Travel Reference
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I accepted that going the wrong way round and trying to hit as many people as possible
- while exciting - was against the rules and promptly got you thrown out, I played it the
other way round, trying to have as few collisions as possible; this was slightly less ex-
citing, but much more satisfying. (The attraction of the modern extreme theme-park ride,
where the competition amongst the designers seems to be to discover who can terrify the
captive customer the most in the shortest time, almost entirely escapes me).
I strongly suspect that if I still lived in the south-east of England I wouldn't enjoy
driving so much - or I'd do a lot of track-day stuff - but because I'm lucky enough to live
where I want, in Scotland, and Scotland, away from the central belt (indeed still in places
within it) is full of great driving roads, I have a deeply full and fulfilled driving life and a
rather splendid ongoing relationship with my vehicles of choice and the roads I use them
So what am I doing driving a three-tonne diesel device with the aerodynamics of a
scaled-up half-brick and apparently officially classed as a bus? And not just driving it,
but really getting a kick out of driving it? I mean, this thing is trapped in the sixties: no
air conditioning, no central locking, not even electric windows, and as for air bags : Ha!
Air bags? Air bags? Defenders aren't especially soothing and pleasant places to be when
they're the right way up and the road ahead is smooth and straight; you weren't seriously
expecting to have a crash in comfort, were you?
What on earth do I see in this motorised Portakabin, this crude, noisy, rattly, stilt-tyred
throwback with a comedy heating system that takes twenty minutes from cold to produce
the first slight, damp hint of just-about-above-ambient-temperature air from its wheezing
vents, whose turning circle is rivalled for tightness by your average canal narrow boat,
whose front seat belts are cunningly sited so that they naturally fall into a position where
they jam the door when you close it and whose aerodynamics are bettered by most motor
homes and several bungalows? What can be the attraction?
Well, for one thing, the Land Rover has been chipped; something called a Stage Two
Conversion has upped its horse power by 50 per cent, replacing - or at least reprogram-
ming - the original engine management chip and fitting a beefier turbo (the 'T' in Td5
stands for 'Turbo', and it's a five-cylinder diesel engine).
This does not exactly transform the Land Rover into a Ferrari, but it does mean you
can keep up with normal traffic and can tackle long motorway inclines without the igno-
miny of having to slow and change down from top gear (it has five forward gears, but
could use a sixth). Keeping the original gears means that you do tend to have to whisk
through them pretty quickly on the way up - there aren't many cars where you can com-
fortably change up to top gear at 40, even while going uphill - and the thing does feel
a bit overrevved at motorway speeds. Still, there are useful peaks of acceleration to be
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