Behind the Steering Wheel [Courtesy Rovers Magazine July 2014]
By Jeffrey Aronson
“There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues,” sang Eddie Cochran decades ago. Actually, there is –and if you’re a reader of Rovers Magazine, you already own it or want to find one. It’s your Land Rover.
Inside your Land Rover the mundane chores of daily life, from commuting to work to ferrying your kids and all their friends to summer activities, become far more entertaining. That Green Oval spirit imbeds itself in every vehicle that has left Solihull, an element of the soul of every Land Rover. I’m reminded of a Land Rover France advertisement for the Discovery. As a mum drives along a mountain road her children call out “Turn right!” and “Turn left!” every time they see a stream, rocky trail or forest glade. French kids would not do that in a Peugeot or a Renault. Your kids would not do that in a minivan; they’d be texting friends to meet them at the mall.
In a Discovery, Defender or Series Land Rover, everyone calls out for the jump seat or bench because sitting there feels wicked fun. Your Range Rover commands the road with its style – especially in your Range Rover Classic - and panache. It’s ready to tackle any obstacle, from a traffic jam on the interstate to an off road trail. When time permits you can pack your Land Rover with any gear necessary for a weekend jaunt or vacation adventure. With the dozens of off road events from coast to coast, thousands of public and private parks, 50 states and thousands of cities and small towns to visit, you have no shortage of opportunities for summertime fun.
Land Rover expects that you actually want to drive and engineers and designs the vehicle accordingly. Google believes otherwise and has spent millions on a self-driving car. In an intriguing essay Delia Ephron lambasted the idea; “In one fell swoop [Google] struck a blow at masculinity, female empowerment, romance, sex and action heroes. It may even violate two of our three inalienable rights — liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“On my 16th birthday, I got my license. Hello, freedom…with Google cars, there is nothing to learn, nothing to master. This car fosters passivity, nurtures infancy. It has no driver, only passengers.”
“Over the years, I have grown to feel that the greatest thing about driving is that, if I really need to get somewhere or really need to get away from somewhere, I can do it. Essential to that sense of security and power is that I am actually doing the driving. Now I imagine running out, jumping into the car, and having to call tech support.”
“Suppose Thelma and Louise were on the run in the Google car. Louise is not behind the wheel. There is no wheel. No Thunderbird. No top down. Imagine James Bond in a Google car. No, don’t imagine any of this, it’s too depressing.”
She’s right, which is also why I’m unexcited about Land Rover’s vision of controlling your Range Rover through your tablet or smartphone. Let’s say you’re greenlaning and come across a gate and step out of the Range Rover. As touted at the New York Auto Show Design and Technical Seminar, an app might enable you control the vehicle remotely by having it move forward as you close the gate. Really? Football Wives, anyone?
Of course you don’t have to drive a Land Rover for them to entertain you – being a passenger is sometimes more than enough. This July my Land Rover provided the perfect summer entertainment for friends from Connecticut who piled in when offered a ride to an island quarry. Soaking wet bathing suits from a boat ride in choppy seas certainly didn’t bother the elephant hide seats. The rubber mats could care less about the sand, dirt and salt water encrusted feet. The three-abreast front seating and four rear jump seats backed up Land Rover’s claim of the Deluxe Station Wagon’s 7-person capacity. Admittedly it helped that they were all friends in advance and things got a bit intimate with the Rover full-up.
The QE I served again as part of a parade float in the July 4th celebration. Last year it pulled a giant duck and a bunch of kids down our main street. This year it towed my a capella group, for which I had to recruit “fans” who would look happy as we sang along the parade route. Naturally, a ride in the Land Rover in front of hundreds of spectators made the whole thing an easier sell than listening to me warble on Main St. Without question, however, the far-greater task was to allow someone else to take the helm of the Land Rover. How do you explain a slightly leaky clutch, double-clutching, steering while in low range and eyeballing the temperature gauge in the 5 minutes before the parade departure?
This time of year, when I’m not on a laptop editing Rovers Magazine, I’m mowing lawns and caretaking properties. I face three impediments in competing for co-workers. One involves income; a job as a “sternperson” aboard a lobster boat will be far more lucrative. The second involves entertainment; who wouldn’t want to be on the water every day hauling in crustaceans? The third is, well, me; who would actually want to labor with me daily?
Fortunately the QE I, my ’66 Series II-A, became my ace in the hole. Long-time summer residents Joanna Fosque, Watertown, MA, and Taylor Emhart, Yardley, PA, found themselves as recent college graduates in need of summer income. Lobster fishing would not work for their multiple obligations – would I have any need of co-workers this summer? I would, indeed, and we would be riding around in the QE I all day, every day. “That’s perfect!” said Taylor. “I’ve never ridden in the Land Rover; let’s do it,” insisted Joanna.
The first day each took a turn in the rear jump seats, practicing their royal waves on island friends as we traveled from job to job. When they tired of their newfound fame they reverted to piling into the front seats, proving that Land Rover did not exaggerate when it claimed an 88” Station Wagon offered “seating for three up front.” Of course it can also fill up with all kinds of work gear and tow a heavy trailer without hesitation. Whether driving topless or shaded by the rolled up canvas top, a Series Land Rover elicits grins from island neighbors and astonished looks from day-trip tourists. No mattered how physically fatigued neither Taylor nor Joanna fail to smile the moment we jump into the Land Rover.
Summertime blues? Not in your Land Rover!
[Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Aronson and Rovers Magazine]
Joanna and Taylor adore the Land Rover
"We'll work as long as we ride in the Land Rover"
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."