It has been a little over five years since my relationship with Land Rovers “officially” began. That’s when I became the unexpected and somewhat reluctant owner of a Discovery II. In reality, I was attached to them long before I ever owned one.
I’m not sure exactly when I first got the bug, but I’m pretty sure it started out subliminally. It was probably the summer of ’87, which I spent in England where my father was stationed in the Air Force. I immersed myself in the ways of the British in those ten weeks – malt vinegar on my chips, buying beer (OK, shandy) at the age of 16, scanning every newspaper for the “Page 3” girls – and I’m sure Land Rovers were simply a subconscious part of internalizing the culture.
Despite access to hundreds of cars a year, my interest in Land Rovers only grew stronger.
Years later, I remember going to the local Land Rover dealer with a friend to check out the new Defenders. There was a 110 on the showroom floor, and I remember marveling at its external rollcage and how wavy the body panels were. We went back a year later when the first Discovery came in and wondered why on earth anyone would buy another Eddie Bauer Explorer when this now existed.
But down deep, it was the classic Range Rover that I had always imagined as my perfect vehicle. With its iconic shape, luxurious (for the times) appointments and that inviting split tailgate, it seemed like the ideal gentleman’s truck. It fit my sensibilities, if not my budget. When my wife and I needed a vehicle for taking our Jack Russell terriers to trials and on hunts, we settled on an Isuzu Rodeo.
As luck would have it, I fell into a rather fortunate line of work, taking a job writing about cars for a friend’s growing automotive enthusiast website. “Work” now included traveling to auto shows and reviewing the latest new models on the market. I had access to new Land Rovers, and perhaps more than any other carmaker, I made every effort to spend as much time with them as possible. Despite access to hundreds of cars a year, my interest in Land Rovers only grew stronger.
Five years ago, my boss came into my office and asked how badly I wanted a Land Rover. “Which Land Rover?” I asked. I was admittedly a little underwhelmed when he said a 2001 Discovery II. In my opinion, the Discovery was the official vehicle of spoiled house-moms, who drove their spoiled bratlings to soccer practice and dance class and riding lessons. I still really wanted a first-generation Range Rover, by now a genuine classic.
“You can get it cheap. It just needs an engine.”
He knew I was always a sucker for a good fixer-upper. I just can’t stand to see a good vehicle get thrown away for a little issue like a blown engine. Six-hundred bucks and a day later, it was mine. It took a little over year of spare time and money to tear it down, source a good engine and get it back on the road, but once I finally drove it, I was hooked. All my preconceptions about the Discovery were erased, and I realized that regardless of how someone chooses to use their Land Rover, they are all exceptionally more capable than most owners will ever know.
The Discovery became a part of the family, our default vehicle for anything even remotely adventurous. We camped from it, climbed the ladder on its rear door to watch birds from its roof, and got through floods and snow when no one else dared try. We also used it to lend a hand to those who tried but failed to make it through the floods and the snow.
When, after 25,000 reliable miles on its rebuild, it decided not to complete a cross-country move with a U-Haul trailer in tow, my daughter wept at the thought of being without a Land Rover. We eventually replaced it with yet another Discovery II, much to her satisfaction, and mine as well.
I’m still working on finding a Range Rover Classic, but for now I’m content with what I have. And while I may not recall the exact point at which my relationship with Land Rover began, I know I can’t imagine ever not having a Land Rover again.