1998 DEFENDER 90
2020 DEFENDER 90

This reminds me of the excessive hype around the launch of the Evoque. Sitting in the pub with a bunch of mates some time in 2011ish, it’d long been a great source of mirth that one of my friends had ordered one of the very first Evoques, and it’s build date was constantly being delayed. To wind him up, the inevitable ‘enjoying your new Evoque?’ question came up…

He responded with “at least they’ve given me a window now..”

To which the inevitable response “What? Are they sending them out in kit form now? “

We got us a great big convoy…

Ahh, those heady days when you could just drive, with no prospect of unsolicited communication with the outside world. Yes kids, believe it or not, before the late 80’s there were no such things as ‘mobile phones’, in car (unless your were James Bond or Noel Edmunds) or not.

Apart from for a fleeting moment in 1980/81….

I often see Defenders through my hands fitted with a ‘CB radio’. Usually very badly fitted. I believe off-roaders tend to use them when greenlaning in a convoy, to be responsible 4×4’ers and warn following drivers of obstacles they’ve just driven over.

Except whenever my friends and I have been off-roading, the dialogue rapidly descends into abuse and general messing about…

Fair enough, but I also see a few with CB’s that have clearly never been off tarmac in their lives. I suspect the owners think having a CB radio is ‘cool’.

Except it’s not.

Except from that fleeting moment in 80/81, when it (sort of) was.

Unlike today, when many under-25’s don’t drive, through choice or economic necessity, buying and running a car, and passing a driving test, at the turn of the 80’s, was far more straightforward, and almost all of us had cars. And, almost without exception, we all procured an in-car CB radio, which were then illegal in the UK.

It must have been the proscription that gave it an edge, because when they were legalised in November 1981, the fad for them disappeared overnight (and in our group the continued possession, never mind use of, one thereafter was to lay oneself open to ridicule).

I bought mine from some dodgy bloke in a pub. Allegedly it was a ‘good’ one although I never really understood the features. DX’ing, anyone? Anyway I, probably none to carefully, installed it in my Triumph Vitesse (of which more later) with a huge aerial on the rear deck, and promptly started ‘talking’, using, as seemed de rigeur, a daft American patois as popularised by the song referenced in the title. And we all had these ridiculous ‘handles’ as well.

However it must have been enormous fun at the time, as I spent a night in the cells, having been spotted with an ‘illegal communications device) – the big aerial gave it way – and for refusing to explain where I’d got it from. I think it might have even been impounded.

And then, in a flash, the craze ended. Whenever I see a CB radio in a Defender now, I leave it well alone.

Defender TD5 rusty chassis cont’d

Work on fitting the new galvanised chassis to the 1999 90 TD5 continues apace.

Old chassis fully stripped
Fully refurbished axles now fitted, and engine/gearbox mounted
It’s having all new bushes, brakes, shock absorbers etc. Keeping the original springs as they’re in good shape. Another list of new parts to go in tomorrow

Your first E…

Is the one you always remember. Mine was when I was six and I still get vivid flashbacks every so often

you’re an early starter

Eh? Ah I see. You think I’m talking about…never mind. No, I’m talking about E-type jaguars.

Ah. Right. Go on.

I shall. My dad had a friend, James, who, as I understand it, was a professional gambler. Sometime in 1968 they went to the races together – legend has it that james won a high four figure-sum on a horse.

Flushed with success, and probably a tad the worse for wear, they sauntered into a Jaguar showroom on the way home – probably Henlys. There sat a brand-new E-type Series 2 roadster (I say Series 2 but I suppose it could have been a Series 1 and a 1/2) at six, I didn’t really know, or care about, the difference.

I do remember it was Indigo Blue, and it would have had wire wheels.

Anyhow, James bought it there and then, and paid for it in cash. Probably just under £2000 I’d think.

I was car-mad even then, so, next time James came to visit, he took me out for a spin in it. The roof was down (as it should be when driving any convertible unless it’s raining hard or snowing) and I vividly recall him gunning it on the road to Henley. The noise and the speed were sensational to a six year old boy who’s previous experience of riding in cars had been the usual stodge of family saloons like Viva HA’s, Triumph Heralds etc.

So began a love of what we now regard as classics, (especially classic Jaguars) which shows no signs of abating. Since then I’ve had a few E-types through my hands, always Fixed-head Coupes, including a very early flat-floor model in Sherwood Green that I could barely drive as the footwell was so shallow!

Early motoring years contd

It’s 1981 – While the Bug was finding a new home, I was busy coveting my next door neighbour’s mk3 Mini. BPC 576H was black, fitted with an MG1100 engine with twin SU’s, Cooper front discs, revolution wheels with flared arches, bucket seats, and a myriad of extra dials in one of those ‘custom’ dashes. Sounds good, right? Apart from the badly-painted flames down the side that is, and the furry dice.

They were the first things to go. Both of them.

Next up was the fitting of a fibreglass flip front. No idea why now, but at the time I’m sure it was a great idea.

As always with Mini’s, it felt faster than it really was. I recently had a lovely mark 3 Cooper S in stock, and it reminded me just how much fun they are, and 50mph feels like 100 in a normal car. Also, nearly 40 years on, I looked at the rear accommodation in the S and wondered how exactly I succeeded in having carnal relations therein. And with a woman! A combination of needs must and the enthusiasm and suppleness of youth I suppose…

Anyway it was the first of what we today regard as the ‘classic’ Mini – a few followed over the years including a white clubman with 1380 engine, roll cage etc, and a Mark 1 850 automatic that was ideal for scooting around London in the mid 90’s.

Not sure what happened to the old girl, but it no longer seems to exist.

Defender 90 TD5 rusty chassis

Sometimes even a supposedly experienced dealer like us can get caught with a lemon. A couple of months ago we were offered a 1999 90 TD5 from a previously well-trusted source. It was described to us as smart, with a new interior, running well, and having recently had a new rear crossmember with extensions, and with a ‘good chassis’ otherwise. As we’ve previously had good experiences with this trader, we agreed to buy it sight unseen.

On arrival, yes it was fairly smart and had a complete new interior – it was obvious that quite a lot of money had been spent on it fairly recently. However looking at the OSF outrigger, I could see that it had been badly patched. An easy job to cut it off and replace it properly with a brand new one. Or so you’d think.

My workshop called me a couple of days later with the dreaded ‘you’d better come and have a look at this’…

They found, when they removed the old outrigger, that there wasn’t any useable metal behind it on the main rails to weld onto – it had been (well) disguised with filler and tin cans. Further examination revealed both front dumb irons to be totally shot, front crossmember gone, and rust everywhere on the chassis forward of the rear crossmember extensions.

The only sensible solution for this one is a new galvanised chassis, which is currently underway.

You can see the state of it here

Early motoring years

By this I don’t mean when a man used to walk in front of a moving car with a flag – I’m not that old. I’m going from when I passed my test in 1980 up until around 1986 when I entered the motor trade, and gained enjoyable (and sometimes not so enjoyable – Ford Escort Mk3 1.3L Estate in oh so vibrant Beige, Austin Montego 1.6L saloon, Rover 214 hatch – I’m looking at the 3 of you) use of company cars.

My first ever car was….(I know not why) a…Bond Bug.

Yes I know, but it was enormous fun. I paid £380 for it out of the ‘Thames Valley Trader’ when it was just a local rag. I worked there for a while in the early 80’s, but that’s for another day. Twice as an exuberant 18 year old I had it on two wheels; (with the near side front bodywork scraping the ground) once in a car park, and once turning right onto a side road. Annoyingly I found that, at MOT time, the chassis had been repaired with tin cans and filler, which was a rude awakening to the perils of old cars and possibly a portent.

A local welder said he could repair the chassis for £30. I doubt it was repaired to last, but it did at least scrape through an MOT. I seem to recall I fell out of love with it pretty soon after (I’d just started working in a notoriously hard pub on the other side of town, and turning up for work in an orange, wedge shaped tricycle wasn’t really cutting it with the clientele) so sold it for £650. I guess there began my life dealing in cars – KVO 988K however seems to still exist as far as the DVLA are concerned….

It was time to move on to…..