I WOULD like to say it was love at first sight, but when I first copped a glance of the 1994 Land Rover Defender 300Tdi parked in the Sunshine Coast Airport carpark I was a little tentative.
That’s because I’d just flown from Sydney to purchase the Land Rover on the promise that it “drives beautifully”. I walked around it and saw a body that looked rougher than I’d anticipated.
This Landy had done some work, but it had a roof rack to which was attached an Ironman 4x4 awning, a high-lift jack and a pair of MaxTrax. When I poked my head underneath, there was oil everywhere. This was expected, but it looked like it was coming out of several places including the engine, gearbox, transfer case, diffs and swivel seals.
The chassis looked pretty straight, without any visible rust, and there was an Old Man Emu steering damper up front, King springs, unidentifiable aftermarket shocks, and airbags in the rear. Then I opened the driver’s door and noticed the air-conditioning, the three switches for an ARB air compressor, and front and rear Air Lockers. Bonus!
It was pretty dirty in the cabin, but the dash was in good nick, the seats weren’t too bad and this Landy was loaded with extras I didn’t know about, including a UHF and a dual battery set-up. I took it for a spin and the gearbox and clutch felt good, but there was a clunk in the driveline.
The 300Tdi performed as I would’ve hoped, but when the Landy approached 90km/h the steering wheel began to wobble. Nevertheless, it handled well, rode beautifully and the brakes offered plenty of bite – a good sign.
I did the deal and was on the highway heading south by 11.30am with 1200km ahead of me to familiarise myself with my new Landy. I stopped at the first service station to fuel up, check tyres and fluids, as well as stock up on food and drink to fuel me.
A couple of the tyres were a bit iffy, and they were all from different rubber companies, including the spare, but I was confident they would get me home safely. The drive back to Wollongong was enjoyable.
The temperature gauge sat where it should the entire way back and the engine (supposedly rebuilt 70,000km ago) performed faultlessly. The only issues on the journey included a sticking throttle and the aforementioned wobble in the steering, which could be the result of out-of-balance wheels or (so I’m told) dodgy swivel hubs. One of the headlights is also buggered and the window washer is sometimes reluctant to turn off.
When I arrived back home I discovered the Defender had come with a complete Bahco toolkit, an inverter, a battery charger, some jumper leads, a machete (yes, you read right), and a heap of other tools and bits and pieces. Of course, my once pristine driveway is now covered in oil, but you can’t see it when the Landy is parked over the top. It looks like I have a lot of work ahead of me.