The first Milestone

So we had met up, all agreed that we were keen, done some research and made some pretty vague plans of a trip being made at some point somewhere in the future.  I had originally said lets go this Autumn (we were in early November) but with Ben still having the current and a further year left in university, this wasn’t possible.  So 2015 it was.  However plans were still just simple words and notes made over a few beers and nice food (Thanks #dartmoorlodge) – how could we firm it up, make this s*** real, as they say.

I had been dreaming of buying a Land Rover for years.  A few friends had them, one had three (projects, sat on the drive) and I was fawning over the Search & Rescue teams vehicle every Wednesday.  But I had always denied myself.  I had a perfectly good little fiesta.  It had never failed me, it got me from A to B and most of the time I walked to work.  So no point really, right?  However, I had also had some interesting journeys to MRT training and various other trips out and about where a higher, slightly more tough vehicle might have been appreciated.  Kate had kept saying she wished I had a 4×4 when I was out in mid winter and now I needed something to firm up our plans.  So I hit the vehicle ads – Ebay, Gumtree, Autotrader…. you name it, I scoured it.  All the time scanning Land Rover forums to learn about the different types and variants that would best suit our needs.

  1. I couldn’t get a new one – I didn’t have the money and didn’t want to be tied down with long term finance.  Plus it made perfect sense to me that lots of electronics meant more chances to fail.  It had also been convinced that a modern engine would struggle with the watery diesel I had come across in Ethiopia.
  2. I could maybe get a TD5 – yes it still had some electronics, but it’s more basic, we could take a few spares and replaced them as needed.  However, once again they were generally more expensive, certainly for nice, well looked after station wagons.

I settled on the 300 tdi.  Everything I read said it was the perfect compromise, with older engines not being refined enough and newer ones being a bit more pricey and complex.  So now it was time to search.  Surprisingly this didn’t actually last that long.  Within two weeks I had found two potentials.  One was pretty cheap and had some worrying hints, but I figured for the price they were asking I could afford to do a fair bit of work.  However a friend visited it, and it turned out it truly was horrendous – phew, bullet dodged.

The second one really was ideal.  It was right at the upper end of my price bracket, but the family who owned it had already driven it to Dakar and so it had had some preparation previously.  I had to make the call, and one weekend  in November I drove up to Worcestershire to have a look.

Firstly – the family were really really nice, and the kids were mortified that their treasured defender might be being sold.  But they had a new 110 already and a Disco in the pipeline.  They simply didn’t need this one and really wanted it to go back to Africa.  Secondly – the Land Rover was (to my limited knowledge) in really quite good condition.  Yeh two doors were dodgy, the capping was rusty and a few other bits, but the chassis was pretty darn good (I’d read up on this previously).  The engine ran cleanly, the gear box was smooth, there were no obvious leaks and it drove well.  I was sold, and a week later I paid up and not only collected the Landy, but all their overland extras and spares – IDEAL.

That should have been the end – we drive back to Devon and continue with our planning.  Unfortunately it was not to be as simple as that.  After a night at my folks in Wales we headed home – Kate in the car and me in the Landy.  Obviously she went on ahead but I was making great progress.  That is, until the destructive challenge that is Haldon Hill.  With a screech and a clunk some sort of large chunk of metal fell over the underside, any touch of the accelerator caused made clunking and there was no forward drive.  Having pulled over, on a horridly busy dual carriage way, I surveyed the damage.  Now, my mechanical knowledge is growing day by day, but even now I don’t consider myself intermediate.  At that point I was very much beginner.  But I was pretty sure the rear propshaft had fallen off.  When I accelerated, the short floppy section still attached to the transfer box, flapped around madly and hit things.  I wasn’t going anywhere fast – I didn’t even own a hammer, let alone the tools needed for this.

Eventually I got home, with the help of a break down lorry, and over the next week went about learning how to firstly, turn you land rover into a two wheel drive vehicle, and secondly, replace a prop shaft.  I even pushed the boundaries and learnt how to replace handbrake pads.

Now we were really moving forwards – let the good times begin!  And thankfully I now have a decent tool kit.

#microadventure #o4erland #landrover #dewerstone #goodtimes #challenge


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