Behind the Steering Wheel [Courtesy Rovers Magazine, Nov/Dec. 2014]
By Jeffrey Aronson
To: Santa Claus
From: Jeffrey Aronson
Subject: Scandalous Accusations
In compiling this year’s list of requested Land Rover items some scurrilous elves have implied that I’ve neglected my Land Rover during 2014, which would move me from the “Nice” list to the “Naughty” one. I feel compelled to share with you my care for the Land Rover in order that you might have a more complete picture prior to your final decision.
This summer – well, truthfully, this spring and summer - my II-A exhibited signs of carburetor flooding, viz., clouds of black smoke upon start up. Its spark plugs looked like they had been washed ashore after the Gulf of Mexico BP spill. After a mere three months of spreading clouds of unburnt gas I removed the carburetor one evening, disassembled it, cleaned every part, reassembled and re-installed it. I “test drove” it for a month, and yes, it continued to misbehave, but within only six weeks, I finally ordered a new carburetor from Rovers North that immediately ended the problem. Surely my rapid response to this issue should warrant retention in the Nice” category.
Yes, last spring’s “timing by ear” might have advanced things a bit – ok, a lot – but within a mere month I had put the timing light to the Rover and brought it back to spec. I would not also not want you to forget this summer’s wash; had you seen it you would have admired its shine. I even swept out the interior – twice – when company announced their arrival. Indeed, photo evidence from last winter will document that I actually swept snow off the car before starting off! When a rainstorm, followed immediately by an Artic front, froze the key and the ignition lock together, who do you think dragged out an electric heater to thaw out the interior?
In summary I would ask that you recognize my accomplishments on behalf of the QEI this year and accept my 10-page list of presents. I ask that you exercise care in not bending the new door skins when bringing them down the chimney and feel free to use the new elephant hide seats on the sleigh before leaving them under my tree. As with last year you’ll recognize my house from the Land Rover signs beside the wreath and the Land Rover artwork on the inside walls. Please note that snacks for you will be on the mantle, along with treats for the reindeer, which I will leave on the roof.
The QE I, my ’66 II-A, has remained my “go to” vehicle since its purchase in late 1991. Its previous owner had earned the nickname “The Terminator,” but he had refurbished mine to be his “stock” Land Rover. My test drive consisted of 10 minute tootle across some farm fields in southern Maine, on a bright sunny day. The faded Sage Green paint had the right patina, the elephant hide interior had the right smells and the safari top promised a life of adventure. I ignored every piece of advice on how to assess a Series Land Rover and bought it on the spot. A week later I got a ride to pick it up. That’s when the four different retreads began their tarmac shimmy, the dirty contacts in the fuse box refused to send power to the windshield wipers – it rained that day, of course - and the ammeter needle flew raged across the gauge like a character in “Breaking Bad.” The 30 minute drive to my-then house in Maine produced a virulent case of buyer’s remorse as I had purchased the Land Rover to enable me to start my new free-lance contract worker life.
A 25-year old vehicle with 111,000 miles seemed like a questionable choice to friends but the QE I has been a faithful workhorse in near-daily use. Its current Rovers North-rebuilt engine has run for 360,000 and still maintains good cylinder compression; I’ve never even had the head off this engine. Stuff happens to a Land Rover used primarily for work; the transmission has been rebuilt once, the clutch replaced twice (as has the rear differential) and it has sat for 10 years on a Rovers North galvanized frame. I’ve gone through tankers of engine oil, gallons of gear oil, many feet of electrical wire and duct tape. My calls to Rovers North have been made from the comfort of my home to the misery of distant roadsides but my Rover has kept me going.
This is the season when it’s essential to recognize what my Land Rover has made possible as well as the extraordinary people it has brought into my life. This past summer I joined enthusiasts from New Jersey, to New Hampshire at Peter Voller’s first Vermont Overland Rally in Rockingham, VT. Every model of Land Rover, from Jim Macri’s concours Series Land Rovers to Land Rover Scarborough’s 2014 Range Rovers to a wide range of Discoverys and Defenders, mingled on Justin Lillie’s farm fields and woodland trails. The camping and camaraderie was matched only by the fun on the newly-created off road trails and Class 4 roads in south-central Vermont. From the British Invasion, Stowe, VT, to the Muddy Chef Challenge, Lakeville, CT, to Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Rally, to the Solaros down south and the Solihull Society’s National Rally out west – whether greenlining or the extremes of Moab, you’re in great company.
Land Rovers attract interesting people and make enthusiasts out of them. Their sense of adventure drives them, no matter what their age, gender, profession or occupation. Circumstances might restrict their activities but not their vision. Some travel around the world and some explore distant locales; others take their kids camping for the weekend. Some bring vitally needed supplies and equipment to stricken regions; some transport children to school and activities. To undertake any trip in a Land Rover makes that travel special and invigorating.
The affection for my Land Rover makes my rare visit to Rovers North a treat. This fall’s trip came after the British Invasion in Stowe, VT. Not only did the foliage provide a spectacular color show but a rainbow appeared in the sky that seemed to end over Westford. Prompted in advance of my visit, the sales techs – those familiar voices on the phone: Les, Arthur, Rob, Greg, Eric, Zack, Buck and Travis – had removed the “Jeff’s Stupid Questions” whiteboard from the wall. Their accumulated knowledge and experience with Land Rovers, coupled with the complete databases at their fingertips, reassured me that I can keep my II-A fully functional for the future. More importantly to most enthusiasts that commitment extends to the Discovery, Range Rover and Defender models as well.
The shipping crew in the warehouse made it clear they knew exactly where I lived. The parts inventory, which looked vast to me, was increased by yet another container shipment that arrived during my visit – craftily, I weaseled out of helping unload the enormous container by claiming magazine deadlines. The headquarters also featured a kennel’s worth of friendly dogs who alternated between clamoring for attention and falling asleep in front of you. I’m confident I interrupted important work by many of the Rovers North staff that day. Working with Thompson Smith, the magazine’s terrific art director, we obsessed about the best photos for the most compelling articles. While we enthused about the stories enthusiasts had sent to us, the rest of the Rovers North crew busied themselves in sourcing quality parts, helping you choose the right part[s], selecting and packaging it among the tens of thousands in the inventory and sending it to the right address at the right time, every workday.
Not long after I bought the QE I my Rovers North catalogue arrived in the mail and their phone number became imbedded in my memory. By 1993 I had written by first article for what was then The Rovers North News; a year later, I became the editor. Twenty years later I’m still grateful for the opportunity to send Holiday wishes to every reader. Let your Land Rover help you do something extraordinary for yourself in 2015.
Copyright Jeffrey B. Aronson and Rovers North 2014
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."