Keith Adams decides that he is a fully paid-up masochist. Why? Well, after a day having the stuffing knocked out of him in a Land Rover Defender TD5, he’s still grinning from ear to ear…
Yesterday, while Mike bathed in the glory of a nice, simple car deal, which saw his new motor brought to him, I found myself doing it the old-fashioned way. By that, I bought a Renault Twingo, sight-unseen, knowing it was incapacitated. I’ve always wanted one but the thought of importing one now there are no more DVLA local offices and Calais is a war zone, leaves me increasingly cold. So, when serial car collector, John Corbett, alerted me about this one on the Gay Classic Car Group’s Facebook page, I had to have a look.
Its story was simple enough – the seller, Digby Allen, had owned the car for many, many years, doted and loved it, but after 128,000 miles, the headgasket went pop. And at that point, he offered it for sale, in order to make room for a new Fiat 500 TwinAir. The backstory worked for me, so I paid upfront without a viewing (that’s so me) and arranged to collect later. In the end, friend and TVR specialist, James Agger, offered to lend me his Land Rover Defender/Brian James Trailer combo to pick it up, and deliver it safely home – that was very generous of him.
That’s where the story gets interesting, because as I roll into James’ yard somewhere in deepest Leicestershire, his wonderful Defender hoves into view, and reminds me – at first sight – why I adore these cars. His is a short-wheelbase TD5 pick-up, with a covered load bay and, thanks to being highly polished and sitting on some very nice factory alloys, it looks the absolute bees knees, as it glistens in the sun. It has a snorkel (‘don’t end up using it,’ James half jokes) and, in true Defender fashion, the central locking doesn’t work – so you unlock it with one of the BL-Heritage keys, before firing it up with another.
I’ve been racking my brains to recall if I’ve driven a TD5 before, then it hit me – of course, I have, and it was about 10 years ago on the run-out of the TD5, when I took one from Stonehenge to London, loving every minute of it. This one actually looks nicer, although, the interior is even more cramped than I remember. I guess that, with the short-wheelbase set-up and pick-up cab, there isn’t much room to add in rear seat travel. Even so, it’s quite undignified to clamber in and then sit there with my knees around my ears and my paunch almost rubbing the wheel. Time to go on a diet… More worryingly, I’m in the East Midlands and the Twingo is in Henley-on-Thames – will my back, legs or ears give way first?
Sliding onto the A46 and then to the M6 and M69, I’m expecting the searing pain to kick in. However, as the miles roll by, and I settle in – with my right arm resting on the window sill – I ease into the Defender and actually find the experience quite enjoyable. The high driving position is wonderful, the gearchange surprisingly nice to palm and the warbling five-pot has more than a fair share of grunt once you wind it up. Even more pleasurably, whenever you see another Defender driver coming the other way, they grin and wave at you (on the whole) – so clearly masochism is a shared pleasure.
The run is going well, although once off the M40 and onto Oxfordshire’s narrow and twisting lanes, I’m breathing in as cars rush towards me. Anyway, three hours and 115 miles later (a good average considering we’re towing), and I pull up to Digby’s place, and start the process of relieving him of his beloved Twingo. Pushing it on to the trailer is straightforward, although my utter lack of understanding about how ratchet straps work continues to frustrate, but after an hour or so, I’m heading north again.
More miles pass and the fatigue I’m expecting doesn’t really attack me. Yes, loading the car myself wasn’t fun in the summer heat, but I just roll on to Richard Kilpatrick’s place, where the car will get some love, attention and a dose of being back on the road. He jumps in and has a quick spin (‘I love it,’ he exclaims, as I say how much it suits him – he lives on a farm) and, while I clean up in his place, he’s already jump-started the Renault, and playing with the full-length roof.
On again, and it’s time to return James’ Defender – and now it’s unladen I’m cracking on a bit. And yes, it really does fly along very nicely indeed. On the motorway – at no more than 60mph, of course – it’s planted, assured and those dangerous thoughts, born through suffering from Compulsive Heap Purchasing Disorder (CHPD) start to kick in. ‘I should get a Defender,’ I tell myself. ‘I need a Defender,’ I countermand internally. ‘My life would be empty without a Defender,’ I finally conclude, as I park it up outside James Agger’s place.
But then, just as I definitely decide one of these could be my next AROnlinemobile, I climb into my Citroen C6, snick the lever into ‘D’ and waft on towards home. ‘What Defender,’ I ask myself…
[Editor’s Note: My thanks to James Agger, Digby Allen and Susan Hayward for putting up with my condition.]