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'It’s the battle of risk versus reward that’s catnip for car nuts like us'

Richard Meaden
2 Jan 2018
Opinion: Richard Dickie Meaden

When the alarm bells (and suspension failure warnings) are ringing, should you still buy that well-used dream car? Meaden did.

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Have you ever done anything really stupid? Flown in the face of what you know to be fact, suppressed common sense, turned a deaf ear to all your internal alarm bells, fought the fear and gone ahead anyway? In short, have you ever thrown yourself into the abyss that is a decade-old, 140,000-mile TDV8 Range Rover?

Some of you might say an old Range Rover isn’t core  evo territory. I would strongly contend otherwise. Partly because lots of people I know with fine taste in fast cars also own Rangies, but mainly because it’s really not so different from buying a superannuated sports car or supersaloon. You’ve read the forum horror stories about 996 Carreras ('cough' our dep ed. Adam Towler) or V10 M5s and readily concede they expose you to ruinous running costs, yet you can’t resist the fact they are a colossal amount of car for the money. It’s the battle of risk versus reward that’s catnip for car nuts like us. 

> Click here for the cars we are most looking forward to this year

In a world skewed by so-called ‘investment cars’ it also makes a refreshing, if somewhat nihilistic change to buy a car that could very easily cost you more in snagging and servicing than it did to buy. Right now I’m struggling to think of a car capable of inflicting greater fiscal self-harm than a Range Rover more than halfway round its sixth lap of the world. Yet the seductive powers of a car that could well have cost its first owner eight or ten times as much are without parallel.

As you entertain the thought, it creeps like Japanese knotweed, from the warm, non-threatening recesses reserved specially for idle automotive pipe-dreams to the very forefront of your mind. Over the next few weeks lovely examples of your four-wheeled obsession taunt and tempt you from driveways, car parks and opposing carriageways. Judgement now clouded by the fog of phwoar, you tentatively broach the subject with your other half, partly hoping they throw a bucket of cold water on the insanity. They don’t. Worse, they condone it, resorting to the kind of shady Man Maths® you’d never dream of using on them. 

Still you resist. Until fate decides to step in, when completely unprompted a great and trusted friend asks if you’re after an old Range Rover. Their old Range Rover. The old Range Rover they bought from the first owner (who they know extremely well), have kept for years and maintained fastidiously. The Range Rover you’ve ridden in and loved. The Range Rover they recently sold to another friend, whose circumstances have changed. The Range Rover that’s now up for sale at a price that’s too good to ignore. 

So of course, after a few days of cold sweats, hot flushes and wildly fluctuating emotions you phone the vendor and arrange to view the car. Which brings us neatly onto test drives. Much like a first date they’re full of anticipation, yet hideously awkward. You want things to go well. Really well. What you absolutely don’t want is the dreaded chime of a suspension fault warning less than five minutes after taking the object of your desire for a spin. Awkward. 

The post test drive conversation with the vendor went something like this: ‘Yep, really like the car. Great old thing, isn’t it? So comfortable. Love it. Er… um… haha… you won’t believe this, but no sooner had we got down the road than the dashboard flashed up with a “Suspension Failure: Max Speed 30mph” warning…’ 

‘Well, that’s a new one on me. Shall we have some coffee?’

Note to self: don’t attempt to negotiate with a man who used to broker hostile takeovers for a living…

> Click here to discover the reason for Dickie's nonchalant attitude towards Nurburgring lap records

You know what’s coming next. We bought the Rangie. And yes, the suspension warning binged and bonged a few times on the way home. Though, it has to be said, without the classic gangster lean normally associated with shonky Range Rover suspension. The rational side of my brain says I should take it to our nearest specialist – Bishops 4x4: I checked, like parents research school catchment areas before buying a house – so they can plug in their diagnostic kit. The side prone to denial pins hope on a faulty sensor, or the Rangie – christened Kanye, because he’s brilliant but high-maintenance and prone to breakdowns – somehow possessing a Christine-like ability to self-repair. The warning hasn’t reappeared recently, so maybe I’m not so crazy. 

What’s the moral of this column? That car buying can still be an adventure. Whether your folly of choice is a hedonistic 4x4 or a dog-eared sports car, it’s one of the rare moments in life where you can do your homework, do the maths, then do the unthinkable and buy it anyway. 

In years to come, if Mrs M and I are stony broke and living in a caravan (again), this moment of madness will be cited as the root of our demise. Until then we’ve got a noble old Range Rover in our lives, and it feels great.

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