Buying & Selling old Land Rovers and Parts on e-bay

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Content Many people are interested in buying a Land Rover with a view to home restoration and maintenance. E-bay offers a potentially inexpensive way acquiring an old Land Rover or Range Rover.
Many of those new to Land Rovers are not clear as to what they might be bidding on and the purpose of this guide is to explain what types of vehicle are likely to be found for very little money, the common pitfalls and to describe my own experiences buying and selling on e-bay.

Despite my word-processor's estimate, e-bay says that the original guide was over 20,000 characters: so I have moved the Range Rover Section to separate guide: Buying & Selling old Range Rovers on e-bay.

Introduction We should start by clarifying the subject under discussion. Old Land Rovers & Range Rovers, with the emphasis on old. These are vehicles which are well past the first decade of life. I have no experience at all of buying new or nearly new Land Rovers for tens of thousands of pounds on e-bay. This is the other end of the market, where £2,000 is a lot of money.

Tinkering about with Landies is a hobby of mine and there's a large cohort of people like me. This, I believe, is the main reason why I've had so many positive experiences. The sort of people selling old Land Rovers are likely to be fellow tinkerers and bodgers (should I say 'enthusiastic amateur mechanics' ?) who are selling for genuine reasons.

Every so often I find that I have simply taken on too many projects and have run out space, time and money. Clearing out the garage on e-bay is a useful way of reducing the outstanding work, clearing some space and collecting funds for the next vital purchase. This produces a useful second-hand market in spares and, if you like, can be thought of as recycling. Now, what other hobby gives you pleasure, draws its funding from an existing budget (motoring expenses) and lets you bask in warm glow of knowing that you've done your bit to save the planet?

What novices need to know is that the vehicles that are offered for £200 to £2,000 will have drawbacks compared to a brand new car. This may seem obvious, but the world is bursting at the seams with optimists who are crying out to be disappointed.

Series Vehicles these are the "proper" Land Rovers, the ones with a split windscreen. They are simple in design and easy to work on. They have leaf springs as standard and so have a ride quality that's unkind to the backside. Power steering is rare, so parking is a problem unless you have muscles. What many novices fail to appreciate is that the vehicles' prowess off-road comes from having ground clearance, engines with a reasonable amount of torque and a low-ratio gear box. It is not the result of having a powerful engine.

The standard 2.25 engines are not very powerful at all and Series I, II and III Land Rovers often struggle to get above 60 mph. They are great fun, fine for pottering about on short journeys, more useful than a Swiss Army knife. They are not substitutes for the family saloon and most of us would need to keep another vehicle for long commutes and trips with the children. Hammering down the motorway at 65 mph (downhill) makes you arrive tired, deaf and poor (20 mpg from a 2.25 petrol is not uncommon)  I know, because I tried it for six months.

90/100 and Defender without getting anoraky, these are all the same design and have been made the same way for twenty years with minor changes over time. '90' and '110' refer to the nominal length of the wheelbase. The second hand value seems to correspond, roughly, to the number of seats. A 110 stationwagon can have up to 12 seats (which may have implications for your driving licence and your insurance) The 90 stationwagon is usually described as a 7 seater. These figures include the front middle seat which is best removed and replaced with a cubby box: do you really want your child to be impaled on a gear lever if you have a crash?

Van-type bodies have fewer seats and the pick-ups only 2 (three including the middle seat).The pick-up versions are usually the cheapest. There is a really useful hybrid with a five-seat cab and a pick-up rear (the crew cab) which comes in 110 and 130 inch sizes. These are rare and usually command a high price.

All of these have coil springs and usually power steering, so they are much less difficult to drive than the series Land Rovers. 'Comfortable' would be stretching it a bit, certainly for the 10 to 20 year old examples on e-bay. What makes a huge difference to the performance (and the price) is the engine and here is where novices tend to become really confused.

Over the years, Land Rover have fitted 2.25 and 2.5 naturally aspirated diesel engines, a 2.5 turbo-diesel (the dread 19J TD) a 2.5 intercooled direct injection turbo diesel (200 Tdi and 300 Tdi) and more recently the TD5. Petrol engines are less common but there are some 2.5 4-in-line engines around, quite a few V8s and some V8 EFi examples. The EFi will usually be 3.5 or 3.9 litre.

Land Rover have fitted other engines, particularly in NAS (North American Specification) vehicles, and then there's the bewildering array of engines that have been fitted as conversions. Is your head spinning yet? Here's a simple guide to the standard diesel engines that you might meet in the under £2,000 category. I'll mention the V8s under Range Rovers...

2.25 naturally aspirated diesel: ridiculously underpowered. Only buy one to convert to something more powerful, or as an oddity to play with.

2.5 naturally aspirated - appeared around 1986 to 1988. Chugs steadily, giving about 30 mpg. Effective top-speed is 65 to 70 mph, with a five-speed box, on the flat. Doesn't set the world on fire but keeps going.

2.5 TD - the above engine with a turbocharger bolted on. More frisky (well, less of a slug) than the naturally aspirated engine but very prone to cooking itself: I wouldn't have another, but there are folk who swear by them.

200 Tdi - the standard 2.5 lump re-engineered into a successful power unit. With direct injection, and an intercooler, it delivers more power and torque and makes even the heavy 110 station wagon a joy to drive. Everyone wants one and this pushes the price up! The 200 Tdi will drop straight in to replace either the 12J or 19J (2.5 and 2.5 TD) engines so you can, in theory, buy an old 110 with a blown engine for under £1,000 and drop in a 200 Tdi for under £1,000 to get a decent Landy for under £2,000. It's not difficult, but I wouldn't suggest this as the first step for a complete newcomer. One potential trap is that there are quite a few 200 Tdi engines from Discoveries on e-bay. They will fit a Defender, but this involves a good deal of time, trouble and (relatively) expensive conversion parts.

300 Tdi - Is it a better engine than the 200 Tdi? Angels-on-a-pin-head sort of discussion that is still going on without any useful conclusion for the poor baffled novice. If you can find a vehicle fitted with a 300 Tdi engine for under £2,000 you are either very lucky, or you are buying a vehicle that is going to need a good deal of work. A 300 Tdi engine will not drop straight in to an older vehicle, whether the donor was a Defender, a Discovery or a Range Rover. It can be done (I've got one) but this is pretty advanced bodging.

General Points on Land Rovers Points to look for when you think about buying a second-hand Series or Defender are: engine, gearbox, chassis and bulkhead (including footwells). They do have aluminium body panels, it is true, and these don't rust, but they can corrode. There is, however, a surprising amount of steel and it does rust: like fury. The bulkhead can be patched or even replaced, but this is a big job because it involves dismantling a huge number of things to get at the parts to be welded. If you have time and are handy with a welding torch (or know someone who is) then rust is not insurmountable. If you want a running vehicle to start to learn about Land Rover maintenance, avoid rusty vehicles like the plague. This will limit your choice: be warned!

Waxoyl and other underseals can be two-edged swords. Regular cleaning and waxoyl protection of the chassis will let it go on for ever. Thick underseal can, of course, be used to disguise bad welding, fibre-glass patches and holes, while giving a cosmetic appearance that's deceptively like a well cared for chassis. Always get under the vehicle with something to prod the chassis: any genuine Land Rover enthusiast will be happy to let you do this. If you find rust, there will be more. The harder the rusted sections of chassis are to get at, the more a repair will cost. Obviously, this is not something that you can do without visiting the vehicle. I've been very lucky in that all the vehicles I've bought 'blind' have been sold by honest people who haven't tried to hide anything. If the vendor claims that the chassis is rust-free, make sure that this is part of the item description or at least that you've exchanged messages to this effect on e-bay, so that you have some sort of protection if you decide the vehicle is in 'substantially different condition' and want to use this as grounds for backing out of a deal.

I think I should also point out that if the vendor has described faults fairly, it is totally wrong to turn up after the sale and start to complain about the same faults. I've never had this happen to me, but some people do seem to wear beer goggles when they are reading the item description and bidding, then they turn into hard-nosed realists when it comes to parting with money.


Hybrids As with aftermarket diesel conversions, the finished result can be anything between a dangerous mess and a fantastic example of ingenuity and engineering skill. 'Coilers' are realtively common: the usual way they are made is to adapt a coil-sprung Range Rover Chassis and drop a series III body on top. The result is something that (is supposed to) handle like a Range Rover and yet preserves the looks of an old series III Land Rover. Insurance can be difficult for hybrids. Always check, is it 'road legal' because the owner has jumped through the correct hoops, or has he simply got away with driving something that the DVLA thinks is still an old series III ? There are people who sell what are obviously later vehicles but which incoroprate part of an old series III or series II, and so drive them on the old tax-exempt log book. This is almost certainly something that the DVLA would be unhappy about: at best you would have to re-register the vehicle on a Q-plate, at worst it could be confiscated and you would be fined.

Parts I've bought Land Rover and Range Rover parts from many of the small businesses that exist on e-bay. Mostly they seem to be enthusiasts who have found that they can make a living from dismantling old vehicles and I've found them all to be helpful and reliable. A useful rule-of-thumb is to check the feedback (obviously) and the detail in the item description. If the seller describes a part as in 'very good condition' is this simply his standard way of listing everything that he sells, or does he describe some of his goods as 'worn' or 'tatty' ?

I have, again, been very fortunate in my e-bay experiences with private individuals selling second-hand spares, but I think a degree of common sense is called for. If someone is selling, say, an injector pump, that they've obviously taken off to fit a replacement, it does rather tell you something about the reason for removing the pump in the first place.

Finally, be careful with the prices charged for new parts. It amazes me to see new parts being bought for considerably more than the market price, but it happens every day. I think the reason is that buyers tend to be competitive (in an auction) and lazy: we see just the part that we need, so rather than look up the price from one of the mail order specialists, we stick in a bid... and in next to no time someone is paying twice the going rate. I think this is an e-bay phenomenon, not only confined to Land Rovers.

Happy Land Rovering!
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