I’m Andy, and I like messing about with Land-Rovers.
Why, you might ask? It’s a good question. I mean, they’re slow, noisy, not massively comfortable, and fairly pants to drive by most people’s standards.
There’s a lot more to it than just the driving experience. It should be said though, that driving an old ‘Rover actually is an experience, something that can’t be said of most modern vehicles. There’s something about nailing a gearchange in a non-synchro gearbox, or meandering around a set of bends on a country road, that gives a sense of satisfaction somehow lacking when driving a modern car on public roads. I add the ‘on public roads’ caveat because driving modern cars on the track is totally ace – but that’s a whole other issue.
They’re also properly versatile. I bought my first Land Rover, a 300tdi ’96 Discovery, when I was a student. The Discovery was perfect for taking me and a couple of mates to the top of downhill tracks all over the country, or up to Glenshee for a spot of snowboarding in the winter. That Discovery is now off the road and has been scavenged for parts, but in hindsight I should have kept it going – it was brilliant. It’ll do 95% of what a 90/110/Defender will do, but with all the comfort of a Range Rover classic (which it basically is). I also paid £800 for mine, which is a lot cheaper than an equivalent example of the more popular ‘proper’ Land Rovers. As I was a student at the time, I had very little cash to keep it going. That wasn’t a problem, as it was simple enough and reliable enough that I could keep it healthy with minimal resources.
Older Land Rovers in particular encourage a different driving style, which in turn causes a change of attitude. They’re slow, which means you know you’re not going anywhere quickly in one. Because you know this, you don’t rush around in them – you just settle back and enjoy the journey for what it is.
I get as much enjoyment out of tinkering with Land Rovers as I do driving them. Actually, probably more. I’m an engineer by trade, but the modern desk-jockey variety rather than a boilersuit-wearing fixer of broken stuff. Technically I’m an analysis engineer, which at the moment means I spend my days sat in front of a pc deciding whether pressure vessels are suitable for purpose or not.
And while that is very interesting (for an engineering nerd, at least) it’s not exactly hands-on. Which is a shame. I’m not complaining in the slightest – I like what I do for a living, it’s just a bit lacking in the more practical side of things which got me interested in engineering in the first place.
This is where elderly Land Rovers come in. You pretty much have to be hands-on if you want to enjoy these things to their full potential. They’re very simple machines, and the construction methods are so basic that they almost beg to be taken to bits and fiddled with. That’s just as well, because old vehicles of any sort need more maintenance than their modern counterparts.
Yes, they can be pretty frustrating too. People say you can strip an old Land Rover down to its component parts in a morning. While that may have been true 6 months after they were built, invariably many of the fasteners (usually the hard-to-get-at ones) are rusted solid after being untouched for 40+ years. In my experience this means many, many hours during a stripdown will be spent propped in an awkward position, with an arm wedged behind a panel trying to free a recalcitrant fastener from its rusty home.
I suppose the overall thing is, I enjoy Land Rovers. Whether I’m taking them to bits, putting them back together, driving around in them, talking about them, whatever – they put a smile on my face.
If you’re going to dedicate hours and hours on an activity of any description, you’re going to need serious buy-in from those around you. I should probably mention Kathryn at this point. She’s pretty cool with me spending more time in the shed than in the house, which either means she’s very understanding or just wants me out of the way. Either way, it’s a win. She even helps out sometimes! She’s also pretty handy with a camera, which I hope will prove useful with the whole blogging thing.
Anyway, I spend enough time messing around with these things that I thought I would be as well recording it somewhere – hence rustylandrovers.com. It’s nice to look back and see how things have progressed on a project, or to see some of the places you’ve driven once they’re back on the road. If someone else finds it and reads something useful that would be awesome, but I’m happy enough treating it like an online diary of all things Land Rover related.