Land-Rover: proper job

| 18 May 2011

After nearly 20 years of owning and running classics on a daily basis, I think I may have finally discovered the ideal starter classic, the car I should have bought back when I passed my driving test. It took me a while to realise it – in fact, it took me until I had to do some fairly involved maintenance to get it through the MoT, but the Land-Rover is nothing more than a big Meccano set – an idea that I had frequently joked about but never actually ‘consummated’.

I’ve never been the most subtle of DiYers – mechanic or otherwise. In fact, I’m proud to admit that I firmly take after my ex-farmer and avid woodworker Grandfather with the use of very large nails to hold things together. I once built a trug (lightweight device made out of thin strips of wood for holding plants and the odd trowel), for my wife. The only problem was that it was so ‘heavy duty’ that she complained that she couldn’t lift it. Still hasn’t fallen apart though…

This is perhaps why the Land-Rover appeals so much to me. Removing the spring bushes involved a bloody big hammer, a bloody big screwdriver and a heavy-duty cordless reciprocating saw (look it up – I guarantee that you’ll want one!). Removing the wheels made use of a big old socket set and static drive that was originally part of a Ferguson tractor tool kit, and putting it all back together again mostly used a big bucket of brute force. Compare this to the subtlety with which I used to tackle jobs on my old Porsche 912, and the precision with which I rebuilt the engine with the help of a leading specialist (Andy Prill, obviously), and I think I know which suits me better.

Landie Poster

And this is why I should have bought a Landie first up. Instead, I bought a cheap Morris Minor (never a good thing), and which I soon realised couldn’t be treated in the way that came naturally to me. It had rotten wood and rusty arches on one side, so myself and my father rebuilt it using lots of rivets, panels from old storage heaters and lumps of 4x2. It didn’t last long and eventually became the subject of a £3000 rebuild which would signal the first of many flawed motoring decisions and the start of my financial decline where it came to classics.

Had I bought a Land-Rover, it wouldn’t have mattered so much that it was street-parked outside of our terraced house in Reading, subjected to all weathers, and the bumps received from others trying to park in our road on a Saturday when there was a game on at Elm Park could be knocked out with a club-hammer rather than a specialist at a bodyshop. There’s a well-known saying in LR circles: “If you can’t fix it with a hammer, then you have an electrical problem”. In short, the abuse that my classics have suffered over the years at my hands would have been happily renamed ‘maintenance’ had I bought a Land-Rover first off. I got there in the end though, so better late than never. Anyway, I need to go and change the windscreen wipers now so I’d better go and find my blowtorch…