James Ruppert: Bargain barnstormers that will take you anywhere

The fraternity of used car owners is a very strong one, especially when an enthusiast motor is thrown into the mix. So it was a wonderful surprise to find a Lightweight Land Rover on my drive.

It was piloted by Jonathan, who had popped by weeks previously to ask if he could look at the seat layout of my Lorry. We didn’t know each other, but he spotted my Series 3 on the way home from work. His left-hand-drive model was built in 1983, the same year as mine, but the seats/ bulkheads on those dinky ones can be thrown out of a military aircraft.

Anyway, according to Land Rover dealer John Brown 4×4, I learn today that Jonathan’s Lightweight is the most popular old-school Landie. Apparently, it takes them just 32 days to sell one, whereas my terrible old Lorry would take an interminable 11 more days to fly off their forecourt.

There is, of course, an infinite number of specification differences when it comes to old Landies, but John Brown has the first-hand data. So apart from being a Lightweight, it’s finished in Stornoway Grey/ Mid Grey, has a galvanised chassis, a 200Tdi engine, six seats (two up front, benches at the rear), limestone wheels, an MOT exemption, a truck cab and free-wheeling hubs.

Nice to know, and as they’ve tipped us off, let’s see if we like anything they have for sale. Obviously everything they have seems to be perfect and they can build you pretty much what you want. So I’m trying to swerve a Green Goddess fire engine at £8495 and am heavily tempted by the wonderful oddity that is an Austin Champ for £14,995. Anyway, we’re here to look at Land Rovers.

For £14,995, what about a Series 2a, which is a historic vehicle with a posh interior – even a heater with demist? It has the two-and-a-quarter-litre petrol unit that I can vouch for, free-wheeling hubs (which I can also vouch for), some new canvas and sticks, plus a recently fitted front bumper. Essentially that’s modern hatchback money, except this will be fun and really useful. Plus it’s a soft-top. Cheaper than one of those Lightweights, too.

It’s hard for me to tear myself away from Brown’s, which was also selling on commission a customer’s 1959 Series 2 for £18,995. They first sold it in 2017 and have demonstrated how you can update these old girls. It had power steering (which I don’t think they need), parabolic springs (which do make a difference) and a five-speed gearbox (which is good, as it’s linked up to a 300Tdi engine). That was the only part of a Discovery I owned that was in any way dependable. Overall, then, an interestingly updated example that just might appeal to a buyer who isn’t an enthusiast.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

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Question: My mum wants a 4×4 load-lugger with a big boot but that’s also a bit of fun. An impossible combination? Edward Kellett, via email

Answer: One of the most fun cars on the market, the Ford Ranger Raptor, fits your requirements to a T, with a loadbay bigger than any boot, infallible off-road credentials and wacky jacked-up styling. It’s not great for a quiet getaway, though, so for something more subtle, how about the Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid? Don’t judge a book by its cover: this is a real sleeper-spec car, with an electrified drivetrain pumping its 302bhp to both axles and giving a 0-62mph time of just 6.0sec. It’s a pricey beast new, so keep an eye out for low-mileage nearly new examples. FP

Question: I’m looking for a reliable, automatic commuter car that will fit a large dog and is small enough for country roads. What can I get for £5000? Simon Taylor, via email

Answer: A folding rear bench turns any supermini into a small van that even Scooby-Doo would be comfortable in, so let’s start at the lower end with a 2007 Skoda Fabia with just 44k miles for £2495. Luxurious it is not, but it is surprisingly spacious, wholly dependable and a pleasure to drive. For when you need to transport a fridge or washing machine, you could pick up a 2008 Ford Focus Estate with a perky 1.6-litre Zetec petrol engine for £3490 or split the difference with a 2010 Mk6 Volkswagen Golf with five doors and a pleasingly capacious boot for £4595. FP