Magazine article The Spectator

Old Dears

Magazine article The Spectator

Old Dears

Article excerpt

And so to my 70th car. I've restricted myself to eight these past ten years, having had only the present two - Golf and Discovery - for the past three. But the yearning is always there, not so much for change as for increase. My excuse for the latest is that, if you need two cars daily, you actually need three.

Pleading this very reasonable case wasn't enough, however; it had to be demonstrated. My opportunity occurred when an ash tree fell obligingly across the top of our drive during a pre-Christmas squall, at a moment when the Discovery was turning in to dock. One smashed wino and a buckled roof are testimony to the construction strength of Discoveries, though admittedly a lower car might have escaped altogether because the tree came to rest top and bottom on parallel banks. The car remained driveable, albeit draughty and unsightly. I suspected it might be an insurance write-off (it's six years old) if a new body shell were needed, but not so. A new roof can apparently be attached separately. But none is to be found anywhere in the country, so the factory will have to make one. Which means March, at the earliest. Presumably, they're busy producing the new model and don't routinely stock more roofs than body shells.

Thanks to the insurance policy, we've been lent a courtesy car and so still have two, but neither can tow. Thus it was that I found myself once again deep in that wonderful source of all things, Loot, which revealed a 1966 Series 11A Land Rover for £1,850, owned by a neighbour. Of course, a towing tug does not have to be a 39-year-old Land Rover. Having had every kind except the 11A, I know their limitations. But an 11A is what I've long wanted as a third car - something dependable (-ish) to lurk in the back of the barn, something pre-plastic dash and pre-headlights in the wings, less angular than the Series 1 and more properly useable than that or the early Series 11, neither of which had the 2286cc engine. I think them the best of the pre-modern Land Rovers, sufficiently developed but resolutely unfussy.

Rationalisations apart, however, the attraction of such old vehicles is largely sentimental. Many of us find attractive some of those things we were familiar with in childhood and youth. For me, British rust-traps of the 1950s are more appealing than those of other decades - not only old Land Rovers but also the P4 Rover, the R-Type Bentley, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, Jaguars big and small, the Riley RMs and Pathfinders, early Bristols and the greater Humbers, Daimlers and Armstrongs. …

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