From Landy. With love. Or not.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - NEWS - danie@leisurewheels.com

THERE I was, stranded next to the road. Deziree, the 1971 Land Rover, had died on the way to our of­fice. Thank­fully I’d made it to the pave­ment. Be­ing stuck in the mid­dle of a busy road would have been less so­cially pleas­ing. So there we were, the dead Land Rover and I.

I opened the bon­net, stared at the en­gine, fid­dled a bit and tried to start the en­gine. No sign of life. So I stared some more, swore a bit, tried to start it again but cu­ri­ously, still no life. I swore some more. Then I took out the phone and called in the cav­alry.

While I was wait­ing for the help to ar­rive, I started watch­ing the re­ac­tions of other mo­torists as they drove past a clas­sic, but dead, Landy and a dis­grun­tled type, pac­ing up and down next to it.

The vast ma­jor­ity had that ‘ag shame’ look about them. Like when you drive in heavy rain and the car in front of you splashes some poor pedestrians. They looked at me like I was a wet pedes­trian.

Toy­ota 4×4 driv­ers, in gen­eral, seemed to wear their best ‘I told you so!’ faces.

And then a Land Rover De­fender 90 ap­peared on this hori­zon. He didn’t drive past. He stopped. I told him about the life­less en­gine, and he mut­tered some­thing about the coil. Mo­ments later he was fid­dling with the coil, check­ing the wiring, pulling here and there.

“Try it now,” he said. So I did. And Deziree’s straight-six en­gine erupted to life.

“I have an old 109, too, so I’m used to fid­dling with the en­gine. Best fit a new coil, I see this one has plenty of miles on it,” said the magic fid­dler, be­fore he drove off in his 90, barely al­low­ing me the chance to say ‘thanks’.

Since this in­ci­dent, Deziree’s en­gine has re­ceived a ma­jor makeover and she jumps to life if you so much as look at the ig­ni­tion key. It’s quite amaz­ing.

But that in­ci­dent with the 90 owner and a re­cent dis­cus­sion about a for­mer Land Rover sales­per­son, got me think­ing about Land Rover in gen­eral. Thing is, the Land Rover brand has tra­di­tion­ally been about 4×4 (like in mud, sweat and gears 4×4), ca­ma­raderie, the pas­sion for a piece of metal (and alu­minium) with loads of char­ac­ter and about the out­door life­style.

Ac­cord­ing to the pas­sion­ate Landy sales­man, who re­cently left his long­stand­ing post, the heart and soul of Land Rover has changed, though. Be­sides the fact that the De­fender is no longer made, the new gen­er­a­tion of Land Rover Dis­cov­erys and Range Rovers has changed the essence of what he be­lieved Land Rover was all about: the off-road driv­ing, the ca­ma­raderie, the his­tory, the life­style, the friendly wave shared be­tween De­fender driv­ers.

The new Dis­cov­ery 5 will start at R1 mil­lion. The Range Rovers are much more. Not many own­ers of a new Disco or Range Rover will ven­ture far off the be beaten track, not with 20-inch wheels and de del­i­cate paint­work that can be scratched. Th The smaller Disco Sport and Evoque are at best gravel road tour­ers. Es­sen­tially, much of the brand’s real-world 4×4 prow­ess has passed on with the De­fender.

The new gen­er­a­tion of Land Rover buy­ers, says the sales­man, are less about life­style and more about fash­ion. These ‘new age’ own­ers couldn’t be both­ered with de­tails such as the Range Rover’s amaz­ing 900mm wad­ing depth. As long as they reckon they look cool in it, then that’s rea­son enough to buy it.

With the new sales trends, the ca­ma­raderie has also gone, says the sales­man. In pre­vi­ous years, he said, he used to build up life­long friend­ships with clients. Re­cently it had be­come just busi­ness. Walk in, show, test drive, pay, drive off.

So here’s the thing: with the old De­fender out of the game, is Land Rover’s new high-end, top-dol­lar fo­cus not a short-sighted move that will even­tu­ally back­fire? Or will the well­heeled clients al­ways line up to pay their mil­lions with­out a care in the world about her­itage, 4×4, ca­ma­raderie and the out­doors/over­land life­style?

Time will tell. But I reckon the all-new De­fender, ap­par­ently due to be launched in­ter­na­tion­ally in 2018, will have a ma­jor in­flu­ence on per­cep­tions about the brand’s heart and soul.

Here’s hold­ing thumbs it has some of the old De­fender magic that so many peo­ple still love and share.

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