Out­side Line

When the alarm bells (and sus­pen­sion fail­ure warn­ings) are ring­ing, should you still buy that well-used dream car? Meaden did


HAVE YOU EVER DONE ANY­THING RE­ALLY stupid? Flown in the face of what you know to be fact, sup­pressed com­mon sense, turned a deaf ear to all your in­ter­nal alarm bells, fought the fear and gone ahead any­way? In short, have you ever thrown your­self into the abyss that is a decade-old, 225,000km TDV8 Range Rover?

Some of you might say an old Range Rover isn’t core evo ter­ri­tory. I would strongly con­tend oth­er­wise. Partly be­cause lots of peo­ple I know with fine taste in fast cars also own Ran­g­ies, but mainly be­cause it’s re­ally not so dif­fer­ent from buy­ing a su­per­an­nu­ated sports car or su­per­sa­loon. You’ve read the fo­rum hor­ror sto­ries about 996 Car­reras or V10 M5s and read­ily con­cede they ex­pose you to ru­inous run­ning costs, yet you can’t re­sist the fact they are a colos­sal amount of car for the money. It’s the bat­tle of risk ver­sus re­ward that’s cat­nip for car nuts like us.

In a world skewed by so-called ‘in­vest­ment cars’ it also makes a re­fresh­ing, if some­what ni­hilis­tic change to buy a car that could very eas­ily cost you more in snag­ging and ser­vic­ing than it did to buy. Right now I’m strug­gling to think of a car ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing greater fis­cal self-harm than a Range Rover more than half­way round its sixth lap of the world. Yet the se­duc­tive pow­ers of a car that could well have cost its first owner eight or ten times as much are with­out par­al­lel.

As you en­ter­tain the thought, it creeps like Ja­panese knotweed, from the warm, non-threat­en­ing re­cesses re­served spe­cially for idle au­to­mo­tive pipe-dreams to the very fore­front of your mind. Over the next few weeks lovely ex­am­ples of your four-wheeled ob­ses­sion taunt and tempt you from drive­ways, car parks and op­pos­ing car­riage­ways. Judge­ment now clouded by the fog of ph­woar, you ten­ta­tively broach the sub­ject with your other half, partly hop­ing they throw a bucket of cold wa­ter on the in­san­ity. They don’t. Still you re­sist. Un­til fate de­cides to step in, when com­pletely un­prompted a great and trusted friend asks if you’re after an old Range Rover. Their old Range Rover. The old Range Rover they bought from the first owner (who they know ex­tremely well), have kept for years and main­tained fas­tid­i­ously. The Range Rover you’ve rid­den in and loved. The Range Rover they re­cently sold to an­other friend, whose cir­cum­stances have changed. The Range Rover that’s now up for sale at a price that’s too good to ig­nore.

So of course, after a few days of cold sweats, hot flushes and wildly fluc­tu­at­ing emo­tions you phone the ven­dor and ar­range to view the car. Which brings us neatly onto test drives. Much like a first date they’re full of an­tic­i­pa­tion, yet hideously awk­ward. You want things to go well. Re­ally well. What you ab­so­lutely don’t want is the dreaded chime of a sus­pen­sion fault warn­ing less than five min­utes after tak­ing the ob­ject of your de­sire for a spin. Awk­ward.

The post test drive con­ver­sa­tion with the ven­dor went some­thing like this: ‘Yep, re­ally like the car. Great old thing, isn’t it? So com­fort­able. Love it. Er… um… haha… you won’t be­lieve this, but no sooner had we got down the road than the dash­board flashed up with a “Sus­pen­sion Fail­ure: Max Speed 50kmph” warn­ing…’

‘Well, that’s a new one on me. Shall we have some cof­fee?’

Note to self: don’t at­tempt to ne­go­ti­ate with a man who used to bro­ker hos­tile takeovers for a liv­ing…

You know what’s com­ing next. We bought the Rangie. And yes, the sus­pen­sion warn­ing binged and bonged a few times on the way home. Though, it has to be said, with­out the clas­sic gang­ster lean nor­mally associated with shonky Range Rover sus­pen­sion. The ra­tio­nal side of my brain says I should take it to our near­est spe­cial­ist – Bish­ops 4x4: I checked, like par­ents re­search school catch­ment ar­eas be­fore buy­ing a house – so they can plug in their di­ag­nos­tic kit. The side prone to de­nial pins hope on a faulty sen­sor, or the Rangie – chris­tened Kanye, be­cause he’s bril­liant but high-main­te­nance and prone to break­downs – some­how pos­sess­ing a Chris­tine-like abil­ity to self-re­pair. The warn­ing hasn’t reap­peared re­cently, so maybe I’m not so crazy.

What’s the moral of this col­umn? That car buy­ing can still be an ad­ven­ture. Whether your folly of choice is a he­do­nis­tic 4x4 or a do­geared sports car, it’s one of the rare mo­ments in life where you can do your home­work, do the maths, then do the un­think­able and buy it any­way.

In years to come, if Mrs M and I are stony broke and liv­ing in a car­a­van (again), this mo­ment of mad­ness will be cited as the root of our demise. Un­til then we’ve got a noble old Range Rover in our lives, and it feels great. ⌧

I’m strug­gling to think of a car ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing greater fis­cal


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