In November 2012 I saw a 4×4, parked next to the road in a used car sales lot. Since I had been searching high and low for a viable restoration-cum-custom project vehicle, I decided to have a closer look.
The price on the window was R29 995, where it was parked in a sorry state, in a car park full of sorry- looking cars.
Amazingly, the Land Rover Discovery’s V8 engine ignited to life at the first turn of the key. All the electrics seemed to work, and after a short drive, it actually appeared to be a viable restoration proposition.
I made an offer, and the owner took it. Now, eight months down the line, I have become a relative expert in the art of the grimace.
Grimace when the name of the technician who has been working on the Landy appears on my mobile phone. Grimace when I have to pay another (unexpected) bill. Grimace when I have to deal with suppliers whose sole mission appears to be to rip off customers. Grimace when you hear the project has been delayed by another month.
Still, I have gained much life experience in the world of Land Rover. So here is my list of Top 10 lessons learned (so far).
When you test drive a Land Rover Discovery 1 V8, drive it faster than 100km/h. If you do, you may discover a life-threatening wobble of death. To get an idea of what this wobble is like, imagine trying to ride a wild male lion bareback, at 80km/h. The Landy was worse. Problem was, we only discovered this trait after buying it.
When a Landy V8 engine drinks petrol at a rate of around 100 litres/100km, there’s probably something amiss, even though it is a thirsty V8. Like the fact that the engine is running on only four of the eight cylinders, for instance. And that the electronic control unit (ECU) is blown. And a Hyundai Atos fuel pump was trying to supply petrol to a V8 engine. And a few other things, too.
When the Landy’s battery runs flat during the night, it does not mean that the alternator must be replaced, especially when the alternator is in perfect shape. It also does not mean that the air-conditioner must be refilled with gas. This won’t help to fix the electrical problem at all.
When you think you are in for X amount of money to rectify a few mechanical issues, treble the figure up front so you don’t cry yourself to sleep when the extra bills for this-and-that start rolling in.
If your used vehicle comes standard with five wheels, as they tend to do, don’t assume that these five wheels are actually usable. In this Land Rover’s case, all five alloy rims – yep, including the spare wheel – were bent and buckled.
If your used vehicle comes standard with shock absorbers, as they tend to do, don’t assume they really are shock absorbers. In our Landy they were pretend-pretend ones – the “shocks” provided no damping whatsoever.
When a person who is said to know all about older Land Rovers tells you that the Discovery 1 is really a “poor man’s 4×4”, don’t believe him. Just don’t. It’s not.
When you feel the world’s problems are on your shoulders, phone the technician who is working on your Land Rover for some light relief. Like when he tells you that the previous owner had bypassed the ECU by tapping electrical current directly from the wiper motor’s wiring. Then you can but wonder how the V8 still worked… at all.
Picture the scene: Your wallet is reasonably full; your family is happy and content; the house – which is nearly paid off – is in okay-ish shape; and work is even a little bit fun, too. Generally, it’s going just swell. Boring? Then buy an old Land Rover. It’s as easy as that. Goodbye boring life, hello trials and tribulations.
The joke goes like this: “Do you know why a Land Rover has a heated rear window? To keep your hands warm when you push it.” Rubbish. Pushing a heap of metal and aluminium, weighing in at around two tons, you need a special air-conditioning outlet around the rear taillight, to keep you cool.
These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned. And now you’re probably thinking that I’ve lost interest in this Land Rover – maybe even despise it, loathe it, hate it. Yet I don’t, and I’m not exactly sure why. Honestly, I can hardly wait for the project to be completed, so that I can drive the darn thing, admire it, and bask in its orange glow.
Perhaps it’s like those old army or rugby friends. Friends with whom you shared blood, sweat and tears, and who inevitably and irrevocably became your friends for life.
Who knows – it could even be a personality disorder – or a case of peer pressure. Oh well, let’s just call the prognosis Multiple Landroverisma, for now. I think