Well, it’s gone. The big green beast which looked great, proved extremely useful and was as tough as only a Land Rover can be, has gone to a new owner.
This time to someone who will put it to better use than me, an estate worker on farmland on deepest Dorset. He was thrilled with the Defender when he came to view and drive it, and paid the asking price without a murmur. Which makes me think I could’ve asked for more. Never mind, I did make a small profit.
A Land Rover Defender is the one car that most enthusiasts probably consider at some point in their car career. My one was a year 2000 model but was in such great condition that it was regularly mistaken for a much newer model. Land Rover experts would’ve spotted the differences though.
Back in 2000, Defenders were still powered by the old five-cylinder 2.5-litre turbodiesel, the same motor as in my previous wagon, a 2003 Discovery 2. Nothing wrong with that engine, apart from the occasional odd electrical issue. Huge amounts of low rev torque meant it could handle almost any load, shrugging off trailers as though not there.
My Disco once towed a 7.5 tonne truck up a Pyrenees mountain road (so it could then roll downhill and bumpstart itself), and regularly pulled other neighbours’ cars out of ditches. We had a lot of winter snow in the Pyrenees and not everyone fitted the winter tyres or chains they were supposed to.
Anyway, the Disco went once we returned to the UK from our five-year Pyrenees sojourn because it was a bit slow and used immense amounts of fuel covering my regular 90-mile commute. Why buy a Defender then? I can hear you mutter. Exactly, but I just wanted one.
Lighter than the Disco, the Defender 90 did use slightly less fuel and had a touch more acceleration, but it also had the driving seat from hell and suspension better suited to clambering up a muddy, stony green lane than the A350. In short, it was too uncomfortable for anything approaching long distance on a regular basis. My back complained too often and too loudly to be ignored.
There was much to like about the Defender – the rugged, true rural Brit looks for a start. It drove like a classic car, with aged controls and switchgear, but I didn’t mind that. It had a huge area behind the front seats with two more side benches. I once loaded a full cubic metre of chopped firewood in the back (good exercise loading, unloading, then stacking) and it hardly noticed the load was there. Washing machine to transport? No problem. Straight in.
But my back couldn’t be ignored and I was also keen to have a little more performance. The Defender, like the Disco, cruised happily on A roads at around 50-55 mph. Both would go faster of course but with a penalty of fuel burn, comfort, noise and let’s not forget braking. Big, heavy 4x4s take a lot of stopping.
So, scratched that itch, the Land Rover one that is, so what’s next? For a while I mulled over a sensible choice, such as a BMW 330D estate. Fast, yes! Not too bad on fuel, comfortable, good handling, spacious… what’s not to like?
But then a moment of madness and while idly flicking through ads for Alfas, I found a pristine, low mileage, original 1990 Alfa Romeo Spider Quadrifoglio. And bought it. It’s gorgeous, despite being the ugly sister of the Spider range with its projecting bumpers front and rear, added to meet US regs. How am I getting on with the Alfa? Let’s just say that it’s a keeper. Even if I am going to have to buy a cheap hatchback as a daily driver.