Checking out the competition


08 June 2024
A Series III tempts Tom : credit: © JLR
Tom steps away from his keyboard and into a real-life auction hall

Although I can’t argue with the convenience of watching auctions on the internet, I love going to an actual physical sale to prod and poke the metal. It’s especially true of the big classic events, which are a good day out even if you aren’t looking to buy. They are like a car show where you know you could drive home in anything on display. You also don’t get wet if it rains.

The last one I attended was a Letchworth Motor Auctions sale, which the wife allowed me to attend on the condition I didn’t buy anything. I was allowed a pass out because I said I was just going to report for this column, but she warned she could log in to my online account and watch the auction live to keep an eye on me.

With this in mind I was pleased there were only a couple of Land Rovers in the sale to tempt me, but what interested me most was the spectrum of Land Rover-like substitutes on offer. I’ve never really paid much attention to any 4x4s without the green and gold badge, so was therefore curious to see what the alternatives went for and how their prices compared to the Solihull-built equivalents.

In the auction hall, all of the 4x4s were parked up in a line against the back wall. There was a Forward Control 101 towering over a 1965 Austin Gipsy, next to an ex-military 1987 G-Wagen and 1998 Jeep Wrangler. The final bookend was the other Land Rover – a 1983 Series III 88in.

A good, honest Series III is always an exciting prospect

This SIII was the first under the hammer. I’d had a good poke around and had rather fallen in love with it, especially as the SIII is the only Series model I need to tick off my ‘owned one’ list.

According to the description it had been taken off the road in 2002 following a fuel leak and it was covered in a layer of dust which proved it had been kept under cover. All the important bits were there and in good nick. I could believe the 46,741 miles showing on the odometer, too.

I had thoughts that I could strip out its LPG system and sell it to fund the repairs to get it running, and then keep the lovely patina rather than go silly with a full restoration. So I set myself a £1500 limit thinking I could justify that to the wife.

It eventually sold for just above the upper estimate at £2550, which to me seemed like a good result for both the buyer and seller. It also meant I didn’t have to explain the purchase to Mrs B.

Next up was the Gipsy. I’ve never really paid any attention to them but did a bit of Googling and it’s not just the rip-off of the Series II that I thought it might be. It’d certainly be a mischievous thing to bring to a Land Rover show, and the £9000 hammer price was at least £6000 less than an equivalent IIA.

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Would the Forward Control shift?

The Forward Control was estimated at £12,000-£14,000 which seemed a lot to me – and the other buyers as it turned out. The ex-army ambulance was nicely original but the market for a left-hand drive truck which only just manages double-figure mpg is limited. Bidding stalled at £6100 and it will be cluttering up the auction hall until the next sale.

It will be joined by the Mercedes. I was momentarily distracted by a bacon sandwich purchase so didn’t see what the ex-Singapore army G240 was bid up to, but it wasn’t enough and below the £10,000 lower estimate. Without any doors or windscreen it looked like a broken child’s toy, but had been loved and had very few kms on the clock. How much would the equivalent Defender be?

Finally, there was the Wrangler. It was a well-used 2.5 petrol with 122,000 miles showing and some signs of wear, but it had a decent history and was a classy shade of green with a tan interior. The oversize wheels might not be to everyone’s taste, but a soft top suggested it might be a lot of fun when the sun is shining. The hammer fell at £6800 which would only buy the rattiest of Defenders these days.

I got into a conversation with a dealer who seemed to be hoovering up most of the interesting lots on the day about the disparity in price between the Land Rovers and the others. Between slurps of tea and raises of an eyebrow to bid another £100 on various lots, he said: “The Jeep is probably just as good off-road and more fun on it. But it’s not something the Queen would have driven. You can buy class, but it costs.” I guess that’s why we all pay more for the genuine article.


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