Land Rover Fitness Regime and How to Make Friends

I must be getting soft! I haven’t driven Libby very much for the past month or so, mainly using the Prius or Scion, which are small light relatively modern vehicles. However, for the past three days, I’ve been using Libby continuously in conjunction with an Open Day at Graham. And after three days of pretty intense use, mainly on short haul collection trips, my arms are killing me. You see, I’ve been spoiled. The Scion and Prius are small light cars with automatic transmission and power steering. Basically, not a great deal of effort is involved in driving them. Libby on the other hand is heavy, has no power steering and is manual shift. Who needs a rowing machine or any other keep fit device? Drive a Land Rover on a regular basis and you’ll have muscles like Hercules! Mind you, it was quite nice to be able to use Libby for her originally designed purpose (i.e. as a farm truck) and use her for farm chores such as moving hay bales and transporting goats to the display pens (!). Yes, I had goats in the back of the Land Rover. No I didn’t get any pictures.

Another aspect of driving a Land Rover here in the US, where they are relatively rare, is you make lots of instant friends. Especially if it is RHD with UK Number plates on it. Taking stuff to the dump on Friday morning, I got buttonholed by a transplant from the Isle of Man, who wanted to look it over. He even offered to buy me lunch (couldn’t accept as I had to get back to the barn). Same thing when stopping at the hardware store – 15 minute conversation with a driving instructor who wanted to know about how difficult I found it driving a RHD vehicle in the US (not very difficult IMHO). Even waiting to turn left at Timmonium Rd, a huge pickup truck pulled up along side me and the driver proceeded to start a conversation whilst we were both waiting for the lights to turn green. I tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever been so popular! Diane just can’t understand how an elderly heavy, noisy, smelly, slow vehicle gets loads of people drooling and talking. I’m not even going to try and explain it to her!


6 thoughts on “Land Rover Fitness Regime and How to Make Friends

  1. LOL, yes we notice the ‘built in gymn’ of the 109″ after using the modern little hatchback. However the reverse is true of course, when I have a week off on holiday we use the Land Rover daily and don’t use the hatchback at all. So after a week or so I get in the little Corsa and I find the steering stupidly light and completely devoid of any feedback.

    After a few days of driving Annie we do get stronger arm muscles and after a while we don’t realise just how heavy the steering is. The exception being on some long journeys we’ve done on twisty switchback style country roads where the constant force required to get her around the very tight turns has led to shoulders, backs and arms aching like crazy.

    I doubt any modern teenager would be able to drive her, incredibly I’ve seen many of them complaining on the owner forum about how heavy the power steering is on their Corsa! Vauxhall even had to fit a ‘city’ mode button to it so that the already stupidly light steering becomes even lighter. I tried it once but it was horrible, being able to turn the steering wheel with the bare minimum of pressure from a little finger is not right. I have no idea how these people manage to survive if they are that weak they need power assistance for the power assistance! It would be funny to see them try and parallel park a 109″ 😉

    Both my wife and I also find that the 109″ attracts alot of attention wherever we go. I regularly get stopped by people asking about her. Sometimes these conversations go on for hours. My wife has often been near ready to call the police after I ‘popped’ out for 10 mins to get some fags only to return hours later…..

    • To be honest, it was three long days of very narrow twisty roads up hill and down dale. Lots of handbrake hill starts as well. Still, it was good exercise.

      Agreed, most people probably couldn’t drive a LWB land Rover these days, due to the heavy steering, different braking characteristics and different gear shift style. I’m lucky in that i learned to drive on a diesel S3 (when I was about 12, on a friends farm), so have always known how they feel and what’s involved in driving (and maintaining) one of them. And I’ve always driven large vehicles. (My first car in the UK was a Peugeot 505 diesel station wagon – maybe you are seeing a trend? The power steering pump fell off one day whilst I was making a turn across the dual carriage way. Sure, the steering got (a lot) heavier, but after checking that it was safe to do so, I could still drive it home and indeed used it for the rest of the week until I could re-fit the pump).

      A lot of people don’t think about that fact with a series Landy, you are basically driving a vehicle who’s design and characteristics go back to the late 50’s. I look at it as a a completely different driving style from the modern frenetic pace of driving round here. There’s no point being in a hurry in Libby – she won’t do it and trying to do so will probably get you into trouble. I’ve tried to make this point at several of the car shows I’ve been to. At the last one, I had a bit of a “debate” with someone who saw Libby, stated that he was going to buy one and then lectured me on the whole host of modifications that he intended to do to it “to make it more drivable”. This included dropping in a V8, fitting an automatic gearbox, replacing the chassis with a coiler version, power steering, disc-brakes all round. Basically, the only thing original would have been the body. OK, if you have ooddles of cash to spare and that’s your fancy, so be it. But is it still an S3? This guy took great offense when i suggested that an S3 may not be his ideal vehicle of choice and instead maybe he should consider a NADA Discovery II. That was one friend that I didn’t make that day!

      • LOL, it sounds like he really needed a Defender however I wonder if Defenders are even rarer than Series over there? I always fancied the NAS 90 but it wasn’t available in the UK (well not with the V8 anyway). Agreed, if he needed all the mod cons then a Series is not the place to start. I had a V8 in an 88″ many years ago and it was scary at times – too much power for the handling and brakes to cope with. To make it safe you have to rip out all the Series bits and replace with Defender bits so you end up with a Defender. There is a fine balance involved in making practical upgrades for daily use in moden traffic. My 88″ has many modifications but she is still leaf sprung, non power steered and currently still has drums. I’ve all but abandoned my plans to fit the 200TDi engine as I’m fed up with the noise of the diesels. I’m very seriously thinking (and planning) to put a 5MB 2.25 petrol into Ciggy for the sake of my hearing! (The 200TDi is even noisier than a 2.25 diesel)

  2. I don’t think a Defender would have been suitable for this guy either. I’m not sure he could have handled it. More of a Range Rover Evoque type. He was one of these idiots with too much money, a certain image in his mind and an ego the size of Ontario. I’m certain that he only wanted a Series LR because of the “lifestyle image” it would allow him to portray, i.e. rough rugged mountain man who can go anywhere. I doubt that he wanted it for what it was. So I couldn’t be bothered to waste my time with him – I don’t appreciate being lectured by ignorant “know-alls” on how I’m doing everything wrong and how I need to spend a ton of cash to bring the vehicle up to his preconceptions. Land rovers have always been modified by users and enthusiasts – it’s part of the hobby. But what he envisaged was a total reconstruction into a totally different vehicle. I quite like Libby the way she is thank you very much. She’s largely original and certainly has a few quirks, but is generally solid and representative of her lineage. People like that don’t bring anything to the Land Rover community and aren’t worth my time or blood pressure.

    Defenders are definitely rarer here than Series vehicles, especially the LWB versions. This is because series vehicles were imported until the mid 70’s, so there are still a number running around. Only a small number of specially modified Defenders were imported into North America during the mid 90’s, as specials. If I recall correctly, 525 modified 5-doors with V-8’s were imported in the early 90’s and about 2500 NAS SWB’s came in during the years ’95 – ’97. Those were the only manufacturer imported vehicles. There are some grey market ones here as well. Indeed, my own 110 (Grover) came in that way, as I brought it with me to the US when I moved here. It’s only recently that Defenders have started to meet the 25 year import cut-off that enables them to be legally imported into the country in significant numbers. Hence their rarity. Even ratty ones command obscene prices. Grover is an early (’84) 110 5 door NA diesel that was my daily drive for 10 years when I still lived in Wales. When I came over here, I lent it to some friends for a while, but once it turned 25, I could legally import it. Since I already owned it, it wasn’t that expensive to do. At the moment it is covered up awaiting it’s time, but at some point I will get to work on it. It will need a replacement (galv) chassis and some bodywork (probably replacement doors), but otherwise isn’t too much work. Just need the time, money and a covered place to work on it.

    Although my 110 is an early 110, and a definite advance on the Series in terms of comfort and drivability, compared to modern vehicles, it’s still an older style vehicle in terms of how you drive it and I don’t think this idiot would have been able to handle it without causing a wreck.

    I think I’ll get off my soap box now and go back to the day job…….



  3. Just realised that Grover is actually as old as Annie! Annie was registered in March 1984 as one of the last Series ever built. I think they had started making 110’s before they had finished building Series. There were back orders of 109’s for Africa and some UK utilities.

    • Hello Ian,

      Sorry for the delayed reply – I have been avoiding computers over the past couple of weeks and spending time doing human things, rather than staring at a screen!

      Yes, Grover is definitely quite old. He is one of the early 110’s Not quite the first ones, as he has the single piece style doors with roll-up windows and the more rounded style of rear windows. He is fitted with the 2.5NA diesel and was my daily drive for many years when I lived in rural South Wales. It is interesting to compare him to Libby, as both are of a similar age. (Libby being a late (’81) S3 and Grover being an early (’84) 110. Although Grover is definitely a step up from an S3 in terms of comfort and drivability (disc brakes on the front, power assisted steering, 5 speed box), he is still a very different kind of vehicle from most modern cars and still requires a certain type of driving style. He is awaiting his turn for attention as he will probably need a new frame (its a bit soft in places), some body work and new doors (the steel frames rot out on those early single piece doors). It will probably be a couple of years before I can get to him, as I want to build a garage / workshop before I do so I can do much of this under cover without freezing to death / broiling my brains out / getting soaked!

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