A close call

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29 September 2023
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Tom spots a classic LSE (not this one) that piques his interest : credit: © Alisdair Cusick
Tom Barnard, LRM's market guru, goes classic Range Rover spotting...

Conventional wisdom suggests that summer means 4x4 sales are currently in the doldrums and everyone is browsing the classified ads for convertibles. And yet that doesn’t seem to be the case with Land Rovers.

Sure, there is certainly a spike in interest when the first snow falls and the BMWs all plop into ditches, but cars such as the Discovery and Defender are so useful as family cars that buyers seek them out before they go off on summer adventures too. Nothing else has such huge carrying capacity and will be certain to get out of a damp festival field or campsite.

The classics get a boost, too, when enthusiasts get envious of the shiny Land Rovers at shows and even a project seems an attractive idea when the garage is warmer and it’s less likely you’ll get frostbite from a spanner.

Someone snapped up just such a project this week from British Car Auctions. My usual search for Land Rovers over a certain age brought up the regular selection of tired Freelanders and L322s, but amongst them was a 1993 soft-dash Classic 4.2 LSE. The cars that end up in these sales are usually trade-ins from big dealer groups or have been thrown at We Buy Any Car in desperation, so it was a real rarity.

I’ve always fancied an LSE so did some investigation into this one, which looked smart enough and appeared to have worn its 178,000 miles well.

The MoT history told a different story, however. Among the various mechanical maladies and list of leaks was a report of corrosion which was unusually descriptive. It included the words: ‘Offside front floor excessively deteriorated – corroded through to carpet’. In fact, judging by the report there wasn’t much in the way of a floor left anywhere and the LSE’s posh rugs were all that was holding it together.

I put a derisory £500 bid on it mainly so I could see what the final sale price would be, but did have a moment of panic about actually winning the thing and having to sweep it into my garage. I needn’t have worried, as someone thought it was worth £7000. Prices of restored LSEs hover around £30,000 so that will give a reasonable amount of leeway, but there’s a lot of work ahead for the new owner.

A P38 in rioja red. Who could resist? 

It seems P38s don’t have nearly the same rust issues but are worth far, far less despite being very similar underneath to the LSE. And £7000 would buy you a very straight P38 – such is the bizarre world of classic Land Rovers.

I was chatting to a friend about the Range Rover when he suggested I come up and have a look at his latest P38 purchase.

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He’s a part-time trader who deals in low value but interesting cars which are between 20 and 30 years old. This makes them on the cusp of being classics in the eyes of some, while being nothing more than disposable scrap to others.

Over the years word has spread about that he’s the man to call to if you have a ‘certain type’ of car to sell and as a result his vehicles are always priced far cheaper than even the prices at auction, as both parties don’t have to pay the middle man.

On his area of hard-standing were eight Land Rovers, including an early R-reg Freelander which was diverted to his yard on its way to the crusher following a tip-off call from a canny scrappy.

His new acquisition – a Rioja Red P38 HSE was bizarrely offered to him by the owner of a local junk shop who had taken it in as part of a house clearance. Buying a Range Rover which has a recently expired MoT is risky, but he bid £1000 on the basis that the cherished plate was worth £500 and the scrap value was the same again.

The junk dealer bit his hand off and was good enough to save the folder of receipts, spare keys and other paperwork he found in the house. It proved that the 92,000 miles displayed on the LCD screen was genuine, and that the car was the previous owner’s pride and joy. A quick Google search threw up a death notice in the local paper for the man whose initials were on the number plates.

The car sailed through a new MoT and is now being used as a ‘special occasions car’, but will be for sale eventually. Rioja isn’t my favourite colour on Range Rovers and the 2.5DSE engine is underpowered, but I’m tempted to make him an offer. I don’t think £1000 will buy it this time, though.

 

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