Best used Land Rovers

Wild, smart, weird, clas­sic

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

Is there re­ally such a thing as a good used Land Rover? I’m just ask­ing, be­cause the stats seem to sug­gest that they are less than truly de­pend­able. Peo­ple keep on buy­ing them, though, be­cause they are so damned charis­matic. If you are tempted, here are some off-the-beaten-track sug­ges­tions.


The stone-cold coolest and also the light­est Land Rover is, of course, the army-is­sue one. It could be flat-packed out of a Her­cules and then driven into ac­tion. It’s a soft-top, too, although some have a Se­ries top. Once at army sur­plus prices, con­cours ones are £18,000, but a tidy 1980 petrol is around £12,000. It’s the near­est thing we have to a proper Willys Jeep, far cheaper and bet­ter to drive, and it doesn’t need sten­cilled graph­ics to make the point that it is spe­cial.


Here’s the mad, bonkers Landie that will get you to and from hell and back at an alarm­ingly high speed. This is not a sen­si­ble slog­ger of a Land Rover. This is the mo­tor­sport one. Those peo­ple at Bowler make a proper fast­back, two-seat, caged-up and ready-to-tackle-the-dakar sort of thing. Brand new, they are com­fort­ably six fig­ures, but Bowler will also sell you a 2007 Neme­sis in need of some up­dat­ing yet still state-of-the-art. It is FIA spec­i­fi­ca­tion, of course, so it’s ready to rally and it will set you back a rel­a­tively rea­son­able £50,000.


A con­tro­ver­sial choice could be a pocket-sized Freelander, which at the mo­ment is the clos­est you will get in spirit to a new De­fender. An added el­e­ment of fun would be some Softback style. There is noth­ing that looks more 1990s, with the added ben­e­fit of feel­ing the sun on the back of your neck. An ex­tra el­e­ment of risk might just be a petrol that has not blown a head gas­ket. Watch out for rust, too. It’ll cost £1295 for a 2002 1.8 Serengeti.


Jaguar Land Rover will build you a three-door Range Rover Clas­sic for £150,000 and that would, of course, be rather splen­did. How­ever, if you can tol­er­ate a cou­ple of ex­tra doors, there is no rea­son why you need to spend so much. A 1993 3.9 Vogue EFI is just about per­fect and we found a re­stored one priced at £9900. Seemed like a bar­gain to us, es­pe­cially as you get all the mod cons from that era. Never mind the cruise con­trol, ABS and up­graded hi-fi, it is the lit­tle things, such as the front spot­lights, that make it stand out. These are be­com­ing re­ally sub­tle and spe­cial.


Buy­ing a piece of 4x4 his­tory is far cheaper than you could ever imag­ine. Jaguar Land Rover can do the whole re­build thing, but you are only go­ing to use this for fun and to show off. You can buy some­thing on the back of a trailer for £6000 or so. Avoid all the scraped knuck­les and has­sle by ramp­ing up the bud­get to circa £15k and you will get a very use­ful ex­am­ple from 1956. Early stuff is much more pricey, per­haps too pricey, un­less you are an anorak who is look­ing for head­lights be­hind the grille.


An odd­ity, but an oddly suc­cess­ful one in the shape of the Dis­cov­ery-based Sport. These prob­a­bly rep­re­sent some of the best­value buys for a con­tem­po­rary Range Rover if you can af­ford to fund the V8 fuel habit. How­ever, V6 diesels are avail­able and they de­liver late-ish 20s to the gal­lon. Be­cause it is a con­tem­po­rary Land Rover, the mes­sage sys­tem may well be telling you ‘hill de­scent in­ac­tive’ or ‘air sus­pen­sion in­ac­tive’. Then again, old-school pok­ing at the front footwell for damp car­pets points to a leaky wind­screen and ex­plains any way­ward electrics. High-mileage ones start at around £5000 and you can get some­thing from the 2005-2007 era.


We all need a mil­i­tary-grade 4x4 per­son­nel car­rier in our lives at some point and that may ex­plain why many For­ward Con­trols end up as camper­vans and the per­fect mo­bile lo­ca­tion for those seek­ing an off-grid life­style. The purist in­side of us wants an olive green one, which would look at home storm­ing around Alder­shot. And what a sound it makes, thanks to the V8. A bud­get of £12,500 is about right to buy a tidy 1975 ex­am­ple, which will climb ev­ery moun­tain and ford ev­ery stream.


If you don’t want to de­lib­er­ately buy trou­ble, then just about any Dis­cov­ery should be given a wide berth. At least the 2, 3 and 4. We can make a case, though, for the orig­i­nal model, which was lit­tle more than a Range Rover chas­sis with a high­rised body on top. They also seem to be prop­erly tough and durable and still don’t cost much. A three-door would be cool and we found a 1995 300 TDI with jacked-up sus­pen­sion and a snorkel at £1600. It’ll be fine. No won­der so many own­ers go to the bother of bob­tail­ing them.


De­fend­ers are quite rightly just about ev­ery­where, but are they re­ally very use­ful? Half the time, you might as well have a Re­nault Kangoo if you want to throw some gear in the back, but a tip­per… Yes, what we want is pos­si­bly a crew cab, then a tip­ping op­tion with the load bay and a drop­side. Now that is handy. A 2006 130 TDI with over 100,000 miles is £14,950.


In the old days, the Overfinch badge meant some­thing, quite of­ten that there was a Chevro­let V8 un­der the bon­net as well as some trick sus­pen­sion to pre­vent it from fall­ing over on cor­ners. We’d pre­fer to time travel to the Range Rover Clas­sic era and stum­bled across a 6.3 with Re­caro seats at £25,000. English, Buick-en­gined ones, mostly with han­dling packs, can be had from around £11,000.

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