Two Land Rover owning friends could not live more different lives.
This month has seen two interesting brushes with friends who own Land Rovers, but from completely opposite ends of the Landy spectrum. The first was an email from Darrin Johansen. Darrin is one of those guys who lives to travel. He pops back to Europe when money is tight and gets a job doing something clever with computers for a few months, earns enough to see him through six months of adventure, then hits the road again. His old 110 has rewarded him with good service for many years, but like Trigger’s broom, it has had numerous brushes and handles! What was remarkable about his latest snippet of news was that it came from Djibouti, on the extreme east coast of Africa. Darrin’s first access to the internet following two weeks in Somalia. Not usually a high spot on the tourist itinerary!
Darrin’s adventures have, for me, epitomised what African adventure in a Land Rover is all about. Start with a simple truck - no fancy electronics. Equip it with a few basic bits able to withstand the pounding they will inevitably get in Africa and set off. Starting with the more civilised chunks of Africa, where showers are still an option, but then having the confidence to venture further. Once you have learnt how to fix bits and realise that if the truck has a big problem, car mechanics do exist beyond our shores, there are really no limits to where you can venture.
Darrin’s 110. A testament to fitting the right kit thus keeping it simple. Seen here on the coast of Somalia and not a pirate in sight!
Darrin’s Land Rover has evolved into its current form based purely on his own experience gained in the field. It started life as a 110, 2.5 N/A diesel with a van body. After lumbering around on the old 2.5 engine for a while that engine was replaced by a far better 200 Tdi and an R380 gearbox. The rear springs were uprated to those used on the 130 Land Rover which have a smaller helper spring within the main coil. The rear axle, when finally worn out, was replaced by a disc braked Salisbury one and twin rear shock absorbers were fitted at the same time. All sensible options to cope with extra weight and rough terrain.
Up top is a Brownchurch roof rack (steel and easy to repair) and a good quality roof tent, but inside there is a bed for one in the back - ideal for crawling into for a quick sleep, or if the weather is too rough for the roof tent. The truck has a few concessions to off road equipment; a winch on the front bumper, a steering guard, high lift jack, waffle boards and a bag of ropes and strops. Darrin chose Michelin road tyres because they are strong with steel ply side walls and last 100,000km. Finally, in common with every other old Land Rover that spends lots of time in Africa, all the door locks are clasps and padlocks - the originals having broken years ago due to being filled with dust. With this set up, Darrin knows he can travel anywhere and should parts fail, they can either be repaired or replaced from his own small stock of spares without having to resort to some diagnostic machine.
Adventure is not just about living with your Land Rover. It is more about the sights and sensations of distant countries, like this Somalian money changer swapping US$ for local currency.
My second encounter was last week, when a mate of my sons turned up in a new Evoke. Geoff Thornton, or ‘The Champagne Baron’ as his pals call him runs a string of bars across the north of England - and they’re busy! Ferrari 360 ownership at the age of 26 set the pace, followed by a Range Rover Sport. Both have now gone in favour of the new Evoke, which he had picked up that morning and was keen to show off. He took me for a spin round the block and I was very impressed. There is far more room in the back than its appearance would suggest and the quality of finish is excellent. Being a top spec kind of guy, it had every extra available, all of which seemed to be switched on for our two mile run. The plan had been that four of them were going to head for The Alps for a weekends' skiing, giving the new Evoke a thorough testing. Sadly for them, Geoff’s dad, ‘Daddy Geoff’ bagged the Evoke as soon as he saw it and the boys just had to take his big Merc.
These two incidents gave me an insight into the headache Land Rover management must have. They cannot do away with the Defender and fortunately are not going to as the whole image is underpinned by it’s reputation, yet the likes of Darrin are never going to buy a new one. The growth market is lads like Geoff who have a respect for the brand, but would never want a Defender as they are in far too much of a hurry. Tough call.
Copyright Toby Savage