Motoring: My Worst Car: Paul Heiney's Range Rover

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The Independent Online
In the early Eighties it was one of the trappings of moving to the country - you had to buy a Range Rover to fit in. But first of all I bought a very ancient Land Rover which proved to be incredibly faithful and utterly reliable.

Unfortunately, the lure of the Range Rover proved too great, and that was how I came to own my worst car.

I suppose I should have realised that this white Range Rover would turn out to be a white elephant, because it was so suspiciously cheap in the first place. The biggest problem it had was getting all eight cylinders to fire in some sort of logical sequence, and that led to an endless series of breakdowns. The fault could never properly be detected, and after about 30 miles the car would just come to a halt. I found that I had to jump out, lift the bonnet, remove the distributor cap, then put it back on to get it running again. Then I had a stroke of luck, and smashed it up.

Towing a horse box one day, it jackknifed and got badly damaged. No one was hurt, but I was happy because I thought the insurance company would write it off.

They didn't. The assessor looked at the mess and reckoned that the car could be rebuilt, but that didn't make it any more reliable. I advertised it in the local paper and I had a response from a collector of vintage Rolls-Royces.

Rather than tax them all, he wanted to tow them to shows and thought that the Range Rover would be ideal. And so it proved, because when I took him for a test drive it behaved itself impeccably. I felt a pang of guilt when he paid over the money, but thought no more about it until I got a phone call that evening.

It was the chap who had bought the Range Rover, and he had broken down on the way back to Ipswich. I waited for a torrent of abuse, but it never came because he couldn't have been happier. He liked nothing more than tinkering under the bonnet and taking the engine to bits to find out what the problem was.

I had learned my lesson, so once I had got rid of that horrible Range Rover I went and did the decent thing and bought, for pounds 1,000, a very old Series 3 Land Rover which has never let me down.

Paul Heiney has been a national radio and television presenter since 1975 and has written widely on farming and country matters. His new novel, 'Domino's Effect', is published in April by Hodder & Stoughton, price pounds 16.99.