Back To Land Rover After 15 Years    

We needed a new Car, Land Rover is the Answer…

For the past couple of years we have been driving around in a 2003 Volvo xc90 D5.  In that time it never let us down, was supremely comfortable, has a reputation for being the safest car on the road and critically has an enormous boot, capable of carrying a double buggy for the twins and a dog crate big enough for Bryn our Border Colle. It did however suffer a sudden demise at the hands of our new neighbours up in the Scottish Borders… mice!

Photo of Jen, Baby Twins and Dog

We had parked it up between the farm house we now live in and the small burn running up the field alongside and, as the nights drew in and temperatures dropped, some intrepid mice that had been living along the bank of the burn, found a way in while looking for somewhere warmer for the winter!  The day before Jennys brothers wedding I thought I’d better head into town to get fuel, to avoid any delays.  The car started, got down the drive and on to the single track lane where it suddenly cut out.  It seems the mice had chewed through the very complicated wiring system and now, no fuel was reaching the engine at all.  The AA towed it off the road and in front of the workshop, where, after one last attempt to save it by swapping  the in-tank fuel pump, it now remains.

 Volvo outside Black Fox Metalcraft workshop

So it was time to buy a new car, but, as it turns out it was not a ‘great’ time to buy a new car.  Due to the shortage of new cars being produced (a shortage of microchips caused by covid), the price of second-hand cars had gone through the roof, as had the demand.  I found cars were selling for very high prices and shockingly quickly.  I found an XC90 in Edinburgh, which having done some research had sold for £1500 2 years ago (with 40k less miles on the clock) that was now selling for £2,200.  Despite this it sold the same day it was advertised and before I could even get chance to view it.  In the end it took around 6 weeks to find a suitable replacement (well we will consider how ‘suitable’ later) and for that time were completely dependent on our trusty little Panda ‘Demitri’, which we had bought and fixed up for a road trip to Russia in 2018 and had hardly been driven at all since.  Fortunately, the little trooper stepped up to the plate and proved reliable and fun transportation for the whole family!

Piling everyone into the Fiat Panda

At this stage I started to consider what would be the best replacement for the Volvo, as before, we still needed something with a VERY large boot, as the girls are likely to still need their buggy for the next year or so and we do sometimes need to transport reasonably large bits of work in the boot.  However, we have now moved to an area prone to flooding (the road to our building site in both directions floods regularly) and also heavy snow.  It is very rural and in winter a lot of the roads and tracks become fairly impassable in a lot of cars.  One option that kept cropping up was the Land Rover Discovery, specifically the later facelift version of the Discovery 2.  The mechanics I regularly use back in Manchester have always said how great the xc90 was and when I’d mentioned in the past my passion for Land Rovers they had commented on how reliable and well built the Volvo was and the Land Rovers were not, specifically the Discovery 3 (which I had considered as an option before buying the Volvo).  I have however always had a soft spot for Land Rovers and, back in my early 20’s I did own an amazing 88” series 3 Land Rover.

 Series 3 Landrover

My series 3 (couldn't find a photo of my actual Landrover, above is a much smarter example!) had had a fairly rough life but in many ways this added to it for me, it had so much character and Patina.  It was a light pastel green, with a cream roof, had air vents under the dash and a very back to basics approach to travel (I think I can see what appealed to me about the Panda!).  There were several areas where the paintwork had worn right through and there were dents in both front wings.  The road noise and transmission noise were close to deafening above 40mph, it had a stereo that was next to useless unless the car was stationary, it drank petrol, constantly needed fixing, it was slow, it was uncomfortable, was freezing cold in winter and let water in all over the place.  I absolutely loved it and still deeply regret selling it, one day I’d love to have another to restore.

So the next thing I knew I was buying another Land Rover!  I could not find one locally at all, so in the end found one for sale in Bradford, asked my Dad to drive over (from Warrington) to check it out and then headed down in the Panda (which I left at my parents) to get it.  First impressions were not great, the Dealer had ‘warmed it up for me’ which as anyone who has ever bought a second hand car knows means it is tricky to start (given the dealer had not cleared the crisp packets out of the door pockets it was pretty clear this was not just an overly considerate individual), the seats were battered, headlining hanging down and the drivers window did not open.  I had a quick look around the car, the bodywork looked pretty rust free from the outside and the chassis looked fairly clean, with the only obvious corrosion on the very rear section.  It had one odd tyre, the spare was plugged and had gashes out of the sidewall and the front numberplate had been issued by a car body shop in the Midlands (the dealer reassured me the car had spent its entire life in London, with family trips to Spain!).

 Landrover Discovery

The list of faults on the car seem to be endless and within 48 hours I was on the phone to the AA.  It is impossible to get in the car without setting the alarm off and the ignition barrel had taken damage in the past, so on this occasion (in the snow in Aldi car park at 9.30pm) the ignition barrel had completely broke, making the car un-start able and the steering lock was stuck on, so also un-towable.  So this would explain the car being started for me!

So why the discovery?  Well, it does have some things in common with my old Land Rover (other than the brand).  Mainly that when it rains outside it rains inside too but also it is a proper 4x4 with body on frame, it is more than capable of coping with anything we are likely to throw at it and it is incredibly slow and old fashioned given the era it was manufactured in (79 for the old one, 04 for the new).  We’re also due to start work building our home and workshop on our land soon and the low ratio gearbox and very high towing capabilities are bound to prove useful.  I’ve already had it in some fairly deep snow and also some flood water which would have worried me in the Volvo (and stopped me completely in a normal estate car).  The Discovery is really a more natural successor to the classic Range Rover, it is still a very effective 4x4 but (other than handling and performance) when inside you would not know it.  It is fairly refined and comfortable and, despite the fact the handling does not encourage fast driving and the engine even less so, it really is a very pleasant drive on road and it is confidence inspiring when things get a bit rougher.

Out of the Land Rover range the newer Range Rover is a little too smart and shouty for us, plus the boot is nowhere near as big.  I would love a classic Range Rover but both budget and the requirement for Isofix rules that out.  Defenders hold their value so much more that really, it put all but the very roughest out of budget, plus they are not as comfortable on road, are much smaller inside and other than the later 110 getting Isofix points for child seats would prove very difficult and bench seats really would not work for our family.  The Discovery is the perfect fit.

I now have a very long list of faults I need to address, ranging from the alarm issue to the leaking windscreen and several bits of broken or missing trim.  One thing I remember fondly (with rose tinted glasses on) about my old Landy was that I was almost constantly fixing something on it, but the only time it ever actually let me down was when the gearstick snapped.  It was the most dependable unreliable car I’ve ever had.  Fingers crossed this one will be the same, though only time will tell.  Given we run our own business we have just finished moving North, we’ve got 2-year-old twins and we are building a house and workshop I just needed a reliable workhorse.  As it is, I appear to have paid for a reliable workhorse and got a rolling project car.  Hopefully I can make everything good over the coming months.

If, and when our Discovery is all sorted and as it should be, I might even have time to make myself a weathervane with it on.  So, if next winter you are driving through the Scottish Borders and see a Weathervane with a Land Rover Discovery 2 on it, you’ll know that in the end it turned out to be a good car! I’m confident, working from the right angle I can capture some of that distinctive shape and create some metalwork I’ll be proud of.

Landrover Weathervane

We’ve done weathervane designs based on pretty well every other Land Rover (though only one Range Rover) and I think the Discovery is definitely worthy of the attention.  I can understand the specific interest in the Defenders and Series Land Rovers, it is very much an Iconic design, when I think ‘Land Rover’ that is certainly the shape that immediately comes to mind.  In my eyes however the Discovery 1/2 is a classic design, it has a fairly utilitarian shape yet has some very smart and unique design touches.  Land Rover very much did it ‘their way’ which has led to a lot of the quirks of the car, maybe as many negatives as positive but it gives it a character so many cars from the more modern era lack.  The stepped roof and raised rear seating works really well and, though possibly more complex than strictly necessary, the way the third row seating folds out is a masterpiece.  Ours is one of the last ones built, in ‘pursuit’ spec. which given at that stage they only offered 2 options is the base spec. but it is all original and unmolested.  Perhaps one day it will be appreciated as a true design classic, something I feel it thoroughly deserves.  I guess I’ll just need to keep it going until then.