06 December 2023
Tom bags himself a bargain base-spec Freelander 1
I spend all my time looking at adverts for Land Rovers and helping friends buy or sell them, but it’s only something really special which will make me crack open the piggy bank and risk the wrath of Mrs B with another purchase.
Such a car presented itself to me recently from an unusual online source – Twitter. Browsing through the usual depressing items of news and people ranting was a post from a chap I follow called John Bradbury, who is a whizz with Apple computers and supplied the machine I’m currently typing into.
With one owner and 28,000 miles, barely anything needs doing to the Freelander
His post asked if anyone would be interested in buying a 2002 Freelander Td4 which had been owned by his neighbour Alan since it was six-months old, having been a demo car at Gordon Lamb Land Rover in Chesterfield. Alan had kept it in his car port and rarely used it. He had now sadly died and his family were wanting to move it on.
Any car which has been owned by one person for more than 20 years is rare enough, but what really made me do a double-take was the mileage – just 28,000, backed up by meticulous receipts. The family were looking for £1250.
I was beaten to ‘first dibs’ by a well-known figure in classic car circles but his wife wasn’t quite as convinced as Mrs Barnard, perhaps because he has an unfortunate habit of buying old Protons. I was second in line and the car was mine.
I booked one-way tickets to Chesterfield for me and my son George and we set off to collect it. East Midlands Railway did its best to keep us away by delaying us for two hours, but eventually we arrived and saw the car for the first time. It was everything I’d expected.
There is the odd polishable scratch and Alan had applied some personal touches in the form of stickers and decals, but otherwise it looked like a two- or three-year old car. The paint shines, the bumpers and window rubbers are black, and the interior looks like it has never been sat in. Even the alarm key fobs haven’t disintegrated.
Alan’s daughter Fay had kindly put the battery on charge and the Freelander sprung to life, ready for the 180-mile drive home – the furthest the car had been driven in many years.
Silent stereo until a code is acquired
The first job was to top up with diesel and check the levels, so the tank was brimmed at a garage around the corner and sticks dipped. The coolant was pink, and all the other levels were fine. I’ll change the oil though, for while an inspection of the receipts showed it was done less than 800 miles ago, that was in 2018…
George and I got a good chance to listen out for nasty noises on the journey home too as the original radio cassette needs a security code, presumably prompted by the flat battery. Poor Fay had looked everywhere for the number but hadn’t been able to find it, so we pored through the papers and books looking for likely sets of four digits, but to no avail.
There are various online sites and businesses that offer to source a radio code for just a few quid, but I need to slide out the unit to find the serial number. If I’m doing that it’s tempting to just slide a more modern unit back in and keep the old radio somewhere safe. After all, my cassette collection isn’t quite as extensive as it used to be back in the day.
New lenses from eBay
That cassette player is also an indication of this Freelander’s lowly ‘S’ status – it is the real base model of the range. That means there is no air conditioning or sunroofs, a plastic steering wheel and plenty of blanking plates where posher models would have switches.
The lowly spec also means it has tiny 15-inch wheels and squishy 80-profile tyres which give a fabulously smooth ride over the potholes around where I live. Alan fitted a set of Avon M+S tyres which I’m sure will be great in winter, but create a slight hum on smooth tarmac.
Once home I chuckled to see that the fuel gauge had moved from the ‘more than full’ position to merely ‘full’. As someone used to 20mpg from my 2.5-litre petrol Ninety, this is a welcome change.
There is a small list of jobs to keep me busy. First is a pair of new tail lights in the rear bumper, as both had been cracked and cunningly repaired using bits of light from another car and bathroom sealant. Alan presumably didn’t want to pay main dealer prices, but I found a good used pair on eBay for £35. Fitting them was a genuine three-minute job.
Window slip is on the list of repairs
The next task is to change the regulator for the offside rear window. It’s a little juddery and can leave a gap at the top if not helped along a with a hand palm on the glass. Looking online it seems to be a common fault and a new mechanism including the motor is just £28 delivered. The box is staring at me now, so I’d better go and tackle it.
After that, I’m not sure what to do with YT52 GWP. It’s a bit too good to use as a dog walking car and winter hack as intended, so I was tempted to move it on to a better home where it will be preserved. It seems to me this car is at a tipping point in its life and will either go on to be used as a ‘normal’ car and naturally decline, or will be preserved and win prizes at Land Rover shows in another 20 years.
I have already had a couple of offers to buy the car. But it’s worming its way into my affections as it’s just so nice to drive on rural roads, useful and economical. I can see why Alan kept it so long – maybe I should too.
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