Two new models - the Range Rover Sport and Renee Hermiz
Behind the Steering Wheel [Courtesy Rovers Magazine, April, 2013]
By Jeffrey Aronson
With an annual state inspection ahead I tried to “remain calm and carry on” but I knew I was going to have to do something about the exhaust noise. Since the entire system had been replaced in recent years I doubted the problem lay from the header pipe back, so perhaps I needed only to tighten up the three nuts that clamp the ring to the exhaust header studs? Nope.
I realized quickly that the leak came from somewhere else: perhaps the gasket that separates the intake and exhaust manifolds, and possibly, the gasket that seals the exhaust header to the head? Either way, a Series Rover repair nightmare, something out of a Stephen King novel, loomed in my future.
These manifolds hang off the side of the head, held in place by a multitude of bolts and nuts. When you can’t remember when you last touched them, then you know they’ve been in place “for the long-est time.” That enables corrosion to do its dirty work; if you’re really unlucky, a bolt might snap inside the head. I noticed that the visible bolt heads, usually a ½” wrench or socket, had dissolved enough to take neither the correct size, nor a size smaller nor a metric substitute. This was going to be a hairball.
Cleverly too, Land Rover’s engine designers made it possible for you, the repairer, to see only the seven bolts and/or studs on the top and sides of the exhaust manifold. Four lay underneath the manifold, hidden by the left fender. Worse yet, some of those bolts served only to hold a wing nut securely against a tab on the manifold. So you need not only find the hidden bolt hole - you must hold the wing nut in place with the hand you don’t have free. Surgeons experience similar issues when pawing through your innards in a hospital, but at least they get paid better and have the assistance of skilled nurses. This job would be mine alone.
When I called Rovers North for the gaskets – one between the intake and exhaust manifold, and one between the exhaust manifold and the cylinder head – I found they offered a bolt/nut/stud/gasket kit. Real mechanics have access to bins full of fresh nuts and bolts, making their lives easier and more efficient. I have some bolt jars whose contents resemble marine archaeological exhibits. I marveled at the shine and sharp threads on the bolts and suddenly looked forward to the job after all.
I used every trick I knew to loosen the existing bolts without snapping them: generous doses of PB Blaster, six-sided sockets, sharp taps with a hammer, tightening and loosening in sequence, different size sockets. All but one succumbed to these techniques (the last one required a set of vice grips) and I breathed a sigh of relief. Thanks to Texas enthusiast Richard Betts, I had purchased an intake and exhaust manifold that I assembled with the new gaskets. Now I could bolt the whole assembly on with the shiny new bolts, studs and nuts. I even had the preferred brass nuts for the exhaust header pipe. The hidden bolts proved fiddly but eventually, I found their holes and tightened up each bolt and nut in sequence. Starting the Rover up brought the quietude that would assure a new inspection sticker. Of course, by the time I finished the local repair shop had closed but on a subsequent day the new sticker graced my windshield. Another field repair completed but taking longer than anticipated - job well done!
Nuts and bolts represent a level of bas technologie I can comprehend. My capacity for hauttechnologie would be taxed mightily the following week when I joined Rovers North’s Calef Letorney and Zack Griswold in road testing a new LR2. They drove an Evoque 256 miles from Vermont to Maine’s Land Rover Scarborough [Vermont has no Land Rover dealer –ed.] and I scooted the 100 miles from my end of the Maine to Scarborough. Dan Babb, Sean Chambers and Paul Sprague at the dealership agreed to loan us a new LR2 for the road test.
The LR2 presented me, a Series II-A owner, with several challenges that did not puzzle Calef and Zack, who own more modern Land Rovers. First came entering the car. Confronted with a key fob I noted it had only buttons for locking the car, not an actual key, but I pressed the correct one. Once inside I could not find an ignition switch into which to insert a key anyway. Calef and Zack quietly watched me muddle through. I placed the fob on the console and pushed the “Start” button. Nothing happened. Barely able to stifle his giggling Zack told me to put my foot on the brake. This baffled me; why would I step on the brake when I wanted to go, not stop? Nevertheless, while Zack pretended to busy himself with his camera gear, I pushed the button while pushing on the brake, and yes, it started right up, and rather quietly at that. Calef sat beside me with a stony face, teeth clenched so as not to burst into laughter. I admit that I faced a similar dilemma when I wanted to stop the car. The dash button was labeled both “start” and “stop.” This made no sense; in my experience, if I push the starter button once the II-A is running I’ll get only an awful screech and a burned-out starter. My finger hovered over the LR2’s button. When I pressed it hesitantly, the motor stopped running – remarkable!
We took off and headed out towards Buxton, Maine, where Mark Libby, the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Buxton Foreside,” and Lars Sjulander had offered to spend some time with us offroading the LR2. Mark insisted we drive onto the field alongside his house so I headed over a snowbank and drove some 20 feet before getting stuck. I could hear the electronic traction aids working, but a glance out the window showed this LR2 came with tires aimed at shedding water on highways, not snow on fields. We shoveled a bit, the LR2 scrabbled for traction and we then headed for another larger field nearby. The crusty surface collapsed beneath the weight of Lars’ 109 pickup and the LR2, leaving only desiccated snow beneath, which was utterly useless for traction. Some assessing, jury-rigging, yanking, and wheel spinning ensued but we finally got both vehicles back onto the road. Did you know you can remove an LR2’s spoiler with just a quarter? (Don’t ask me why this mattered.)
Thank goodness I had this introductory time with the LR2 because the following week found me at the New York International Auto Show, where Land Rover once again, to paraphrase Mary Kate and Ashley, captured a New York Minute. The big moment showcased the new Range Rover Sport. Its many new features appear elsewhere in this issue, but the global launch event demonstrated Land Rover’s ability to dazzle with its style as well as its substance.
Land Rover UK engaged Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, for a reputedly large sum of money to drive a Range Rover Sport through the streets of Manhattan and into the midtown Manhattan event space. While thousands worldwide watched online I joined some 600-plus people, many of them current Range Rover Sport owners, Land Rover executives from the UK and the US and metropolitan New York dealers, waiting for Mr. Craig to arrive and speak briefly to the crowd. He was joined by British equestrian Zara Phillips, designer/fashionista Jade Jagger, former football star/television personality Michael Strahan and aging rocker Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, each taking a photo-op turn. Land Rover also drove a new Sport onto the event floor so invitees could climb about the new model.
The buzz of the launch party paled against the remarkable opportunity provided me by enthusiasts Joe Kauper, Jorge Espinoza and Marlon Davila. Together they made it possible for me to climb and walk to the top of the The New World Trade Center [formerly the Freedom Tower –ed.], nearly 1,776 feet tall. The upper floors still lacked walls but that did not seem to bother the many workers who labored in the wind to complete their skilled tasks. The views of the Hudson and East Rivers, their many bridges, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, made me think I was watching a movie instead of standing on a metal grate, over 100 stories above the ground. Once again Land Rover enthusiasts made something special happen for another enthusiast.
Land Rover Manhattan treated me as if I were a valued customer instead of a moocher looking for free rides in an LR4 and a tour of the building. Their service floors likely have more lifts than all the Land Rover dealers in New England, combined. Service Manager Anthony Caligione, Master Technician Ram Harrichand and Fernando Alvarez, and mobile technician Remulo Marti, all of whom had traveled to the Maine Winter Romp last month, let me interrupt their work to share their stories. Fernando showed me his newest Range Rover Classic, ready for reburbishment. Sarah Saldana, New Car Delivery Manager, evinced her pride in her Discovery II. As with my trip to Land Rover Scarborough earlier in the week, I had more evidence that Land Rover dealers encourage and foster Land Rover enthusiasts within their companies.
The Manhattan dealer’s multi-story facility includes a short test track on the top floor of their building. Clamber over a rebar step and onto a roof and you have a majestic view of the Chelsea Piers, the USS Intrepid and one of the space shuttles. You don’t get views like that from the ferry in Maine.
Arriving home on the island I returned to the QE I, its cold seat squabs, large diameter banjo steering wheel, start-only button and 2.25 liter non-turbo engine comforted me (so, too, did another “Vinalhaven Parking Ticket” that I found on my Rover). Both provided reminders that for all of the extraordinary capabilities of the new Land Rovers, it’s the elemental features of the Series Rovers that keep me behind the steering wheel and the personal qualities of Land Rover enthusiasts that keep me wanting to meet more and more of you.
Copyright Jeffrey Aronson and Rovers North 2013
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."