Overrated barn finds

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When it comes to old Land Rover values, sometimes it's only the weeds that are going through the roof : credit: © Alisdair Cusick
Not all old Land Rovers are a gold mine, as Tom discovers...

Occasionally someone asks me how much their Land Rover is worth and they squeal with excitement when I tell them. This is usually when it’s a well-used Defender which has a boot full of dried pheasant guts and straw which I tell them would fetch more than they paid for it a decade ago.

This month I’ve been having the opposite effect and it’s resulted in some uncomfortable conversations.

The first was with a friend of my father. She and her late husband were keen caravanners and had a Discovery 2 Td5 and their plastic holiday home stashed away in a small barn on a nearby farm. She hadn’t used either since before the pandemic and I think she’d forgotten about them entirely until the farmer dropped heavy hints that he’d like them gone.

My dad volunteered me to help dispose of them, and I obliged out of curiosity. The farmer handed me the key and pointed me in the direction of the barn. Sitting covered in dust and pigeon poo was a 2004 Landmark, the ‘last of line’ special edition which has a really nice spec. Under the debris it was a smart dark blue and opening the door – with the key, as the 12-volt battery was dead – revealed seven seats clad in cream leather.

Tom's first barnfind wasn't the 'discovery' the owner had hoped it was  

As there was no power to the dash I couldn’t check the odometer, but I was assured it had been driven back into the barn straight after its last MoT four years ago. A quick check online showed it had been recorded at 68,382, with advisories for cracked tyres and a rattly exhaust.

There is something that clicks in an enthusiast’s head when they see a ‘barn find’ car like this, as it would be enormously satisfying to pump up the tyres, jet wash the exterior and attach a jump pack. It meant I knew I was going to make an offer.

As the owner was a friend of my dad’s I was scrupulous in showing my workings before coming to a number. The prices of D2s are all over the place at the moment, with dealers asking more than £10k for cars with the right spec and below 100,000 miles. Whether they actually get these prices is unclear, so I printed out a few examples of adverts and eBay listings of similar Discos with 80-90,000 miles which were around £8000 in private sales.

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From this figure I deducted £700 for some new tyres all-round, £450 for a decent service and MoT, £150 for recovery and £100 for a new battery. Then I reckoned there needed to be a fair chunk for the hassle factor and a buffer for the risk when you’re buying a car like this, especially as I hadn’t heard the engine running or been able to get too far underneath it. So I offered £5000 and honestly thought she would thank me.

Instead, she acted as though I had just tried to sell her daughter into the circus. She too had been doing research, she said, and knew the car was worth £12,000. She thought she might have to drop below £10,000 for a quick sale but to be offered £5000 was “a real kick in the teeth.”

If she’d have been a stranger I’d just have walked away laughing, but to make it less awkward for my dad I offered to help her try to sell it if that’s what she wanted, and suggested a few dealers and auction houses who might be able to help. I also made sure I sent her a photo of the car as it currently looked, as I thought she might have a romantic memory of how it looked four years ago when it was parked there rather than the dust encrusted reality which will face her now. I’ve heard nothing, so imagine it is still there and the farmer is still moaning.

A Series I barnfind in somewhat better order than the one Tom stumbled on

While I was still bruised from this experience, I had another request for help from a friend of a friend who has just bought some land locally. In among a tangle of brambles, corrugated iron and the remains of a farm trailer there was a Series I. Now, this could be the stuff of dreams, but it looked to be a fairly late 86in and I wasn’t sure at first if it was a complete car or just a pile of carefully placed parts.

The bulkhead and most of the chassis had simply dissolved. A quick check of the registration online showed it wasn’t on the DVLA register.

I pointed to a similar – and perhaps slightly less collapsed – 80in which sold at Anglia Auctions in the summer for £1700, and suggested he might be able to get £800 to £1000 for his. Like the Discovery owner he scoffed, saying the registration number was worth that alone. “And you know people who will get this running in no time, then it’s a 20-grand car.”

I left him to contemplate his disappointment and said I looked forward to having a ride in it when he was finished. I really hope he’ll take up the challenge, but I’m not holding my breath.