ahead, hoping that eventually you regain the ability to think straight enough to put your car into gear and drive away?

Well, that was me last Friday after viewing a potential addition to the Port fleet.

My feelings had been very different just a few hours earlier when I was convinced I was on my way to see my next Landie.

The reason I had such confidence was because before setting out on a lengthy round trip, I had taken the trouble to talk to the seller extensively to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time.

Admittedly there was only one picture of the Series IIa – a side view which showed some nicely worn-in bronze green paint – on the website I found it on, but upon request, the owner helpfully sent me more pictures.

The front looked great. The back looked good. The interior was a mix of original light green paint and some of the bronze green that the owner confirmed had been applied with a brush at some stage, but that was okay. I compared the engine picture to just one of the books in my Landie library and all looked okay.

Wary that pictures don’t always tell the whole story, I called him…

“How would you describe the chassis?” I asked.

“Solid. Nice and solid.”

“And the bulkhead?”

“Bulkhead is fine. The car’s a bit tatty and I bought it with the intention of restoring it completely, but I don’t have the time, tools or knowledge.”

Fair enough…

“So, is there any rust?”

“No. Well, the only bit of rust is in the cubby hole under the passenger seat. That’s gone through. Apart from that it’s fine.”

So reassured was I that I did a verbal deal there and then: “If It’s as good as you say and as it looks in the pictures then I’ll come down first thing tomorrow morning with a deposit. Don’t let anyone else see it.”

I was so excited that I took a day off work to whizz down the very next day to see it.

The sun was shining as I approached the chap’s house and I immediately spied the Land-Rover parked outside. All was still going well until I pulled into a space the other side of it. The side that he hadn’t photographed.

“There’s a big bloody hole in it” I said out loud – something that I repeated when the chap came out of his house as opposed to introducing myself and exchanging pleasantries.

“Ah, yes. That’s where it had a Series III exhaust fitted. They come out much higher than the Series II exhausts – out through a hole in the bodywork.”

Obviously I corrected him on his error, but he insisted that he was right and so I figured I would move on and have a look underneath at the ‘solid’ chassis.

Now, whenever you go and see a car, you factor in a degree of rose-tinted-specs on the part of the seller, but I was in no way prepared for what I saw.

The entire chassis from the rear cross member to the engine was covered in rust. And so was the back axle. And the leaf springs. Now the springs I will forgive – he had told me that they were “very stiff when we got it, so we oiled them and got some movement into them but really they could do with replacing”, but the condition of the rest was very hard to swallow. It was difficult to believe it was road legal.

The centre cross member had several holes in it and a cursory poke around immediately prompted other bits of ex-chassis to fall off.

Obviously a quick poke around can only reveal so much and there was a chance that after a weekend with a chisel and a wire brush, one might have ended up with a reasonable chassis needing only a couple of patches. But I didn’t have the weekend available and I was already seething at his ‘rust-free’ description.

Then I got to the hole in the cubby box under the passenger seat. Except there wasn’t a hole. There wasn’t even a cubby box. I found myself staring straight up at the underside of the seat box itself!

Oh well, I’d travelled a long way so I was buggered if I wasn’t even going to test drive the thing and so we set off. There’s a saying with Land-Rovers – they have their own built-in chassis lubrication system thanks to the amount of oil thrown around by the leaky diffs, transfer boxes etc, but it soon became obvious that this one was different. The dry back axle might have indicated that the diff was leak-free, but the cacophony that presented itself to my ears upon moving off in first gear suggested otherwise. So, that’ll be a new diff needed as well if I bought it…

At this stage, I was still in so much shock, I was still being nice. “At least the engine doesn’t sound too bad.” I said, in an attempt to be friendly. “Yes. I’ve had it up to 40 miles per hour. After that the Landie tends to jump around from one side of the road to the
other…”

All of the tyre walls were cracked and amazingly, considering what I’d seen, the last handful of MoT certificates all stated that no advisories had been given .

So I thanked him for his time and walked away.

It is possible of course that I made a huge mistake and at that price and with a bit of work, I could have had a cracking early Landie, but I don’t think I could get over the simple fact that what I went to see was so far removed away from what had been described to me over the phone.

Not wishing to blow my own trumpet of course, but having recently sold a classic, I was pretty chuffed when I got as many positive comments about the comprehensive advert that I had put together as I did about the car I was selling! I tried not just to be as honest as I
could, but figured that if I left a potential buyer with as many questions answered before they had even got in contact, then I would be doing something right. As a result, the car was sold in a matter of days and I’m pretty certain that the chap who travelled for over two hours to come and hand his money over was met by pretty much what he thought he was coming to see.

Of course, I have no doubt that somebody will buy that particular Land-Rover, give it the attention it deserves and end up with a nice, early example. More to the point, I’m not even saying that the Landie was particularly overpriced or worse than a lot of others out there, but what left me with a particularly nasty taste in my mouth was the information that wasn’t imparted in the texts, emails and conversations we had BEFORE I had gone to look at it.

That and the wasted time and fuel, rather than the sorry state of the actual Landie is what made me angry. And fearful, that someone less familiar with them might take the description on trust and actually buy the thing.

They say honesty is the best policy and I’m inclined to agree.

Comments

simonmjervis

Hi Martin,
I just went through the same exercise, altrhough it turned out sligthly better. I was inspired by the C&SC article about Citroen Mehra, Mini Moke etc. and thought good idea lets look for a cheep open top car for Summer. After a bit of reearch they were too expensive (I Live in France so theres plenty around but min price is 5-6K Euros) so i decided cheep, open top off roared, theres only one choice Land rover.
After looking for some time, I found a ex Tanzania Series III Military LW. which according to the ad had been imported a few years back but never registered or used here. Sounded good, rust free, only problem was the Daktari paint job. Anyway i decide to look and was prepared to walk away if it was a rust bucket. Good news was it was pretty rust free, bad news was the Engine had not been started for years and was very reluctant to turn over. Do I buy or walk away? Well I offered 25% less than the asking price (the add did say it was a non runner) and brought it!

Land Rover 1976 Series III Lightweight

1991 XJR-S

DavidChaps

I think it's is happening more and more in the classic world. I wonder sometimes if it's the "Wheeler Dealer" mentality perpetuated by certain TV shows that we now have and that they have changed owners expectations and behaviour. All very sad.

Jack_mind1

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