Dylan Gradwell: My green laning green oval obsession.

Dylan Gradwell:




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I first met a Land Rover when I was 8 or 9 years old. My uncle and his friend had just bought it and they were impressed with it; the honeymoon period hadn’t ended at this point. I only had one trip in it and it was for about 1.5 miles. I was in the middle seat between my uncle and dad. Three decades later I still remember the frightening body roll, bum numbing seat and ear ringing din. It was a horrible journey in the terrible antique that I now know to be a Series III 109. For a child who suffered travel sickness over even fairly short journeys of 15 miles or so this trip “round the block” ranked as one of the most unpleasant despite staying united with my breakfast.

Shortly after this the Land Rover was sold and I didn’t give the vile things a further thought. When I started driving I only had eyes for German engineering, being rather impressed by my other uncle’s Audi 100 at about the same time the Series III scarred my memory for life, but pocket depth dictated I went with Plan B a 5 year old Rover. This added a second taste to my motoring palate the wood, leather and chrome look appealed and so the traditional British approach inveigled it’s way into my heart.I have maintained this fondness through my motoring life to such a degree that ‘er indoors refers to websites such as Auto Trader, AROnline & this one as “Dylan’s porn”

Over the years I was aware of the changes made to Solihull’s mobile torture chamber. I read in the 1980s with a cool interest how adopting coil springs for the new 90-110 lead to calls of the company going soft. Reports of poor ergonomics, asthmatic ventilation and a predisposition for drinking more than ex-premier league footballers did suggest it was a process of evolution rather than revolution as the core values hadn’t seemed to have changed that much but it was still progress. I still remember a line from the original What Car test where in a group off-road test the Land Rover was the vehicle that they had most confidence in to complete the course and rescue some of the others if required no doubt.

Eventually I got to taste that special brand of motoring Marmite that is the Defender from the drivers seat at an off road training centre with a friend known since school days – this very site Editor in fact. I was the kind of kid who’s main aim in the school holidays was to jump my BMX or get it so muddy it doubled in weight. Playing with the Land Rover was just a progression of this. First impressions; metallic silver paint boost alloys and part leather interior were very bling in a purposeful way and although flooring was,  cut from a roll of lino the owner proudly told us, it looked OK and worked. I was being won over before I had even fired the TD5 into life.

Erm… note to self: flick the key the wrong way to start!

Three muddy hours later I wanted one, no actually I had to have one. The Paul Gascoigne impression meant it would have to be a second vehicle. It took a few years but when a 90 200 tdi clattered squeaked and rattled into my life it was an ambition achieved. As a hobby vehicle it took me and mine to country fairs, off road courses and a some green laning days without missing a beat unlike on occasion my heart as I couldn’t believe where I was being persuaded to drive by the tour guide.

Love is... A green oval badge!
Love is… A green oval badge!

I have sat on a hot vinyl seat left leg aching and ears numb watching a Nissan Pathfinder struggle through a long deep ford, its fancy wheels, nice interior and air conditioning were not helping it. I was glad I was sat where I was as I knew this would not pose my Landy a problem. Who would have thought I would be thinking that my Landy times had indeed changed.

Times have changed again. I still have the Solihull stalwart, and like many addicts would like more, but the role it has in my life has changed slightly. It is back to the role it’s had before I took ownership- that of solid workhorse. My business as a dog walker and animal holistic therapist often involves transporting muddy dogs or visiting out of the way places down bumpy inhospitable tracks at any time of year. Like What Cars first impressions the Defender is the only vehicle I can trust to get me to my destination. To me there has been a slightly surprising side effect of using the Landy to work, when dealing with farmers or ex-farmers they often talk of Land Rovers they had owned.

I don’t think that would happen if I turned up in a RAV4 or similar. For something that has been a staple of rural life for decades it is still such a talking point even amongst a group of people as difficult to impress as farmers are renowned for being. It’s a testament to the breadth of the range and the power of marketing that Land Rover has something to meet the needs of a remote hill farmer and the Chelsea tractor brigade and still have a strong following amongst the backyard engineers and scrapyard scroungers.

The 22 years are starting to show on my Land Rover and while I am all for character I need to reflect a professional image so I will be getting the necessary work done and talk of the phrase spares or repair will not be tolerated as I dearly fond of my Land Rover for it’s indifference towards fashion, ability to unite people who have just met, it’s simplicity and the all important ability to get the job done.

I am open minded towards DC100 the Defender replacement prototype but my only comment would be lifted from a responsible off-roaders handbook…

“as slow as possible and as fast as necessary”


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