Currently reading: Cropley on cars - Defender is an instant classic; Ferrari FF is never ordinary
Now is the time to buy a Land Rover Defender, Ferrari FF shoes cruising ability, celebrating the Ford Transit

MONDAY - Should I buy a Land Rover Defender?

I’d like a quid for the number of car-obsessed friends I’ve heard asking themselves this crucial question since (a) it was announced that Landie’s legend would not be made beyond the end of this year and (b) Land Rover’s inspired design chief, Gerry McGovern, was let loose to devise three ‘Heritage’ models that powerfully enhanced its already towering appeal.

A dozen people I know have put their name down, but I wouldn’t expect more than a third to follow through. (Given the size of the demand, this will be plenty.) That’s how it was with Morgan back in the day of the alleged seven-year waiting list. People just liked saying they were on it. They’d get to the front and go to the back again.

I suspect there will be Morgan/Defender parallels to be drawn on the depreciation front, too. I reckon the 90 Heritage in Grasmere Green, reposing in our car park right now, would be an unusually safe place to stick your shekels. I could have bought a similar heritage edition 17 years agofor £18k, and I’m sure it’d draw that money today.

TUESDAY - We’ve put 6000 miles under the wheels of our Ferrari FF since it came our way about three months ago. That must make it one of the most-used Fandangos in the country. I haven’t done all the miles myself, of course, but must be responsible for 4000ish.

It may sound weird, but it has taken me all this time to feel honestly at home with the car. It’s not that the FF is hard to drive – the reverse, in fact. The driving position is spacious and luxurious. Visibility is fine.

The monster power is tamed by a very capable gearbox, great grip and stability to burn. No, your ability to relax is impeded mostly by the fact that the arrival of this red Ferrari always seems to be an occasion for those seeing it for the first time. It’s never ordinary.

Funnily enough, my recent trip to Pendine Sands to watch the Blue Bird commemorative run at last created the right conditions. On that trip, I was alone with the car for three hours each way and, although not swift, it was one of my most absorbing drives of the year.

WEDNESDAY - A few days ago the Ford Transit had its 50th birthday. Eight million of them have been made over the half century, mostly white and mostly in the UK, and nowadays (because there are at least three different ‘flavours’ of Tranny) someone buys one every 180 seconds.

At times like these, people in the publicity engine room of Ford are inclined to produce ‘50 facts you never knew about the Transit’ lists. To this, I would like to add another: during the 1970s, for reasons that are hard to grasp, the Met Police let it be known that nearly all British bank robberies featured a sliding-door Tranny. Sales soared.     

Back to top

FRIDAY - More on the Defender, because I’ve been driving them all week. Truth is, I’ve never known a vehicle that so efficiently shows up the variability of my driving – which hitherto I’ve always thought was, if not good, then at least consistent.

But I’ve discovered this week that when I’m concentrating, a Defender (which needs precise handling to proceed smoothly) feels exhilaratingly mechanical and in touch with the magic of forward motion, quite different from the rubberised contraptions we normally drive. But when I’m pre-occupied or tired, it seems as rough as a cement mixer.

Those who drive them every day (of which there are many, even in London) will know what I’m talking about.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
fadyady 18 August 2015

Defender the classic

I didn't fancy the Defender much but I see it joining the ranks of classic cars. The ingredients are certainly there.
Oilburner 17 August 2015

Defender appeal

It's true. I should hate the Defender, it's everything I dislike in a car - it's slow, uncomfortable, basic, thirsty, possibly unsafe and a pain to drive. Not to mention massively overpriced new and used. And yet...I still find myself yearning after one. There is something about the mechanical simplicity and rawness of the beast that pulls at my heart. I'd say this though, at Tintagel Castle they have two 1990s Defenders (12 seat jobbies) running up and down the steep hill from the village to the visitor entrance. I've always admired these cars but never actually travelled in them, I paid for a ride on my last visit and my son mentioned to the driver that "Dad should buy one of these", to which the driver (the poor sod who has to use it day and day out) responded with "Give me 30 seconds and I can talk anyone out of it". 'Nuff said.