My Car History - Part 3

Posted on Monday August 22, 2022

Land Rover Defender and Ford Fiesta at John O'Groats

Or the tale of two Land Rover Discoverys... The final part of my car history, including what I'm driving around in today (correct as of August 2022).

I'd recommend reading part 1 and part 2 first if you haven't already.

10. 2000 Toyota Avensis 1.8 CDX (W281 LMS)

Once the Octavia went back, I drove the Trabant around as my main car for a while but that was never going to last, I needed something at least a little more modern and comfortable. I went back to my tradition of finding something cheap and wll looked after, and found that a Toyota Avensis might be a good choice - they were usually owned by a certain demographic (older gentlemen) who looked after them and drove them sparingly. They were also well equipped and reliable, being Toyotas. I found one in Newcastle for around £700 that had a little bit of MOT left and only around 75,000 miles on it. As a bonus, it was the top-of-the-range CDX with a CD changer, grey leather and all around electric windows.

Blue Toyota Avensis 1.8 CDX

The Avensis proved to be mostly reliable other than the odd issue in its ownership (including the exhaust falling off on the highway at one point). Unfortunately towards the end of its tenure there were a few driving instabilities that were starting to mount up, including some brake and suspension issues that were starting to get a little worse. I made the decision to sell it on and get something a little different.

11. 1990 Land Rover Discovery 200TDi (G231 KVH)

In similar fashion to the Trabant, I'd now become obsessed with having an early Land Rover. This was partially fuelled by a good friend who'd been through a few (Series 2s, 3s and a Range Rover Classic) and despite watching the amount of money and issues he'd had, I became convinced that early Discoverys were an untapped market and would eventually increase in value. I kept an eye on eBay, Gumtree and Auto Trader until I found one down near Chesterfield, jumping on a train to go and see it.

A few things immediately came to light with the Discovery - it had only 77,000 miles (with history to back it up), it was MOT'd and drivable. Looking at it more there were a couple of warning shots I should've spotted straight away - it was very (VERY) heavy to drive, with an extremely tough clutch and a few rattles and knocks when changing gear. It already had a fair amount of random rust at certain locations, and at the time I didn't realise, it'd clearly been in a front-end collision as the nearside front-end was not the same length as the offside, with a slightly out-of-kilter bonnet that couldn't just be explained away by a Solihull build in early 1990. So naturally, I bought it on site and drove it straight back up the M1. In the picture below it looks like it was in good condition, but I always got the impression it had been dressed up to sell, hiding some of the issues underneath.

Blue Land Rover Discovery 200 TDi

In the months I drove it around and used it, it was absolutely fine. No issues to speak of really, although I could always feel that something was brewing. Sure enough, 6 months after I had it the MOT was due, and I took it to my trusted garage friend to look over. Deary me. The entire driver's side of the body had rusted off the underlying chassis and that wasn't in great condition either. The whole thing got worse as he looked to try and find some healthy metal to weld onto, there wasn't really any to be found. We deemed it not worth saving, and I ended up selling it as a project on eBay, albeit with a good engine and some potential. Someone else bought it unseen, and I have no doubt the cycle of disappointment continued. It was an expensive lesson, this one.

12. 2005 Saab 9-3 2.0 Aero Convertible (LC05 DXK)

I went for quite a few months in 2019 without a car (I didn't really need one, as my wife had one in any case). After working in Newcastle city centre for a while and using public transport to get me there and back, I now had a new job that was a little further afield and required a car once again to get me there. I wasn't in the mood for something remotely new and decided it could be cheap, fast and a little unique. It didn't take me long to land on getting a Saab as the solution. I found one nearby and bought it relatively quickly and cheaply. My learning from this was not getting the V5C when I bought it, this wasn't quite forthcoming and I had an older one but not the most recent. Thus, a lengthy application process to the DVLA was conducted and this meant I couldn't tax it for around the first month I had it.

Grey Saab 9-3 Convertible 2.0T Aero

The Saab had quite a few things going for it: the roof was operational and watertight, it was the bigger turbo (capital T) and an Aero, meaning it had the stock bodykit and the power to match (210 bhp out of the factory). There were some issues, quelle surprise, such as a slightly dodgy battery and alarm but for the most part it was fine. I drove it around for the first few months of 2020 to get to and from work every day without issue, except when I managed to take a chunk out of the rear quarter on the garage wall (whoops). Once I stopped driving it every day, it was not happy. The battery quickly got worse and required a charge every few days, and then one day I was about to drive it down to my friend's garage to get some general check ups done, when the turbo decided it didn't want to be a turbo anymore. I don't quite know what happened here, but it looks like it might have been oil starvation (despite me checking it every week or so). I'm guessing this was the result of a separate problem, but in any case the power was way down now, even though it was still drivable I wasn't in a hurry to hang on to it now we were in a pandemic and I wasn't driving anywhere again, working from home 100% of the time.

So, once again, the Saab left in something less than a blaze of glory - someone did buy it to fix it, and I believe they did so since it was MOT'd and taxed at least once more, and I did spot it driving around once. However I gather it didn't last a great deal of time after that. It's a shame, as if I could've gotten it fixed, it might've been worth a bit more now as the price of Saabs are finally starting to head in the right direction. Once again, I was without a car for a few months.

13. 2009 Honda Civic Type-R (NG09 SCX) - Current Car #1

This time, I decided it was worth paying a bit more to get something I would keep for a while. It had to be something that fit everything I needed out of a daily driver: good stereo, air-con, mostly comfortable, nice to look at and occasionally fun. I could not have picked a better car. No matter what some motoring journalists have sad of the FN2 when compared with the EP3, the only bad part is the rear suspension being a little worse. Other than this it's safer, more modern and I think better looking. I picked up the Civic from an ex-dealer nearby and instantly loved it.

Red Honda Civic Type-R FN2

I had a few things to sort out - I still wasn't driving a huge amount and the brakes on one corner were binding, a common issue on Type-Rs. A reconditioned caliper was promptly fitted and it was fine for a month or so, and then went again on the opposite wheel. I bit the bullet, buying a set of four refurbished calipers and new discs and pads - the brakes were tip-top and have been ever since. I also spent a bit of money getting the bodywork brought up to scratch - addressing some lacquer peel, roof scratches, dings in the plastic sills and the wheels which had the car looking absolutely stunning... for about 3 weeks.

First proper accident I ever had was right after I'd spent all the money making the front-end fantastic, only to pull out in front of someone on a roundabout at about 10 mph - thankfully no-one was hurt and it was mostly my wallet and pride that took the bashing. I then drove it round with a slightly stoved-in front end for a bit (you couldn't tell unless you looked closely) and then got it fixed once again. Since then it's also had 2 major services (plugs, coolant flush, gearbox oil, the works) and 4x new Michelin PilotSport 4s. It's now approaching 82,000 miles and still driving as well as it always has.

This is still my main car! I have no cause to get rid of it and after 2 years I'm still nowhere near bored of it. All I need to do is hit a back road every now and then and stretch the V-Tec a little to bring a smile to my face. For daily driving It's got a horrendously heavy clutch, very hard seats and a pretty crashy ride, that's without mentioning the miles per gallon, but it always makes up for it whenever I take it on a longer run. I'm in no rush to change it, and will likely have it for a while yet. Especially as I know have another official project car...

14. 1990 Land Rover Discovery 200TDi (G815 ORH) - Current Car #2

Yeah, I bought another one...

I never learn. No, really. Despite losing an absolute fortune on the first Discovery and having it mostly fall apart in my hands, I somehow hadn't scratched the itch of owning a terrible old diesel Land Rover. It was always something that was in the back of my mind and I always kept a little bit of an eye on eBay. One weekend, an auction popped up for one a little way away in Consett. It had been in storage for a long time and had recently been recommissioned and MOT'd. It wasn't perfect and needed a fair few jobs (the paint!) but wasn't trying to hide its issues like the last one I'd had.

I drove up to see it. An absolute mistake as I instantly found reasons to justify owning it - it had very clearly had some amateurish welding in the past on the boot floor, sills and elsewhere. The door bottoms were starting to go, and the rear door was all but gone. The interior was mostly OK with the odd bit of peeling plastic, and the paintwork was absolutely atrocious (if you ever see it in the flesh, you'll know what I mean). But someone at one point had loved it - it had stickers from Spain and the Algarve, where it's clearly driven down to in its life. It has dealer upgrades such as front fog lights, seat cushions, window blinds and someone had fitted an uprated fan to it (which didn't work, but you have to appreciate the effort). On top of all that, the chassis was completely solid and the underside had been sealed - exactly what I wanted to see. I knew there'd be some rust, but the main mounting points and structural areas were good.

The best thing - I didn't win it. It went for slightly more than I wanted to pay for it. The buyer as predicted did not make contact though, and I was given second (or it may have been third?) refusal, as the only person who actually made contact and was in discussions with the owner. We exchanged money and keys, and I was once again the owner of an utterly terrible G-reg Land Rover Discovery.

Badly Painted Land Rover Discovery 200 TDi

As soon as I drove it home I realised it was going to need a bit of love to bring it up to a mechanical standard where I felt comfortable using it on a slightly longer distance. The steering was a little loose (OK, very loose), the lights weren't quite working properly, the heater motor and driver's side electric window weren't working, and the battery light was coming on occasionally or flickering. I drove it around for a few weeks in this state before taking it down to my friend's garage, initially for a look at the steering.

Now I was nervous, last time this ended with a "this isn't worth saving" conversation and I wanted to make sure I hadn't gotten myself in the same situation this time. He tried to fix the steering by removing the play in the steering box (it is slightly better, but still needs a new box) and then took a look at the rust. In the end he kept it for a few months and I've only just had it back. In it's time there it's had:

  • new front inner wings, fully painted
  • a new front mount for the coolant bottle
  • new footwell on the driver's side
  • complete new boot floor and sides
  • new brake pipes in various places, and a new caliper on the rear driver's side
  • a new fuel pump and sender unit

Expectedly so, this was not a cheap bill, and so I'm now committed and invested in keeping the Discovery. Now the main challenge is the battery - it's not staying charged and not charging properly when running. It could be the battery or the alternator and that's what I'm currently looking at. Once that's over and sorted, I'll be getting a steering box, tyres and getting it otherwise ready for its next MOT in January, where I expect it to get through. I'm keeping it, and gradually going to continue to improve it over time. Since I've had it back, I've already fixed the front indicators and will be going through my list to get other bits and pieces sorted next.

What's Next?

I'm never not bored, and I will eventually want to get something else, but life has other priorities right now and I'm happy with the two I have - they have enough fun and issues to keep me entertained for a while just yet. If a Trabant ever comes for sale in the north-east of England though, I wouldn't say no to another one. Oh, and I'll always one day want a Ford Capri - that's been something I wanted for a very very long time.