14 August 2023
It seems that the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London is really starting to bite and owners are being forced into selling cars which have been cherished for the past two decades.
When most people have a spare moment they will reach for their phone and play Kandy Birds or some other time-wasting game. I look at the auction websites and peer at old Land Rovers. Recently the BCA ‘Budget’ sales have been awash with so much interesting fodder that I’ve struggled to keep up.
It seems that the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London is really starting to bite and owners are being forced into selling cars which have been cherished for the past two decades. They’ve traded them in for something compliant and the dealers have been off-loading transporter loads of 1990s and 2000s cars into the auction halls surrounding London.
To make the scanning of sale sites more manageable, I’ve narrowed down the search to P38s and Discovery IIs, as these are the cars I think are often undervalued and offer a good chance to make a profit. One dealer told me he had bought a late 4.6 Vogue for scrap value – £600 – from a customer who’d “had enough of the bills”. The trader gave it a valet and a few hours’ labour and sold it for £5000 at a specialist auction. That’s my kind of profit margin.
One particular P38 on the BCA site caught my attention as it looked lovely. A 1999 4.6 HSE in Rioja Red, it had been in the custody of one owner for the past 17 years and showed just under 76,000 miles. An Institute of Advanced Motorists badge bolted to the grille and nearly new Pirellis all-round also suggested it had been looked after by the sort of driver you’d want to buy a car from.
I hoped that some dealers would be put off by the ABS light shining brightly in all the interior pictures. While seemingly pointing to big bills, anyone who has ever owned a P38 or Classic Range Rover will know the annual ritual of explaining this foible to MoT testers – it goes off when the wheels have rotated once and the system has run its checks.
However, my interest plummeted when the mechanical report was published. BCA’s little warning triangles told of a smoky exhaust, rough running and oil in the coolant. It eventually sold for £980, presumably to someone who has a quiet workshop and a spare 4.6 on the shelf.
Another P38 has long been one of my targets, although I’ve seen this one at least once a week in the real world and not online. If I’m feeling energetic, the dog gets walked a little further than usual and we end up on the edge of a farm which has an interesting pairing of cars. One is a 1998 Range Rover 4.0, in what I think is one of the nicest colours to grace any car – Woodcote Green.
The other day I gave the owner a nod as I walked past and asked him if he was looking after ‘my’ car, as he has promised me first refusal if he sells. “I hardly use it these days,” he said. “I can’t find anywhere to get LPG.”
I’ve never been keen on LPG in Land Rovers as I’m an originality pedant, but I’d probably change my mind if I knew it worked properly and had to pay the fuel bills on a car which does 16mpg.
The fact that this P38 could run on gas meant the owner could afford to use it as his everyday car. But since Shell quietly removed the LPG tanks at all of its stations, he has to go miles out of his way to fill up. As a result he’s been forced to use petrol, so now only uses the Range Rover when he really has to. He’s recently bought another ‘alternative fuel’ car – an electric Nissan Leaf – for everyday duties, and jokingly says it might offset his years of V8 ownership.
This slow demise of LPG availability means it’s no longer a feature buyers will look for in a used car and it adds little, if anything, to the value it seems. Russ Knight from Gloucester Land Rovers is an LPG fan, saying it has let him run supercharged Range Rover Sports for the same fuel cost as a diesel. But he says he hasn’t been asked to install a system in years. “We used to see LPG all the time for fitting and servicing, but it just doesn’t happen anymore. I think this is partly because the TD and SDV6 and V8s are leagues ahead of the old Tdis and BMW diesels in terms of performance and refinement, meaning you can have diesel economy without it feeling like a punishment.”
Buyers of older collectable cars like the P38, with an LPG install which is now a decade or more old, may be actively put off by systems they might see as potentially problematic, especially if they involve an ugly tank bolted in the boot.
Despite the lower emissions offered by burning LPG, there are no concessions for drivers in London or the other new low-emission zones popping up around the country. If you do live near one of the remaining LPG pumps and don’t need to venture into a big city, there could be some bargains out there. Delete the gaming apps and look out for them.
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