Fetching the Duke

I’ve always harboured a desire to do practical and manly things with my spare time instead of sitting on the sofa playing on the Xbox. When my good friend Doctor Johnson splashed out on a thirty-year-old Land Rover Country Station Waggon a couple of years ago I was inspired. Helping out with maintenance tasks (i.e. chopping bits off with an angle grinder) was great fun and at the end of a hard day’s work you have something real to be proud of – much better than writing software!

So a couple of months ago I ended up placing a bid in a tender for ex-military vehicles. A nice looking Land Rover Series III, fitted for helicopter support. Of course, I hadn’t looked at it. Witham is all the way up in the Midlands and there was no way I was leaving the comfort of the office to see what I was risking £555.55 of my hard earned money on. Anyway, that’s a good price for a decent Series III so I had no chance of winning. Right?

A month later, at 8am on a cold frosty morning, I found myself in the back of a borrowed Nissan Terrano, towing a huge car trailer up the A1(M). Doctor Johnson at the controls and Jason, who’s Dad had kindly lent us the Terrano, in the back. I’d won it. I hadn’t got a clue what state it was in: Was it a runner? Was the interior OK? Was the chassis roughly the consistency of ASDA Smart Price Stilton?

I almost swallowed my own face with disappointment when we finally got there and found it sitting alone on the end of a long line of 110’s (all in much better condition). The bonnet was up and the tyres were flat; under the bonnet it was easy to see two large empty spaces where the distributor and carb once were. The door tops were sat on the floor and, upon examination, seemed to be made of a powdery conglomeration of iron oxide and mould. Metallic sparrows had broken in and replaced the dashboard with a nest of wires and broken electronic items but worst of all, at least in my depressed state at the time, the chassis was badly “cheesed up” with rust.

The yard men at Witham seemed to find this very amusing. “Did you bid on it without seeing it then? All I can say is, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself”. Well, yeah, thanks and all that, but now please shut up and perhaps also die. The second guy won me over by offering to put it on the trailer for us. “Want us to bring it round here then?” we asked.

“Nah, I’ll be back in a second”. A couple of minutes later he reappeared atop a massive forklift truck. “Don’t worry, I do this every day” he assured us, as he whacked a couple of chocks on the beefy looking tynes and lifted my massive new Land Rover eight feet into the air to get past a recently demobbed ten ton truck.

You can’t argue with that sort of awesomeness. I think it helped me get a grip on myself and that’s probably the point where I started to have fun again. Jay and Dr J were incredibly nice. Jason knows as much about car maintenance as I know about the Ugandan ministry of agriculture, but he was right when he said that it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Johnson dragged me under the precariously suspended green monster to inspect the good bits of the chassis and gave general words of encouragement.

The car trailer visibly flexed as the forklift disgorged its load upon it. The Terrano dropped down to 35 miles per hour on one section of the M25 and the diesel cost £75 but all the way home I stared out of the back window and grinned at the big green thing. Thank the Lord that the steering, hand brake, clutch and gears all worked; we used them all to get it into the drive. Thanks also to the random man who helped push. Would he have helped push a broken transit van? Is there some innate property of a knackered British vehicle that makes people care? Probably not, but he helped anyway.

So there you go. I now own a Land Rover. It’s big, it’s green, it can start a Lynx helicopter and will cost £1500 to get up and running but I don’t care what you think; it’s the best thing I’ve played with since my Lego got locked in the cellar.

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