11 NOVEMBER 1995, Page 67


She has to go

Alan Judd

Ifear for the old Land-Rover. This year's MOT was ruinously expensive and next year's could be as much again. It will need chassis welding, and the new emission con- trols as applied to elderly diesels could mean a new fuel pump as well as yet more new injectors.

It is a late Series 3 long wheelbase, under- powered by the ancient 2'/4 litre diesel, essentially a 1950s engine. There is some doubt as to whether this engine, even in per- fect condition, is actually capable of meeting the new standards. They smoked from new when you put your foot down, as you have to often because they lack power. The first mile up the hill from the station finds me full ahead in third, laying smoke like a con- voy escort. Of course, I have to approve of emission controls in general, on the Kantian Principle of acting as you would that others should, even though the effect on our cli- mate of my own — or anyone else's — indi- vidual vehicle is immeasurable.

I believe standards are relaxed for pre- 1973 vehicles but not for the identical products made ten years later. It would be more reasonable to relax standards for vehicles 10-15 years behind the present because they tend to be owned by poorer People (or more thrifty and sensible peo- ple), do a lower mileage, get fewer each year and after a while will all have been built within the present standards anyway. I hear that taxis are exempt from all this, which is galling since they are the most obvious polluters of British cities, belching black smoke at push-chair height even on the level. Once again, the one who gets hammered is the private motorist who has no company car and can't pass on his costs.

It might pay to keep the Land-Rover because whatever I replace it with will have to be MOT'd and could cost even more, but the truth is I hanker for change. I've been fond of the old girl but that last bill caused a love haemorrhage, so that I'm no longer charmed by having to change down . and one idiot voted for Delia Smith.' on every slope and I long for a big, lazy engine with massive torque. I'm not fussed about speed; I just want basic beef.

With cars as with people, once you've decided there's something wrong, nothing else is right. I recharged the battery recent- ly, knowing I should replace it but resent- ing the expense and making the threat of it another reason for selling.

The contrast with other vehicles was sharpened by a Mazda 121 hired on a trip to Greece, to visit a cave on Parnassus. More a functional than a lovable animal, it went well, had good headroom and a nicely rounded bottom slightly reminiscent of the baby Austin, the old A30. It was not its fault that the interior light didn't work, the head- lights were raked so as to send oncoming motorists into gorges, the key was bent, the boot-lid struts were lazy and the company fiddled us over petrol. The smog over Athens, however, was the most compelling argument for emission controls, though I can't believe they'll enforce them in Greece.

Back at the station car-park, it was a cold and misty midnight when I climbed aboard the Land-Rover, feeling a resurgence of affection and forgetting that the one thing a diesel needs when the temperature drops is a good battery; The walk home was four miles, mostly up hill, but it didn't lessen my affection; she'd warned and I hadn't heed- ed, and she could've chosen a worse time. But, sadly, I still think she has to go. PS The last 'Motoring' column was cut off in mid-quote from Ian Fleming about his beloved and reliable Ford Thunderbird, built in the days of lavish engineering toler- ances. The quote was from a 1955 Spectator, published in the days of lavish editorial attention . . .