11 May 2023
This last motoring year hasn’t always been straightforward for Alisdair, but one thing is certain: the cars are as much fun as ever.
"That has never run so well,” I’ve said no end of times in recent months, of my Series I. Pride comes before a fall, I know, so should know better than to assume all stays well. There is always more to learn with a Land Rover – or there is for me.
When I was finally allowed to legally use my Land Rover this year, I did so, and from April the Range Rover as well. The Series has had the most use – it’s just such an engaging thing to drive and a 20 minute pedal around local lanes scratches the Land Rover itch like nothing else. The Range Rover has been used sparingly, partly because of the cost of fuel, yet
both cars have been doing everyday stuff – plenty of school runs, shopping, and odd runs here and there for the sheer joy of driving.
It was on one such drive late one summer evening, when my 88in decided to play up. I’d driven ten miles or so, roof off, in the last rays of the sun. Swinging off into a village I noticed the red ignition warning light glowing knowingly at me. No need to panic, I’ve learnt, just stop, think and work the problem. Probably just the fan belt.
It wasn’t the fan belt. A check for any loose leads, a hot dynamo, or generally anything amiss that may pinpoint the cause didn’t suggest anything obvious, either. All looked too healthy. With a fan belt, at least the engine would pump coolant and there should be enough power in the battery to get us home, certainly as long as we didn’t need headlights.
Back home I carefully tootled – successfully. The next day I went to get the dynamo off. Before I did so, I thought I’d just feel the dynamo, so carefully wiggled the pulley left and right. The bearings felt fine, but suddenly the armature locked solid, and couldn’t be persuaded to move a millimetre (or should that be a 16th of an inch?). So off the dynamo came, and onto the bench it went for a strip down. As I did so, out fell two small metal bars, and the crumbled remains of two brushes. As I removed the end plate and withdrew the armature, all became clear: I’d been a very lucky boy.
Those two bars were from the commutator: the ring of electrical connectors that the brushes pass over. In a dynamo they generate current as the armature spins, but in a motor, current passes to them and the armature is made to rotate. Anyway, two of the commutator bars had decided 65 years was enough, so had come loose and flown off, causing my red light.
The next day when I rotated the pulley, one of the bars then jammed in the gap between the commutator and case, preventing any rotation. Had that happened on the move, the locked up dynamo would have taken out the fan belt, and god knows what else. Only I could have the good fortune for this to happen when I was at home, car in the garage and with all my tools at hand.
I sourced a rebuilt dynamo, dated 1954, and managed to fit it in 15 minutes. All was instantly well again, and has been since.
Letters through your door...
Alisdair’s SI makes a virtual appearance
Earlier this year you may recall my saga with the DVLA, where they technically wrote off my Series I – except the car hadn’t been anywhere to be written off. I’ll never know for certain, but it most likely occurred because of an administration error at Swansea, or at one of their authorised breakers when scrapping a car and typing a reference number incorrectly. Either way, it became a headache that took me over three months to sort, eventually with the help of some industry intervention. If you didn’t catch it, it is worth getting the 2022 issues of LRM to appreciate the scale of the task.
Amongst the people I wrote to was my local Member of Parliament, who you may recall swiftly wrote back. I had good news for him: I had, in the interim recently resolved the issue. Seemingly, he wasn’t happy I’d had the issue, so continued to highlight the matter here, there and everywhere. Weeks went by. I was using the car, thinking the matter was behind me, but letters from the Houses of Parliament almost flowed through my door. I shouldn’t complain, but they took on the manner of an annoying credit card junk mail. “Not another one,” my other half would hear me cry.
I will point out that eventually my correspondences included a letter from Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, and responsible for the DVLA.
Birthdays and plans for 2023
2023 is when the Range Rover will get some loving
The Series I celebrated its 65th birthday in August, which is quite an age to comprehend. The Range Rover is now 27. Where did those years go? A genuine Classic in name and age now, this year has taught me it is time to give the old thing some attention again. It has been restored, or more accurately, comprehensively sorted, for almost a decade now, but was sort of laid up during the lockdowns. I need another go around it again now. It passes MoTs fine, but I’d like to refurbish both axle cases, sort a few little jobs, and generally get the car back on absolute top form.
The reality is, when I first went over the car, very few people were restoring Range Rovers, or even giving them serious attention. Not so now, where the intervening decade has seen the standard of work on the cars get ever-higher, along with price tags.
That looks like what my 2023 will be spent on. After all, I’ve put so much effort into the Series I that it has never run so well. I shouldn’t have said that, should I?