Let’s get one thing straight – I haven’t retired Plimsoll, my 1957 Series I. But I have decided that, as he’ll be 60 next year, it’s probably time he took things a bit easier: since I bought him in 2002, he’s done more than 40,000 miles all over Europe.
I have at least two adventures planned, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that this 45mph cruiser’s exposure to modern roads needs to be cut back.
So – flying in the face of everything that resembles common sense, and against my own risk-averse attitude towards them – I’ve bought a 1.8-litre petrol Freelander 1 - spurred on by our resident IT nut, who appears to adore them.
Naturally, the Freelander's already been named – Victor. Why Victor? Well, he’s V-reg, I had an old Victor for a while, and my late father worked for Vauxhall for about 20 years.
I bought Victor for £1250 at the end of January and so far all is well. He’s only done 54,000 miles, has a full dealer service history and doesn’t appear to have been abused by either of his two previous owners.
The engine hasn’t had the later head gasket upgrade but on LRO workshop writer Martin Domoney’s recommendation, I’ve bought the remote thermostat upgrade kit, including a new expansion bottle and cap.
The VCU (viscous coupling unit) is working well; it remains only body-temperature warm even after a long run, so it doesn’t appear to straining the IRD (intermediate reduction drive).
I’ve made an important upgrade already: a new set of Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S tyres. They’re 195/80 R15, which gives them a relatively tall and narrow profile, ideal for the sort of mixed use I have in mind.
I’m pleased with them. On a recent foray down a particularly muddy and soft track, they cut down through the surface sludge to bite on the firmer ground a couple of inches beneath.
On road, they’re quiet and provide very good grip. Thanks to LRO tyre guru Harry Holtom for suggesting the tyres – good shout!
Having spent six months living with Victor, I can really understand why so many ‘proper’ Land Rover aficionados love their Hippos (as Freelander 1s are affectionately known). These sturdy, chunky, little 4x4s are unquestionably proper Land Rovers.
Of course, a Freelander 1 will never have the ‘go beyond’ cachet of Series Land Rovers or the Defender, but I wouldn’t mind betting that it’ll measure up very well against whatever eventually replaces Defender.