A love letter to my Land Rover Defender….

This I suppose, is my love letter to Land Rover, my mixed thoughts and feeling of the old and the new.  These are just my own personal thoughts as I ponder around driving my own Land Rover Defender 90 TD5 XS, my daily drive. 

I’ve watched the launch of the new Defender with Julia Bradbury (who’s lovely by the way) interviewing the engineers and designers in Frankfurt.  I’ve also watched Richard Hammond ‘Drivetribe’ and Matt Watson ‘Carwow’ and others alike on their first look around the vehicle.  No test drive yet, but as we all know the people at Land Rover are very clever and have obviously carried out a handbag full of tests so there’s no doubt that the new Defender can do everything the old one can, you’ve only got to look at the rest of their fleet of vehicles to know that.  I’ve also seen the Lego Defender at the price of £160, I like it and will most probably buy one (just to clarify…the Lego model). 

But I fear the Land Rover Defender has now been caught up with the rest of the cars on the road with technology that now seems to be moving faster than the world can spin.  With every vehicle on the road being stuffed full of electrics, ECU’s and data that connects to the big brother somewhere in secret cyber land and their kitchen sink and most probably the socks in their drawer.  But as we also know, electrics and water are not the best of mixes which might be an issue for what people usually buy Defenders for. It’s usually recognised as a real die hard, basic, no frills 4×4 as is the reason why we like the old one.  I like to compare it in a way that vinyl is the music equivalent to the original Defender.  I understand that my TD5 has more electrics than the older 300TDI and the model before that, also the Puma has more electrics than my 90 TD5.  So the new model 2020 must look like a BT exchange box or an explosion at a spaghetti factory when finding a fault.  But I’m far from a Land Rover engineer so it might be bomb proof, only time will tell.  

There’s definitely no denying that the new Defender is going to be nice and capable of doing what it says on the tin, plus more friendly to drive on the road than the original.  Let’s not forget the emissions will be lower.  For some of us, we might not care about that, not while the whoever the Prime Minister of the day is steps in to their big fat car with a big engine to take them around the corner to Parliament, and that’s while the rest of Parliament are flying back and forth to Brussels to talk empty air to one another (a story for another day) as my new saying goes #copyrightdavefrantony ‘If you can Skype it don’t fly it!’  Sorry, I’ve digressed. 

I’ve read lots of comments on the internet of what people think so far.  Like ‘It’s not a DEFENDER it’s a WEEKENDER or PRETENDER even an OFFENDER.’  It’s got me thinking why do I have one?  Why do I love driving it?  It’s my second Defender 90, I’ve owned this one for five years and it still makes me smile.  It’s quirky, bouncy and has a steering wheel the size of dustbin lid and yes, each of the five gears are in different postcodes but I don’t care.  Even though the cars behind me at the lights think I’m purposely driving slow (I’m not honestly) it just takes a while to get to each gear using a slow and steady hand.  As I drive it every day, my left leg is now far bigger than my right due to pressing down on the clutch.  You beautiful owners will know, the clutch is like pushing back the whole of the British Lions rugby team in a scrum.  I love that when it rains hard the passenger footwell likes to turn into a small picturesque lake.  Don’t quote me on this but I was sure I saw a heron trying to squeeze its way in through the large door gaps once.  I like it when I brake in the heavy rain and drops of water drip on my feet over the pedals.  The heaters take a while to warm up, although I’m very lucky to have one with heated seats.  My old 1987 Defender I once drove fifteen miles in and it was colder than when I got in it!  And let’s not forget the small flat windscreen that gives you the driving experience like you’re looking out through a letter box.  I feel I understand what it must be like to look out of a Burka (just saying!). 

That’s all before it likes to steam up if you have too much warm moist saliva in your mouth.  I must also mention the pencil length wipers that look like they are going to stop working any minute.  The seats are short but so am I so that’s okay.  There’s no room to swing a gnat around with its wings in its pockets, so your elbows are down in your groin, unless the window is open, then you have elbow relief.  But it’s like putting on your old favourite trainers that you don’t mind looking a bit scruffy but comfortably happy in. 

It always amazes me that the engine goes quieter when the music gets louder.  Sometimes basic is good, basic is all we need, less is more and less can be perfect.  In Sardinia, I once saw a woman in her late sixties wearing a scarf over her hair and sunglasses driving an old Mini Moke.  I stopped in the street thinking ‘She’s the coolest person I’ve ever seen!’ 

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My Defender 90 has four seats in the back that when unclipped sit down and face sideways, and everyone who rides in it, loves it.  They hold on with white knuckles, bouncing like I’m driving over a row of bollards whilst grinning all the way.  It makes them smile and that’s always a good thing.  Wherever I park it, people young and old, male or female always compliment how they like the look of the Land Rover Defender and that its built as if it were  from a Meccano set, and that’s why the purists love it.  As long as you have a log book and VIN plate, well, just as the saying goes in the opening credits of the Six Million Dollar Man “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…… we have the technology.” 

But as we knew would happen, this can’t be done with the new Defender.  So is it going to be like the rest of their fleet that in ten to fifteen years it’s going to end up on the scrap heap?  Tell me the last time you saw a fifteen to twenty year old Range Rover or Discovery looking good on the road.  I use mine for the school run and I’m grateful as most parents will happily park on your face if it gets them closer to the school gates, not to mention the army of grandparents that clearly aren’t allowed to retire and enjoy life.  They now have to bring up their kids kids.  My Defender comes in handy at this time, helping me not to worry if it’s going to get damaged by another parked car as most think that the white lines in between car park spaces are for lining up with the gear box, and for this reason I’m glad and relieved that I drive an original solid Land Rover Defender. 

As I’ve said there is no other vehicle with so many quirks, but quirky is fun, quirky is excitement and God knows we need all need more of that.  Like there’s the painful reminder on the odd occasion of banging your bum cheek on the warship size door catch that gives you a bruise that’ll make your bum look like night and day for a few weeks. 

Also how the seatbelt gets caught in the catch and door making it look like it’s been used for target practise by the M.O.D.  We all know the standard joke that it leaks oil from wherever it can, albeit and you’re not going to believe me but mine never has.  It doesn’t even burn any engine oil……. I know!  The original Defender’s parts are cheap and an easy fix, especially up to the 300tdi’s, I hear you can fix them with the nearest branch, blade of grass and a dead fly off the windscreen…. 

I love how they are built like tanks, a woman once reversed into my first Defender 90; not a scratch on my solid bumper but her tailgate and rear panel were squashed.   When I wash it, I love how the rivets from it being hand-made tear up my sponge like a truck full of hungry Locusts who haven’t eaten for forty days.  Also, let us not forget how the original Defenders willingly give our local spiders a home to set up their webs.  I kid you not, within moments of putting my bucket away and throwing my shredded sponge into the recycle bin it looks like spooky Halloween film set.  No other vehicle can give you this, these are the reasons why I, we own the now original Defender.  The new Defender will now be built by soulless machines like the rest of the fleet.  But that’s how Land Rover has to go, it makes sense… I get it.  The China and America markets will love it and that’s where the sales will probably go, it’s all about profit.  The cost of the original Defender started at around £23k a hefty difference to the new Defender 90 that starts from around £40k and the Defender 110 starts from around £45k, the top spec with the full stocking and suspenders, I’ve heard around £100k….that’s Mercedes G-Wagon territory.

This is where I’m now unsure if the new model is worth it because it’s now built and going to drive like any other 4×4 so why not now buy any other 4×4. 

For £40k you could buy a very nice VW Amarok or a Toyota Hilux or Land Cruiser.  They all have fantastic reliability; you only have to speak to any Australian farmer in the outback or any other farmer, even the United Nations as they do love a Toyota Land Cruiser. 

Let us not forget about the Suzuki Jimny that is an awesome 4×4 at less than half the price.  Alright ‘Jimny’ doesn’t sound as tough and manly as ‘Defender’ but I’m okay with that because I’m comfortable enough to tell you that I moisturise and sometimes pluck some of my long hairs from my nose and eyebrows (there I’ve said it).  The new Jimny looks as cool as a cucumber, yes it doesn’t tow 3.5 ton but if you only want to go Green Laning in it, it’s perfect.

 Also the Ford Ranger Rapture is around £40k, it would even be nice if the Ford Bronco will be on sale in the UK.  You also have the Jeep Wrangler where you can take the doors off, which to me says ‘Fun!  Fun! Fun!’  They also drive a little quirky and leak a bit of water all for the price of around £37.5k new, and yes you might look like ‘Daisy Duke’ from the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ (nothing wrong with that….she was lovely).

Let’s not forget the Toyota FJ Cruiser… quirky looking and reliable.

I really do like the look of the new Defender, but it’s now opened up my eyes to other options of what’s out there to buy that maybe has better quality and reliability now for the same money.  My plan though is to never sell my Defender 90 TD5 XS.  It’s part of the family, it makes me want to drive her, it makes me smile and for those of you who owns one or had one, you will know what I mean.  A nice comfortable quiet drive isn’t always what you want.  My wife drives a new VW Transporter T6 which is very nice and I feel privileged to own it, but it doesn’t make me smile… not like my 2006 Defender 90 TD5. 

If only Land Rover kept it as basic as an empty tin and not made it sophisticated like the rest of their fleet, which by the way are very nice but I’m just a simple male fumbling my way around this crazy world getting older.  Wanting no fuss as a Land Rover Defender should be like, and please forgive for saying this….. it should be like a good perfect wife who only needs low basic maintenance but doesn’t mind getting dirty on the weekends. 

But the Defender has changed and is here to stay, but I now feel it’s just the same as the rest of the Land Rover family but in a different shape with not a quirk insight.

So that’s my thoughts since its launch…. what are yours?

 

So until the next visit which won’t be long, I’ll leave you with the usual Easyblend blog song I’m looking through you by The Beatles

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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London…….not done……. NEVER!!

London…… an annual event for the Frantony family.  I know its ‘hustle and bustle’ but for us, well…. we find it a relaxing week or weekend, whichever we can fit in.  You can strangely feel quite alone amongst the busy streets and tube journeys.  Peaceful at times as you watch the many Londoners go about their daily business.  It maybe London, England, but you’ll hear a mixed bag of languages from around the world caressing the ear drums.  Russian seemed to be the flavour of our last visit.

Over the many years I’ve seen the change that technology has brought, it’s the companion to most commuters these days.  I thought it was my dodgy eyes at first, but as the people of London walk towards you.  You think they’re talking to you because they’re looking at you or where they’re going whilst disguising an earpiece that’s connected from their phone with a small microphone on the wire, talking to whomever is on the other end.  I’ve never seen so many people walk and talk.  Each person’s arms shaking in the air, all in sync with every conversation they have with every passer-by escaping the near-miss of a sudden death Karate chop. The people on the phones resemble battered old scarecrows in a whirlwind…… but I love it!

For me as a continual visitor to London, I don’t think I’ll ever have enough of the city’s architecture.  Every single building intrigues me.  I know most visitors go and see Buckingham Palace, which by the way is fantastic.  I’ve never been inside yet, I will do on the next visit when they open it up.  I have been to Osbourne house in the Isle of Wight though (enjoyed it very much).  But I do feel so sorry for Liz (the Queen to you) for living there.  The building must be a nightmare to keep clean, how she has time to do anything else baffles me.  I also hope she has something a little bigger than an electric lawnmower, her garden is a tad larger than normal.  I would suggest a goat or two but every time I stand outside, the gates are locked.  Plus there’s a few Welsh Guards standing like they’ve been covered in Viagra spray in their sentry box, also accompanied by the odd policeman carrying a sizeable gun.  Come to my place, I have a conifer tree in a plant pot hiding my waste and recycle bins.  That’s another thing that baffles me.  Not one recycle bin outside Buckingham Palace in all the times I’ve stood there. But I do have a theory.  I’m sure that the sentry boxes outside Buckingham Palace is the place where the recycle bins are kept, and the reason why the Welsh Guards are so still.  It’s because they are only stickers on the front of the bins…… just a theory by the way.   What is handy though, is that she never has any of her neighbours bothering her (like mine) “Dave can I have a cup of sugar” or “Alright if I borrow your ladders?” or “There’s no one in next door so you have to take a parcel for them.”  Hmmmmm….. maybe I’ll go to my local Police station and ask for a Policeman with a gun, I do pay my taxes after all.

So back to the London architecture.  As I walk, my head is constantly surveying above the shops to the rest of the buildings.  Something I always do in any town or city that I’m in.  One thing did stand out was how many of the buildings were in darkness from the 1st floor up at night.  So many grand buildings with so many rooms that seemed to have no life in them.

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Something else I do every time and I don’t know why, I always look up at the roof of 3 Savile Row where the Beatles played five songs ‘Live’ for the last time in 1969.  I’m 5’4”, I can look all day.  I am never going to see the roof top.  Not sure what the people of London had seen back on that very day in 1969.

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There are also so many amazing museums, I love them all even though we’ve not seen every single one yet.  The new buildings that take over the skyline are funky and different but for me it’s the old buildings that are intriguing.  Each one has so much history and so much detail.  Some with the round blue Commemorative plaques, giving the information of who once lived there which always ignites the mind to wonder of all that has happened before the very place where I now stand.  For instance, Brook Street W1. Two round blue Commemorative plaques side by side on two different buildings next to each other.  On the one building it says ‘Jimi Hendrix’ once lived here.  On the other, the composer ‘Handel’ lived and died.  Okay it was roughly 250 years apart.  But wouldn’t it have been interesting if they were both around at the same time.  No, not to ask one another for a cup of sugar or to borrow ladders or even take a parcel for your neighbour.  Although I can see it now

KNOCK KNOCK, the door opens…. “Hi Jimi, it’s Handel from next door….. you took in a parcel for me earlier.  “Oh yeah, Handel man……here it is.”  Funny how they both had similar hairstyle and the passion for making music.

London has so many pubs and so many restaurants, you will always be spoilt for choice.  From Covent Garden to China Town to the many hidden side streets.  Camden market, Borough market, someday I’ll eat my way through each food stall.  But even if I visited every weekend I’d still not eat in them all.  For the Frantony family, we wander as far and as long as we can, never in a rush.  In three days we’ll easily walk 45 miles.

It’s not as safe as it used to be though, far more electric cars due to the emission zones now.  Clearly in London it’s the way forward, won’t be long before all the taxis are electric or even better powered by the wasted words and promises that fall out of the mouths of most MPs.  All boxed up and taken from the Houses of Parliament and poured straight in to every London cab.  That is of course if you can’t afford a super car.  Yes it’s nice to have one, but to be honest it’s useless in London regarding speed.  But then again what I do like about them is that you can hear them coming a few streets away, even as far as the next postcode.  As a pedestrian this is good.  A Toyota Prius is not!  As green credentials go a Prius might be good for the planet but for pedestrians in a city?  It could mean constantly being knocked over or death by silent object.  I’m also a motorcyclist and believe that loud pipes saves lives.  If I have time in the future I might protest outside Parliament that every electric car in London has a speaker instead of an exhaust and must play loud music.  Preferably AC/DC ‘Thunderstuck’.

From every near miss (and we had a few) each time I hear some Gregorian chant in my head or a choir boy knocking out a solo as if the end is nigh.

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This I assume, is what a near death experience feels and sounds like which is slightly uncanny as the Toyota Prius moves on the road like ghosts in the Hollywood films I’ve seen.  So the super car, even though you can’t really use the full functions of a super car in London,  I think every car on the road in the city should be one.  This is not a plug so that Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar or Maserati have to give me a car for free if their sales go up now I’ve mentioned them in this blog, but I wouldn’t say no either (nod, nod, wink, wink).  Now the not hearing the car incident happened a few times whilst walking the streets of London.  To prove it, this is what my behind/rear end (bum or arse) whatever the term you use now looks like with no pants or trousers on……

Yes, these cars do give off low emissions, but I wonder if that is multiplied by the amount of gas given off by each pedestrian on the utter panic that a Toyota Prius has just sneaked up on them like Houdini on a really good day when he was at his most ‘magicest’ (if there is such a word). Or  like the butler in the film Mr Deeds (sneaky sneaky).  Although if you’re reading this and you work very high up in Toyota, I LOVE the brand and LOVE the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser (nod, nod, wink, wink).

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The maze of the London underground (tube station) however, I’ll never get to grips with.  I’ll never get to the point in my life where I’ll ever find my way around like it was the back of my hand.  But as each visit passes it becomes a little easier.  It’s hot, with the warm breeze fighting its way around you as the train comes in.  Even if you’re not on the platform you can feel the warm breeze whizzing through whatever tunnel you’re walking to or from.  I’m never in a rush, so I’ll always stay tight to the right on the escalators so the busy people on the way to a deadline have room to move on the left.  Sometimes the trains are busy sometimes not, just like any other City.  Always remember to hold on if you’re standing up as the train leaves the platform.  A woman on the Central line forgot to do such a thing and sprawled herself on the people sitting down as the train moved off.  Everyone laughed as she lay over four people, her feet completely up off the ground.  Again though, the architecture inside the underground is fantastic with the millions of tiles that cover the walls and ceilings, and they’re always clean, which must take some doing due to droves of people using it every day.  I’m still hoping that the CEO of the London Underground will randomly call me one day, wanting to give me a tour of the platforms and tunnels that are not used anymore (nod, nod, wink, wink).

But there is one man I’d like to meet, to say “Really??  What on earth were you thinking?  Of all the places it could have gone, you had to put it there…..!”

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Marble Arch, NO not Marble Arch, that’s in a good spot (not as good as the original spot).  I’m talking about the Ping Pong table right next to it.  You have to see it to believe it.  I can hear John Nash the British architect who designed Marble Arch back in 1827, saying “Now, wherever the Marble Arch goes, whatever you do, don’t go putting something stupid right next to it like a Ping Pong table!”

Then they all laughed because clearly nothing stupid like that would happen…..or would it?  So it takes some doing to take a picture of the Marble Arch without a Ping Pong table being in it.  Don’t get me wrong I like a bit of Ping Pong (please no one send me a ping pong table) but that close to an iconic structure in London, to me it’s a little odd.  They may as well go the whole hog and turn the Marble Arch into an activity centre with advertising screens, a climbing wall, abseiling and park, even somewhere to voice your opinion.

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Who knows, next there might be a pool table outside Buckingham Palace right in front of the gates?  Or they’ll turn the Victoria Memorial in to a local Lido with a 25m high diving board duck-taped to the bronze wing.  There’s even enough room to put a tennis or netball court inside the gates of the Palace courtyard on the red gravel.  Or even a five-a-side pitch for the locals and ‘yes’ we call it five-a-side, but either 9 or 11 always showed up and the goalies were either lazy and would sometimes sit down for a sneaky rest, or they’d be the complete opposite and have arms like Mr Tickle from the Mr Men that make it impossible to score a goal.  And let’s not forget the one friend that always turns up with the gigantic Sports Direct bag (there’s always one), thinking that because they’re taking part in a sport and it says it on the bag, that it’s alright. At least playing at the front of Buckingham Palace there’ll be plenty of people running around to keep the sad lonely Lego figures that have fallen out of some poor child’s hand through the railings from the pavement.  Of course they daren’t stretch through to try and pick it up or the man with the gun won’t be happy.  Albeit the Lego figurines did get in without being seen.  So the man with the gun and the Welsh Guards are slacking a bit there.  The Royal family must have a sizeable Lego figurine collection from their front yard going on.  Using the front Courtyard, I think my idea is far more exciting for the Royal family to look at out of their many windows than the same old Victoria Memorial, traffic and lots of nosy people staring up at them.  I’m not saying this is true, but here’s a photo I took of a representative from Lego going inside Buckingham Palace the other day….

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I’m also convinced that the same person whose idea it was to put the ping pong tables so close to Marble Arch wants to put a fairground riffle range in front of the MI5 or MI6 building.  That would be okay as long as you can win the cuddly toy in the end….. especially for those men out on a first date.  Oh and by the way, if you do win the cuddly toy and hand it over to the lovely woman you’re dating, don’t start acting like you’ve just saved the planet and the macho-meter in your head has just hit dizzy heights.  Don’t think it’s a pass so that you can go all the way with her at the end of the night…. however big the toy.  But we would all love to see the fairground ‘Dunk Tank’ outside the Houses of Parliament (again such an amazing building).  Each MP could sit on a collapsing seat over a large tank of water.  The passing public have to throw the ball at a target above their heads and if it hits correctly, the seat opens up and the MPs fall in to the tank (beautiful!).  I feel this would be a good idea just before everyone goes to work.  Good for the MPs too.  That’ll make them all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the day, and if they make a really bad decision, back outside to the Dunk Tank they go (just an idea).

Well I love London.  It’s a city with so much to offer that just keeps giving.  So much to do and see.  Make it top of your ‘to do’ list every year!  Go and lose yourself.  Wander the streets.  Wander the museums, be in no rush.  Make it your time! 

So until the next visit which won’t be long, I’ll leave you with the usual Easyblend blog song but this time its two – The Beatles- Don’t let me down and AC/DC Thunderstruck

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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