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When I sold my Defender

When I sold my Defender

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This is the sad story of the sale of one of the finest vehicles I’ve owned, or that anyone could own for that matter.  Of course, that would be a Land Rover Defender 110.  I say ‘sale’, but while money changed hands, I don’t like to think of it as a sale any more than you’d sell a much-loved dog.   A Land Rover, particularly a modified one, really needs to go to a good home, not to some random person who will drive it but not own it. They’re a special breed, Defenders, and owners need to accept the shortcomings of the design to fully enjoy the many advantages.  I felt it my duty to explain this best as I could to the uninitiated, which described pretty much everyone who express an interest in the car..

I was actually out on a test drive doing just that with a Nissan owner and his wife when the phone rang.  I’m sure Mrs and Mrs Nissan thought it was a pressure tactic, but it was actually just chance. On the line was an experienced Landie owner whose offer I’d previously rejected as too low.  He was now offering more, having borrowed money – as you would for Defenders – but in fairness I had to give first refusal to Mr and Mrs Nissan who were clearly torn between the Defender and a Landcruiser LC100.   I told Mr Landie I’d call him back soon as the Nissans decided.  It took them until the next day, but they decided, regretfully, to go for the Landcruiser they had their eye on.  I wished them all the best, hung up, and flicked my phone over to the most recent incoming call list.  Third from the top was Mr Landie’s number with a cheery but anonymous icon for his face.  Now was the time.  Just the one press, then no going back.  I sighed, and tapped his name.  We spoke, briefly.  My sadness was leavened only slightly by his evident joy in securing the car, and while the Defender was going to a home full of Landies it would have been nice for it to have converted other people to the joys of Land Rovers.  C’est la vie.  Or as we say in Australia, stuff it.

As I hung up – well, ended the call it being a mobile, how long will that phrase endure – I felt another sense of finality, similar to when I’d first made the decision to sell and just recently when I pressed the call icon.  Now I’d committed, agreed terms.  Sure, before then the car had been cleaned, prepared, advertised, roadworthied, but it was still mine, still sitting in the driveway.  Not yet gone. But now, with that phonecall, it wasn’t quite mine any more, and not even the thought of the money could quite erase a sense of loss.

The day of the handover arrived, and I was out early, polishing the Defender as the new owner had bought it sight unseen.  The car was now the cleanest and most presentable it had been since I picked it up some nine years and 210,000km previously, and I could use the rest of the magazine on where it’d been and the memories it gave us.  But this story is about the sale, not nostalgia. 

After all this time the only fault was the aircon, which I’d declared on the advert so had no conscience worries about leading buyers astray.  It was a good car, honest, clean and reliable.  It was selling for a little more than the normal for its age, but that was because of the large folder full of service history and all the accessories.  “Service history” in Australia tends to mean “yep she’s been serviced” as opposed to actual documents, but for me if you can’t prove the care, it hasn’t happened. 

I gave the Defender a final once-over, and went inside to await the doorbell.  In due course it rang, and standing there was the new custodian of the Defender.  He gave the car a decent check over, we signed the necessary paperwork, the all-important cheque was presented – which felt like thirty pieces of silver – and I ran him through the car, how all the accessories worked, where all the auxiliary controls were hiding, stashes of spare fuses, tricks with doors and so on.  It felt rather like explaining to another bloke the pleasure points of your wife, but more greasy and discussing different tools.  Might leave that one there.  But the handover had to be done, otherwise it wouldn’t be right, wouldn’t be proper and that’s somehow important.  I think ceremonies, however informal, help us through emotional times.  Was I prolonging the handover?  Not consciously, but I could have done it quicker.

Then all of a sudden there was nothing left to do.  Monies transferred, forms completed, pleasantries exchanged and the Defender was ready to go, and there was one of those moments where everyone realises the business has been transacted and it is time to move on.  I shook the new owner’s hand, stood back, watched him climb into the Defender and fire the TD5 into life.  It purred, as usual.  He engaged first gear and smoothly drove the car down the drive, into the road, around the corner and out of our lives, forever.

Robert Pepper Automotive journalist specialising in 4X4s, sportscars, camping and future tech.

Comment(3)

  1. Robert,
    This car brings great regret to me… At a time where I was purchasing a proper four wheel drive (upgrading from my Subaru Forester), I enquired on this vehicle. Every day I craved for a defender and yet a shiny D3 came up at the dealers which resolved my need to trade in or sell my forester first, because it had money owning. With just one test drive with my Partners overwhelming approval we secured it and enjoyed many great moments in the few years I owned it. I always said it was a vehicle 10 years to early for me, being just 24 at the time. It cost more, and was refined. I am destined to love Land Rover forever due to the incredible capabilities & the engineering I so admire, however I do rue the day I didn’t get your defender when they were going so cheap (comparatively), and one that was so well looked after as yours.
    I parted with the D3 to save for a house, and as a result I have neither due to house prices increasing and a risk averse partner. Now we are on the hunt for a 4 wheel drive again so we don’t feel like we stuck here in the big smoke every weekend and I did the “sensible thing” and bought a 2004 Toyota Camry for clocking up the kms for work without costing me anything and will continue to use it as a daily and as bland and beige both appearance and driving prowess it is, I know the use and ownership of it is paying for the weekender I am now searching for. I now am planning on spending far too much in some peoples eyes to secure a good defender, which I should have bought some 9-10 years ago, and it will be that special car I take for adventures, for memory creating and when I just want to smile. Wish me luck in the search. Hahaha
    Cheers!

  2. I do get/share your sentiment and admiration for the old Defender. I bought my first and only Defender, a DCPU, in Malaysia brand new in 2013. So it is a 2.2l TDCi model.

    Previous 4x4s owned or used in Australia, Antarctica and then Malaysia were Toyota’s. Never did I ever think I would buy a Defender (or any Land Rover).

    It was after a 7yr gap in 4×4 ownership whilst attending to matters like remarrying, changing job and starting another family – decided with my wife we needed to get another 4×4 and give our then 5yo son some experiences in the Malaysian jungles before they are no longer. So the hunt for a new 4×4 began in 2013.

    Visited a dealership for my previously favoured Toyota brand, only Hilux models were available new in M’sia back then so test drove what was available.

    I really couldn’t find any heart to buy though. I kept in touch with the old school 4×4 friends I used to run with before my long break away from the 4×4 scene in Malaysia. Their views on the then current crop of dual cab utes echoed in my heart and mind sympathetically: “shopping trollies”, “handbags”, “school busses”. That and me not wanting another project truck further depressed my thinking around buying a new Hilux in 2013. Let’s face it, brand new Hiluxes then would need a lot of work before being jungle worthy. 29” wheels stock, heaven’s sake! Gotta lift it, body and suspension, cut away some bits of panel, bigger wheels, etc…

    My darling wife one evening interrupted my “fuck it, buy a VW sedan, give up the jungle dream. At least it’s not a Camry” moment one evening with an innocent but naive comment: “Why about one of those things the neighbour across the road has. They look good and like they can take it”. It was a Defender.

    I scoffed at the suggestion and gave her all my reasons why only fools buy Land Rovers. Then set out to find as much as I could that was factual to back up my preconceived notions and biases.

    What I found was that the Defender came stock with 32” wheels and could go to 33” (minimum standard for Malaysian jungle trails) with a simple change of tyre from 235/85R16 to 255/85R16 onto the stock rims. And with that still have clearance to spare, plenty of articulation, nothing else to do!

    Reading lots determined that there were horror stories about quality and breakages. But there were also tales of people who had no breakages or issues after hundreds of thousands of km. So I decided it’s a matter of luck – you get a good one. Or you get a bad one. So buy one brand new and make sure that all the most often reported issues present themselves during the first year of warranty, have them fixed, over and over if necessary to eventually get a “good one”.

    So I bought mine new in 2013 and “drove it like I stole it” and ensured that all potential weak points failed under warranty and fixed or upgraded at minimal cost.

    Have had the Defender now since new – 8yrs. It has never let us down. Never been on a flatbed. Touch wood! We brought it with us when we returned to Oz from Malaysia some 5yrs ago. It is still my daily driver and our get away machine. Loving it, and credit my wife with instigating this joy.

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