Behind the Steering Wheel [Courtesy Rovers Magazine]
By Jeffrey B. Aronson
Land Rover unveiled its newest concept car, the Range Rover Evoque, at the Paris Auto Show this summer. Autoweek reported that this stylish take-off from the earlier LRX design should appeal to “woman and fashion-conscious urbanites.” Victoria Beckham, formerly Posh Spice, has agreed to serve as “an adviser to Land Rover on the Evoque project.”
If Land Rover wants a Spice Girl as an automotive consultant, I should think they’d want a Spice Boy, too. Back In 1998 I participated in the formal celebrations of Land Rover’s 50th anniversary as a member of the Spice Boys UK Tour. Our group of New England’s bad boys included Chris Laws [Badger Spice], Peter Janney [Baby Spice], Barry Enis [Bald Spice], Scott Preston [Happy Spice] and me [Old Spice]. Channeling our inner Austin Powers, we did all the things that top-tier rock groups do on tours. We secreted ourselves in elegant country mansions [well, bed and breakfasts], set off security alarms [me on an early morning run], trashed hotel rooms [hauling off mattresses onto the floor during the British Airways strike], and became the darlings of local pubs [“not those bloody Yanks again!”].
Ms. Beckman considers herself a walking fashion statement; I know just how she feels.Each day I choose a different Land Rover t-shirt to wear while on caretaking projects. My closet has over 5 pair of L.L. Bean hunting boots and boat shoes, matched with nearly four pair of jeans and Carhartts – I can barely get to work each morning for the sartorial decisions I must make every sunrise.
The same care for style and fashion extend to my Land Rovers. The red Hi-Lift jack in the QM I highlights the faded Masai Red wings of the Series II-A. The Sears toolbox that resides in the QE I is bronze green, which looks just smashing against the car’s Sage Greenpanels. The Series I repair manual with its bronze green cover contrasts nicely against the patina of the elephant hide seats.
Old Spice stands ready to assist the company in this time of need. Land Rover, have Posh Spice’s agent call my agent and we’ll do lunch.
On this 40th anniversary of the Range Rover, it would be churlish and petty of me to revive the long-simmering issue of class warfare between the Range Rover and other Land Rovers, but a recent incident forces my hand. At a very contemporary seasonal residence on this island, a delightful couple proudly displays their stunning Range Rover. The family dog, Webster, a Bernese Mountain Dog/Irish Setter mix, greets me with a welcome bark and an active tail each time I arrive to mow the grounds.
Webster has been raised around his Range Rover, but his owners have always been complimentary about the lines of my Series II-A. One would think that a dog, an animal sensitive to the emotions of humans, would pick up the good feelings expressed by his owners, who fully recognize the heritage of their Range Rover. Sadly, this was not the case.
As always, Webster greeted me when I drove up in the QE I to his house, pulling a trailer with my mowing equipment. He barked a few times, sniffed around my Land Rover and me, and then sidled up for a back rub. Once satisfied, he turned his head towards his Range Rover, looked back at my car and then sauntered towards the left rear wheel of my Land Rover. He lifted the appropriate leg and let out a healthy stream of territory-marking juice onto the tire.
I watched in horror and dismay. Kneeling down to his height I asked Webster directly what prompted him to take this course of action. Do we not all share the Green Oval? Cut us and do we not all bleed green? He turned away without any response. Now I would be the last person to accuse my Range Rover clients of training Webster, overtly or subliminally, to demonstrate such a dismissive attitude towards a Land Rover, but I might park the Land Rover in a different spot when I return to mow next week.
“Did you see the other Land Rover?” asked Raymond at the lumber yard. “What other Land Rover?” I wondered. It’s hard to drive more than 12 miles at a stretch on this small island – how come I hadn’t seen it in my work travels. I left the lumber yard and shortly thereafter, saw a blue Series II-A with NH plates. I pulled up behind the Rover and flashed my headlights to get the driver’s attention – no response (“He was probably terrified that something would fall off if he stopped,” suggested one local wag.) Further down the road it pulled over and I met its owner, Ryan Swett, of Keene, NH and Portland, ME.
Ryan lived on a sailboat in Casco Bay and found himself with little time to enjoy his Rover, so he had put it up for sale on Craigslist and quickly found a buyer, a new summer resident of this island. As promised, he had driven it up from Portland and would return to the mainland the next morning. We met up for a beer that evening and Ryan told me of his mixed emotions about selling the Rover.
The Rover will become the island car for the Imber family of San Antonio, TX, Maxwell Imber, San Antonio, TX, and his father, Michael, had trolled Maine Craigslist sites for a Land Rover, found Ryan’s, and bought the car sight unseen. I met the entire family one evening when I stopped to introduce myself and share back issues of Rovers Magazine with them. Texas hospitality took over and I found myself enjoying a great steak dinner with a delightful family.
Max wore the enormous grin of every new Series owner and completely ignored all the car’s faults and potential problems. The devastating reality of all Series Rovers is that they will function reasonably well regardless of wear and tear or diffident maintenance. I could hardly fault Max for purchasing the car from a distance; my “test drive” of the QE I some 19 years ago consisted of riding around a farm field at 15 mph on a sunny autumn day. Max and I agreed that upon his return to the island we’d go over basic maintenance together.
Three weeks later Michael called to say he was returning to the island for a sailing trip and wondered if I could tune up the Rover in advance “to make certain it runs.” Few activities bring more pleasure for a Rover owner than spending someone else’s money on someone else’s Rover! I drove over to their summer house and lifted the hood on the Rover. The engine compartment looked clean with no evident oil leaks. All fluids seemed topped up and reasonably fresh. I started the car, listened to it chug over the exhaust header pipe leak and watched the engine shake on its mounts. Pulling a spark plug required a breaker bar on the spark plug wrench. The tips looked jet black and caked over with soot (“I had to pull out the choke on the highway to get more speed,” Ryan had said earlier).
After checking the points for condition and type, I called Rovers North to order a cap, rotor, points, condenser, spark plugs, and plug wires. After replacing parts and gapping the points carefully, I pushed the starter button without touching the choke. Although the engine was cold, it started up immediately and ran much smoother. I then looked down the carb throat and found it, too, covered with soot. I goosed the engine as I sprayed carb cleaner down the throat. The car still stumbled sporadically at high rpm, but smoothed out when PB Blaster was sprayed into the carb throat while accelerating. It was time to look at the fuel system.
The fuel pump did not resemble the familiar Land Rover one and looked very rusty; touching it at all would likely mean replacing fuel lines. The in-line fuel filter looked ok but removing the small cylindrical filter on the Weber’s carb body showed a lot of grit in the system. I removed the top of the carb body, removed the accessible jets and sprayed them out. The carb bowl also had considerable crud around the jets. Cleaning all this made the car run even smoother, so I buttoned it up and left it ready for Michael’s arrival that weekend.
All weekend I waited for the phone call complaining that the Rover had stranded him – the usual result of my repairs on a Rover – but it never came. This means that either the Rover ran perfectly or I’ve had my last dinner with the Imber family.
In these dour times the effects of the current recession can put a damper on life decisions. The New York Times Sunday Business section featured a cover page article entitled “But Can It Make You Happy?” Academic researchers note that while people question whether the spending money on an item brings happiness, they don’t question that spending money on an experience – travel, learning new skills, a concert – produces longer lasting satisfaction.
One reason for the impact of experiences is that we can reminisce about them. For example, even the most mundane trips – especially when taken in a Land Rover – can become memorable as we retell and relive the event. In tough economic times we all look for leisure experiences that simply cost less. Touring, exploring or camping in your Land Rover can make the shortest, simplest trip more compelling. When you travel in your Land Rover you join the thousands of adventurers who made Land Rover’s enduring reputation. In your Land Rover you feel special and you become the object of attention from other travelers; you’re not only enhancing your own life but that of others.
In a recent travel photo essay, Timothy Williams of Indianapolis recounted that his brother, Hamish, had lost his job in Budapest. Together, they bought an old car and set off to tour Greece and Crete. “We spent our time camping and traveling, and meeting people from all over the world like we did when we were in our 20’s,” Timothy wrote. “Keep in mind that we are both in our 40’s now and are supposed to have settled down. Travel is freedom, and the smallest things become an adventure. It’s a departure from the everyday that reminds you that there is a huge world out there worth exploring.”
Above all else your Land Rover comes fully equipped for travel, anywhere and anytime. If traveling proves liberating and discovery resides in appreciating life’s little moments, your Land Rover should be your vehicle of choice. Remember that any trip of any distance becomes a greater experience in your Land Rover – start driving now.
J. D. Powers and Associates conducts numerous automotive product surveys. This year their “customer retention survey” measured satisfaction by rating long term durability, resale value and overall vehicle quality. This survey asked owners of 2008 vehicles whether they would select the same brand for their next car.
Honda topped the survey at 64.7%, followed by Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Land Rover came in at 49% - above the industry average- and just behind Cadillac, but well ahead of Jeep, GMC, Dodge, VW, Porsche, Audi and Mini. Sadly, Jaguar trailed the pack at only 26.2%, which may be why former parent Ford read Castle Bromwich and Halewood the riot act over poor quality in 2008. This matters to Land Rover as parent company Tata considers further consolidation of Jaguar and Land Rover components. Jaguar and Land Rover’s sales have risen in 2010 – let’s hope they both continue to get it right.
[Copyright Jeffrey B. Aronson and Rovers Magazine]
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."