Homeward bound


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Tom's Freelander off to (another) good home : credit: © Tom Barnard
Tom’s Freelander 1 is going back to Chesterfield

I spend most of my waking hours browsing classified adverts and auction listings looking for Land Rovers, which inevitably means I find myself accidentally owning another car. It’s not quite so often that I accidentally sell one though.

But this month I have waved a car goodbye. But only because I knew it would be going to a good home, with someone who deserved to own it. They are, almost predictably, an LRM reader.

But first, a recap. My 2002 Freelander had previously been owned by the neighbour of a friend. It had been bought as an ex-demonstrator from the Land Rover dealer in Chesterfield when it was six months old and then kept for 21 years, only covering 24,000 miles in his ownership.

When the owner Alan sadly died, the Freelander found its way to me. I set off on the 180 mile journey home to Hertfordshire and was amazed at the way it drove – there were no squeaks or rattles and it was more comfortable than most of the modern cars I’ve driven recently.

But there were niggles which needed sorting, as with most older used cars. This is my favourite part of buying a Land Rover – going though and fixing little bite-sized jobs having done research to find the parts and instructions.

Tail lamps had to be sorted before the Freelander went in for an MoT

The first task was the radio/cassette. The original head unit needed a security code, so I’d been scouring the internet trying to find someone who could crack through the defences. There were plenty of traders offering to find the numbers for Blaupunkt, Visteon and Becker radios, but they all shied away from the challenge of the VDO made unit in my car.

In the end I asked for advice on the Facebook Freelander group and someone who worked at a Land Rover dealer offered to check the database for me. I gingerly tried the number he gave and miraculously it worked! Thanks Nick Nicholson – the willingness of people to help fellow enthusiasts constantly astounds me.

The random kindness of strangers on the internet with knowledge came to the rescue when sorting the other big job which needed attention too – the rear window regulator. This wasn’t the tailgate glass which is the common problem with these Freelanders – that had been sorted a few years ago according to the invoices. My issue was with the offside rear window which fell down into the door whenever I went over a bump.

Suction pads attached to the inside of the glass kept it in place temporarily, but the permanent fix was neither taxing nor costly thanks to the wisdom of YouTube. It seems the plastic guide clips used to route the cables which lift the window tend to snap after a few years. Replacements are cheap but fiddly to fix, though the whole mechanism including a motor was £27 delivered. I watched a video posted by someone helpful showing me how to dissect the door and the job was done before my tea had got cold.

Metal contacts in the old bulb holder fell apart

The rear lights were somewhat more stressful. I’d already replaced the cracked originals with secondhand replacements from an eBay breaker, but the car was booked for an MoT and I did a final check in the morning before the lunchtime test. The tail lamp which had been fine the day before was now refusing to illuminate. No problem, I thought. It’s only two screws. The bulb looked fine though, so I tried to clean the contacts and the metal just disintegrated.

In a panic I tried to bodge up a soldered link to at least get it through the MoT, but no joy. I had no choice but to cancel the test and search for some parts. The breakers on eBay clearly know the value of the little looms that supply power to the rear lights, as the cheapest I could find was £35. I really wanted a pair, as a close inspection showed the other side was little better. Knowing my luck, it would probably fail on the way to the garage.

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A plea on the forums didn’t come up with anything either, so I decided to go for new parts. The LR Centre had complete reproduction units including the looms and bulb holders for £42 each delivered. Man maths meant I could sell the old (and recently replaced) lenses for about £30 on eBay, so I pressed the buy button and slid them in on the morning of the rebooked MoT. At last, there was light.

Nervous wait while the MoT is carried out

As expected the Freelander breezed through with just an advisory for surface corrosion in the front suspension arms – easily sorted with a wire brush and some Bilt Hamber when I got home.

I celebrated by taking it to a local classic car meet, where it was widely ignored. I understand – despite the shine and unusual blackness of the bumpers and trim, it could be any other old car at first glance. Only when people asked why I’d brought it and I explained its back story did they show any flicker of respect.

The weather gods seemed to like it though, as a rainbow appeared above the corner of the field it had been relegated to. A heavy rain shower which accompanied it meant some of the sports cars struggled to get out of the bumpy field too, while I breezed past smugly.

Richard Eyre, the  Freelander’s new and enthusiastic owner

That treasured MoT ticket meant the Freelander was ready for another year – but it won’t be with me. After the last Writers’ Rover update, we were contacted by reader Richard Eyre. He used to work in the Chesterfield dealership where the car was first sold, and was convinced YT52 GWP was his car for those first six months of its life. Richard signed off the email asking if I’d ever consider selling it.

Although I liked the Freelander, I know Richard will be able to give it a better life than I could, and he has more reason to love it, too. A deal was done, and Richard made the same journey I had done in reverse to collect it. GWP is now back in Chesterfield.

As expected, it behaved faultlessly on the return journey and Richard says he’s already planning a trip to the Outer Hebrides. It will be kept shiny and be pampered. I look forward to the day it gets proper respect at car shows.


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