LRO Freelander

1998 1.8-litre Land Rover Freelander 1

Our Freelander was a few weeks away from being scrapped when we stepped in and saved it. It’s an XEi model, but there’s little of the kit left in it now. After we fixed the problems it had, we bunged a lift kit on it and used it for greenlaning – the traction control helping to make it a great all-rounder.

But we weren’t really using it enough, and if we were just going to use it as a toy, we may as well make it into a real one. So, out went all the trim and seats and a full six-point Safety Devices roll cage, bucket seat five-point harnesses and electric cut-outs were fitted, making it eligible for the Freelander Challenge.

The suspension lift was removed and oversize 225/75 R15 Toyo Open Country AT tyres were fitted to improve clearance slightly.

But, though that was fun, because it has a four-cylinder, non-turbocharged, engine, it’s suitable for many road rallies and targa events. And, as LRO editor Neil likes his navigation, it has found another lease of life as a targa rally vehicle.

It may not have the ability to turn that well, compared to rear-wheel-drive Ford Escorts, but it makes up for it by being quicker across the rough stuff. It is outclassed by most of the other vehicles on this sort of event, but the punishment it can take means it stays competitive – and Neil has managed it to drive to and from all of the events so far; many competitors arrive with their cars on trailers.

1.8 Freelanders don’t have the best reliability reputation, but we’re finding that provided you let the engine warm up, you can treat it as harshly as you like – redlining it through the gears – and it doesn’t complain. In fact, it positively relishes the abuse. The only thing is, when you drive it like that you get through a lot of exhaust pipes: the flexible sections keep failing!