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THE REAL GRAND TOUR

THE REAL GRAND TOUR

by David Lillywhite, 30th August 2017

Is it still possible to buy a roadworthy Land Rover for £1000? And if you do, what will you end up with? Four of the LRM team put up their own cash to find out


Late summer. The sun was shining, greenlanes were beckoning, and when the question “who wants to buy a £1000 Land Rover?” was asked, four hands shot up. We’d all buy ‘Grand Rovers’ and go on an adventure. It would be great! And in an ever-more expensive world, it would prove whether or not it’s possible to buy an iconic vehicle in usable condition for less than some people pay for a TV.

But time went on. Weeks, then months, slipped by without money changing hands. We were busy. Work, families and other vehicles distracted us. So we set a winter deadline: we would be meeting in our £1000 Land Rovers at Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey, before heading to Snowdonia for a day of tough greenlaning, then on to the factory at Solihull via a rolling road, where our vehicles would be tested for power output and emissions. 



Fast-forward some more, to a week before the deadline. From Ireland came the news that LRM technical consultant Trevor Cuthbert had bought a Discovery 2. Back in the office, Patrick was looking for a Freelander that had managed to retain four-wheel drive, deputy advertising manager Steve Miller was searching for a Tdi Disco 1 with the caveat that all it had to do was complete the ‘Grand Challenge’ tasks, and then if worst came to worst he could use the engine in his next Ninety project, and I’d set my heart on a P38 Range Rover, having given up on the deluded idea that a Series III or early One-Ten might turn up for less than four figures. In case you’re wondering who the hell I am, I’ve had the grand title of editorial director of Land Rover Monthly for a couple of years, but spend most of my time editing magazine stablemate Octane. Anyway, back to business – or not... By this point, Patrick, Steve and I were beginning to wonder what we’d done.



Roadworthy £1000 Land Rovers do come up, but sod’s law says they’re 400 miles from your house and viewable only when the moon is in the seventh wave (or a magazine team is on deadline). Steve was next. He found a Disco 1 that had been used almost solely for off-roading in recent years, and came complete with copious mud as proof. His hope was that beneath that mud would be a sound chassis. Patrick had found a likely-sounding Freelander near Nottingham and had arranged to see it on the way home from the mag’s winter cover shoot in the Lake District. Unfortunately, a pothole caused a road closure on the M6 and someone else snapped it up. This was followed by even more heartache for him in north London where, after his offer for another Freelander was accepted subject to an MoT, the owner sold it to someone else. This was after Patrick had insured the Freelander and made arrangements to collect it. Some people have no shame. My best bet seemed to be a P38 at Anglia Car Auctions. Lacking time, I used their ‘talk-round’ service, quizzing one of the on-site experts to describe any obvious faults over the phone. It sounded good, so I put in a proxy bid of £1000 only to be told that there was already a bid of £1500 on it. Ah well. Then LRM contributor (and Octane deputy editor) Mark Dixon sent an eBay link to a £1200 P38 4.6 HSE in Rhyl, North Wales. Too far? Not when you consider that we’d be travelling within three miles of it on the way to Anglesey. I called the owner, Simon, who seemed to know and like P38s, took a deep breath and offered £1000. Simon accepted. Sure it’s cheating, bypassing the first part of the drive, but sometimes you have to do these things... So, just Patrick to go.

Over the weekend, word came via Facebook that he was heading to south London this time, to view another Freelander. Then a text: he’d arrived but the owner hadn’t. And there seemed to be a large dent in one door that hadn’t been mentioned in the Gumtree ad. Ah well. He texted later to confirm that he’d bought it. It’s mid-afternoon the day before the planned Anglesey liaison. Trevor has headed for the overnight ferry from Dublin to Liverpool. Patrick leaves the office in his (dented) Freelander to collect Stu Pickering, Shropshire GLASS representative and our handy greenlaning guide, and Steve and I head for Rhyl in his Disco to collect my P38, via the Midlands to pick up photographer Alisdair Cusick. What could possibly go wrong?

Not a lot, as it turns out. Steve’s Disco is a bit rough and ready, and the mud inside the headlights does little to help illuminate the rainy M6 as the sun goes down. It sits happily at 70 mph however despite Steve’s loud moans that it doesn’t like changing direction. By 7.00 pm we’re in Rhyl, and excitedly poking around the P38. It looks great in the dark! And it sounds even better – turns out it has an aftermarket stainless steel exhaust, which lends an air of restrained menace to the soundtrack. It also has absolutely no fuel, so we head to the nearest service station, Range Rover fanatic Alisdair in the passenger seat, the now lonely Steve trailing behind. I max my card at £99, without actually fully filling the tank, then check the tyre pressures, which are way off – though not as way off as the Discovery’s, which it turns out Steve hadn’t checked. Hmmm!

Forty minutes later we’re in Bethesda for our overnight stop, full of excitement – me at how good the P38 feels, Steve at how much better the Disco behaves at speed now the tyres are at 28 and 36 front and rear respectively rather than 45 all round. Patrick and Craig are already there, and we jump in Steve’s Disco in search of food. Much merriment follows. Fast forward again to the morning, and the first proper viewing of the P38. It’s all right! The lacquer is poor in places, and the interior needs a good clean, but there are no fluid leaks and no smoke, so that’s the important boxes ticked. We head to Red Wharf Bay, which is beautiful. No Trevor? Ah, in the distance, on the other side of the bay, we spot flourescent stripes glinting in the weak sun – it’s Trevor’s ex-police Disco 2 to be sure! A quick call, and ten minutes later he joins us on the rapidly-disappearing sands.



Wow, does the tide come in quickly here! Alisdair sets up a shot on the sands, while we interrogate Trevor on his Disco 2. Surely it wasn’t £1000? “Well...” says Trevor, giving it the full Irish. “It was £750 with a full tank of diesel but the tyres were bad, so I put P38 wheels and tyres on, which cost £300.” So that’s over £1000? “No, because a tank of diesel is worth £100, so it was £950 in all...” Hmm, ok Trevor! Next up, Alisdair wants us to drive through an innocent-looking pool of seawater for photographic drama. P38 first, and as the water churns, the traction control and ABS warning lights illuminate, and the most almighty stench of stagnant water and worse rises from the pool, which has turned an oily black. The other three follow, and the stink increases. Time to make a sharp exit. We’re going to head for the greenlanes that Stu has set out for us. It’s a scenic route through Snowdonia to the outskirts of Betws-y-Coed, where we suddenly head off the A5 onto a forestry track, me in the P38 bringing up the rear, suddenly conscious of having far less off-road experience than the other guys. Will the P38 even select low range? Even more importantly, will it leave low range once it’s in? If they’ve not been used for a while, these ZF ’boxes can jam. The tracks are wonderful. Initially easy, through the forest, before the inclines increase, and then we pull up at a narrow gateway. Stu jumps out of the Freelander to proclaim, “we’re following in the tracks of the Romans!” He’s not wrong – this is the famous Sarn Helen track, leading onto Cefn-Glas, one of the routes the Romans used to travel across the country. Time for low range and high suspension setting in the P38 – it works – and a change in order, so that Trevor is leading, then me, then Patrick in the Freelander, and Steve at the back in the Disco 1.

Almost immediately we arrive at a really steep section, all slippery boulders and loose stone. Trevor attacks it with steady confidence, and I follow in the Range Rover, Alisdair at the top shouting encouragement. When I falter, he shouts “more gas!”, and sure enough the P38 surges forward to safety. Patrick, meanwhile, is in trouble. The Freelander is grounded on a rock, and it seems nothing is going to shift it. Patrick is our off-road guru, our all-round action hero, so it’s rather satisfying that it’s me and my Range Rover to come to his rescue with Trevor’s hefty tow-rope. The adventure continues through the sort of scenery that makes you wonder why we don’t do this every day. Utterly spectacular, and not a living soul other than sheep to be seen for miles (perhaps that’s a good enough reason not to do this every day).



Some of the tracks cut through acres of hardy gorse bushes, roughly the width of a Defender I’d guess, which leaves them scraping along the sides of our vehicles, especially the wide Range Rover. I curse every branch as it drags along the metallic paintwork; the other guys don’t seem to worry... More steep climbs, more deep water. More life-affirming scenery, some of which we spend slightly longer than expected in when the perished sidewall of my front nearside tyre splits on a sharp rock. It’s a relief to find that the original jack, tool kit and spare wheel are still intact, and we’re soon on our way again. Back to tarmac roads, and up onto the mountain roads for more photography – except we’ve headed too high, into the cloud base. Still it’s fun to shake off the mud and we head towards civilisation, for a cup of tea and slice of cake in a Betws-y-Coed cafe. We’re all buzzing! As the light drops, we head for our hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon in convoy, sticking to a steady 65 mph in deference to Steve’s noisy diesel. Beer and curry follows, and we’re joined for the evening by an envious Mark Dixon, who lives nearby. Next morning it’s breakfast then off to the Viezu Technologies rolling road. These guys are serious: not only do they run a busy rolling road and software upgrade system, they also run training courses for professional tuners.

They raise a collective amused eyebrow at our shabby vehicles but check them over, proclaim them fit to run, and strap each one in turn to the rollers. The P38 emits almost as much black smoke on full throttle as the diesel Discos – but at least it sounds better. There’s a shock for both Steve and me, when it’s revealed that both our vehicles are way down on power. The P38 is running so rich that the CO level is over 4 per cent. For an MoT pass it needs to be less than 1 per cent. It’s the Freelander that fares best, though the transmission is sounding noisy on the rollers. Humiliation-by-rollers over, we head for the Solihull factory, an hour or so away. We’ve arranged to meet Michael Bishop, from product management at Land Rover Classic for a casting vote on which £1000 machine was best value. He meets us at the Land Rover Experience centre, just as (by coincidence) the first Reborn restored Series 1 arrives on a trailer. Wow, it looks good. Trouble is, Michael is being too polite. He likes them all!

We push him. “Well I love Discos, I grew up with them,” he says, “but I think I’d opt for the Freelander or the P38. Probably the P38, they’re a classic.” I take the victory for the P38 and promise he can borrow it once I’ve sorted out the rich running. Time to head home. Farewell to Trevor and Alisdair. The journey back to Bedford is uneventful unless you count stopping for an exceptionally good chocolate brownie and cup of tea. We arrive back to the office just as everyone there is packing up and leaving. Not quite the hero’s welcome we feel we deserve. Our four vehicles have fared incredibly well. The two Discos were as supremely competent as you’d expect, Trevor’s the better of the two. But the P38 was a revelation, far more agile than expected, the air suspension getting it out of all sorts of trouble off-road, and the on road performance impeccable, but let down by the rich-running fuel consumption of (wait for it) 13 mpg according to the computer. Ouch. And the Freelander? The easiest to live with, in terms of size, fuel consumption, running cost and much else. The winner? Well it’s me typing, so I maintain that the P38 wins. What an absolutely huge amount of vehicle for £1000, and values seem to be heading back up. For now, we’ve proved that it’s possible to buy Land Rovers for £1000 – over the next few months you’ll see how we get on keeping them on the road in Writers’ Rovers. Watch this space

DAVID LILLYWHITE 

1995 RANGE ROVER P38 4.6 HSE



There’s a lot to go wrong with a P38, but a good one is really good – much better than a Range Rover Classic in terms of on and off-road driveability and comfort. This is an early one; a top-spec HSE with desirable later model 18 inch alloy wheels and the 4.6-litre petrol V8 (the 4.0-litre version is more durable but not as quick, and the 2.5 BMW diesel is more economical but lacking in torque). The Aspen Silver paint looks classy but the lacquer is flat on the bonnet and roof, and the offside rear wheelarch has surface rust, perhaps from previous damage, because rust is rare on a P38. What is typical, though, is the rust on the inside edge of the lower tailgate. This one drives exceptionally well both on and off-road. The V8 fires up quickly every time, idles well and pulls well – but maybe not quite as strongly as we’d expected because it’s running so rich! On the rolling road it made an estimated 159bhp at the flywheel, way down!. Thankfully there’s no sign of the cooling problems that these large-capacity V8s can suffer. The four-speed ZF automatic transmission is smooth and quiet, and engages low-range without problems. Perfect! The brakes are superb, and the air suspension works well, raising usefully for off-roading, dropping down for access and also lowering automatically above 50 mph, as intended. It rides well but is maybe more jittery on bumps than it should be. It’s had replacement air springs and Bilstein dampers at some point, which is a great bonus, and maybe the uprated shocks explain the ride. The interior is grubby but in good condition, except for warping of the dashboard screen vents, and peeling of the nasty stick-on veneer on the centre console. No surprise, the warning symbol for the air con screen is showing, which means the system is playing up – most likely the blend motors sticking. No wet footwell carpet though, which means the heater matrix seals are still good. Phew! Am I pleased with it? I love it
 
Engine: 4554cc OHV V8 petrol
Transmission: four-speed ZF auto, permanent 4WD
Power: 225 bhp @ 4750 rpm
Torque: 280 lb ft @ 3000 rpm
Top speed: 118 mph 0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
Consumption: 14 mpg
 
On the upside
No serious structural rust Looks and sounds great Drives really well on and off-road Stainless steel exhaust Overall good interior
 
On the downside
Rusty rear wheelarch and tailgate Horrible stick-on (and peeling) veneer V8 running very rich Worn, perished tyres Lacquer on bonnet and roof poor

STEVE MILLER

1997 DISCOVERY 1 300 TDi



For me the Discovery 1 has to be one of the best-value and most practical Land Rovers on the market today. There’s still a chance of finding a reasonable one for around a £1000 as long as you’re prepared to carry out the inevitable repairs required for its next MoT. Undoubtedly, any Discovery for this kind of money will either have been welded, will need further welding or is so rotten it’s beyond economical repair. I went in with my eyes (and mind) open. This particular one has been welded to a basic standard but will require further repairs if another MoT certificate is to be issued in the future. The engine runs fine and has covered in excess of 160,000 miles. I paid £850 for it and at this price many Discoverys are either rotten, off-road monsters, or else they have a blown engine. Some offered for sale have all of these attributes, so beware! I chose the Discovery 1 for the Grand Tour because of its great all round capabilities (and the fact that the only Series vehicles on offer for less than a £1000 came with a dustpan and brush to sweep it up). Sure, every time I looked at David Lillywhites’ P38 Range Rover, I did feel slightly envious – the sound of that V8 accelerating away from me got me every time. For the whole trip my Discovery, which was bought in the dark and without a test drive, returned over 30 mpg, even during greenlaning. One of the only drawbacks was that I found it a little slow. It was hard to keep up with the convoy; they were all quite a bit faster than me. I’m confident that with a few quid and some spanners, the sluggishness could be sorted. The rolling road session proved all was not well in the power department (89bhp!). I have no regrets with my purchase as I now have a very good donor vehicle and am ready to transfer the engine, gearbox and disc-braked back axle over to my latest acquisition – my early, naturally-aspirated Ninety. Anybody require parts for a Discovery 1?

Engine: 4554cc OHV V8 petrol
Transmission: four-speed ZF auto, permanent 4WD
Power: 225 bhp @ 4750 rpm
Torque: 280 lb ft @ 3000 rpm
Top speed: 118 mph 0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
Consumption: 14 mpg
 
On the upside
No serious structural rust Looks and sounds great Drives really well on and off-road Stainless steel exhaust Overall good interior
 
On the downside
Rusty rear wheelarch and tailgate Horrible stick-on (and peeling) veneer V8 running very rich Worn, perished tyres Lacquer on bonnet and roof poor

PATRICK CRUYWAGEN

2002 FREELANDER 1 TD4



At no point in my life did I think that I would become a Freelander owner. It started out as one of those things that you do in the name of journalism, buying and then driving a newly-acquired and sinfully cheap Freelander from Anglesey to Solihull. But if I had to use just one word to describe how it performed, then it would have to be respect. If I was allowed to use two words, then they would be massive respect. The greenlanes we drove in north Wales definitely required low range and good ground clearance, which the Freelander simply does not have. Yes, it was the first Land Rover to be fitted with Hill Descent Control but in 2002 the Freelander’s system was not as refined as the versions found on modern Land Rovers. On the long, steep descents I did have to apply some serious braking to make up for the lack of a low box and decent HDC. That minor detail aside, the Freelander went where the other Grand Tour participants did. Unlike the mighty P38, which is like a big tank, I had to make sure that I placed my tyres on the highest possible points to save the undercarriage from a rock scraping. How it got over some of the obstacles I still don’t know. Just before we finished off our Grand Tour at Solihull we stopped off at Viezu Technologies in Bidford for a rolling road test. Once again the Freelander boxed above its weight and it came the closest to reaching the factory performance figures. The official figures have power as 110 bhp at 4000 rpm while torque is 192 lb ft at 1750 rpm. I was able to achieve 110 bhp and 184 lb ft. Pretty impressive figures for a 15-year-old vehicle. It is only once you buy a Freelander that you notice just how many there are on the roads. I now know why.

Engine: Td4 1951cc diesel 
Transmission: five-speed manual, permanent 4WD 
Power: 110 bhp @ 4000 rpm 
Torque: 192 lb ft @ 1750 rpm 
Top speed: 99 mph 0-60 mph: 14.6 seconds 
Consumption: 27.7 mpg
 
On the upside... 
Engine performs well (close to factory figures) Relatively tidy interior Great resale value Long MoT
 
On the downside... 
Interior smells like a camel’s arse Needs new front seats Bushes need replacing Unhealthy gearbox Needs new tyres


TREVOR CUTHBERT

2002 DISCOVERY 2 Td5



While searching for a Land Rover that I could purchase for £1000 or less, I stumbled upon this Discovery 2 by chance. The owner telephoned me to enquire about getting a new chassis fitted. When I told him that there were none available, he said he would sell it. When the Disco 2 arrived at my place for me to consider, my first impressions were that the livery was too bright and in-your-face for me, but the fresh winch, winch bumper and genuine Safari snorkel were all huge plus points. I took it for a test drive and could immediately tell that the well-used truck had clearly been superbly maintained – the ride was smooth and precise, with bags of power coming from the remapped Td5 engine. I was immediately sold on the D2 and when the straight-talking owner cut straight to the chase with his £750 price, my hand shot out to shake his. The drive over to Wales did not counter my first impressions – the D2 was a very good one and behaved on the Tarmac. As soon as we ventured off-road I felt very confident in the truck and I had no fear that it would get stuck or let me down. The D2 was clearly the best of the group due to the power (120bhp on the rollers) and torque available, the excellent mud tyres that I had fitted, the recovery winch – and the tow ropes and shackles that I came prepared with. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the D2 and I had many thoughts about what I could do with it in the future, or how I could make good profit out of it. But as new Discovery 2 chassis are available again, I decided to the do right thing and tell the previous owner – and offer to let him have his truck back. He was very pleased and jumped at the chance, immediately paying me the original purchase price back. The Discovery 2 is now waiting in my yard for its turn in my schedule, to be fitted with brand new chassis.

Engine: Td4 1951cc diesel
Transmission: five-speed R380 manual, permanent 4WD
Power: 136 bhp @ 4200 rpm
Torque: 192 lb ft @ 1950 rpm Top speed: 98 mph 0-60 mph: 14.2 seconds Consumption: 30 mpg
 
On the upside...
Excellent torque Very comfortable, quiet and refined Traction control and mud tyres Great value for money Potential profitability Will last forever (with a new chassis)
 
On the downside...
Very short MOT Chassis extensively welded Central locking and electric window on front left door broken Needs a proper valet 

Pictures: Alisdair Cusick

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