Buying & Selling old Range Rovers 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.

I orignally wrote a my guide to cover Land Rovers and Range Rovers but it broke e-bay's 20,000 character limit (just) so I've split it in to two parts. Part one covers Land Rovers and Parts. This is part two, which concentrates on Range Rovers.

Range Rovers In this price range (£2,000) the only Range Rovers you will find are classics (the RRC) which were made up to about 1994/5. You may find it useful to look up 'Range Rover Classic' on Wikpedia (sorry, I don't think e-bay will let me put a URL in here). The early classics (up to about 1986) are relatively spartan compared to the 1986 to 1995 production.

They are, in my humble opinion, fantastic vehicles and very undervalued. My understanding of the market is this: a lot of folk want to run a Range Rover for the wrong sort of reasons - usually they want a status symbol and a big, comfortable, shopping wagon. They are not interested in driving something that was made 15 years ago, no matter how prestigious it was when it was new. This leaves a different sector of the market buying these lovely old vehicles, while the die-hard off roaders and tinkerers mostly prefer the rugged simplicity of the Defender. For the rest of us, the sticking point is the fuel consumption. With a heavy left foot the V8 versions do about 15 mpg and even well tuned and driven gently, more than 20 mpg is wishful thinking. All the folk who want a cheap-and-cheeful four-wheel drive run usually run away at this point!

You will need to do the arithmetic based on your own mileage or whether you can justify having two vehicles, but it is a sum well worth doing. If you are only going to use the Range Rover for short trips at the weekend and one or two long runs a year, is the extra annual running cost all that great? Time to talk about V8 engines.

The V8 is lovely. It sounds fantastic, it gives heaps of power and loads of torque. It can be converted to run on LPG with about a 10% drop in performance and a halving of the running costs.

The 'basic' V8 is the old twin-carburettor 3.5 litre that is found in some Series IIIs, early Defenders, Range Rovers and Discoveries. Some examples (I think ex-military vehicles) are restricted: they can be re-tuned to give more performance. Similarly, 'normal' engines can be tweeked, but any extra power has to involve burning extra fuel. Tuning a twin carb engine is not as easy as tuning one with a single carburettor.

From the mid 1980s, Land Rover switched to the 3.5 EFi, which is really the same engine with a new head, allowing direct injection. This makes for a more efficient unit but still laughably thirsty compared to, say, a VW diesel car. The electronic fuel injection means that there are sensors, wires and control boxes to go wrong: spares are still quite easy to find on e-bay.

In the late 1980s the engine was bored out a little, to 3.9 litres and in the early 1990s the extra-long LSE Range Rover came with a 4.2 litre engine. With some tweaking, over 200 bhp can be coaxed out of the bigger engines.

Anything bigger than 4.2 litres belongs to a newer age and is going to be outside the £2,000 budget.

The point for the prospective purchaser to keep in mind is that the engine's reliability is going to depend on how it has been looked after and driven. Diesels tend to be thrashed, but many big V8s rarely get asked to do more than 2,500 rpm, so a petrol vehicle with 100,000 miles on the clock may well be good for another 100,000 if you have the time and/or money to look after it and replace bits as they fail. Beware of V8s that burn oil or lose water. If there is any suggestion that engine gas is getting into the cooling system, you are going to have to replace the head gaskets as a bare minimum, and you could well be looking at an example with the dread 'porous block'. Unless you are looking for an engineering project (In which case, why are you wasting time reading my novices' guide? Get out there and put that engine back together, it isn't that cold.) steer well clear.

Other than the engine, look out for dying automatic boxes and for rust everywhere. The sills, wheel arches, lower bulkhead and door posts are weak spots. Welding these areas need not be too expensive, but get an idea of the likely cost from a friendly welder before you bid. And, as for other Land Rovers, check the chassis.

Don't worry about the tailgate. There isn't a Range Rover Classic out there that has a rust-free tailgate or one that closes properly. Land Rover: I'm sorry I had to say that, but you had years to get the design right and you simply ignored it.

Aluminium tailgates are sometimes fitted as replacements and this is usually A Good Thing but it does tend to be reflected in a higher price. Fitting one is a matter of a few hours work, but brand new aluminium tailgates are several hundred pounds each.

That's enough caveats. V8 power, leather luxury, air conditioning, automatic ride-height control, ABS, traction control, a great sounding stereo, room for the dogs and the children, cruise control, heated seats, electric windows, sunroof and seat adjustment... the list is long, and you can find all of this around £1,000 on e-bay! I don't understand why more people don't buy them. In fact, I think I'll be talking myself into buying another if I go on for much longer. Remember that the extra gizmos in the later models mean there is more to be fixed when things go wrong, and remember that the huge number of varients produced between about 1984 and 1995 means that you need to have exactly the right workshop manuals.The RRC is probably the last of the Range Rovers that can be maintained by an enthusiast without having to visit a dealer.

LPG Conversions I'm going to gloss over this subject: I know very little about it. I had thought about it myself, but heard too many horror stories. Working systems are great, but good conversions seem to be expensive and they all take up either boot space or clearance under the chassis. The range on a tank of LPG can be quite limiting. On e-bay, a working LPG system seems to boost the value of V8 Range Rovers considerably.

Other than converting to gas, the alternative is diesel....

Non-V8 Range Rovers The 'VM' diesel engine is found in  RRCs from about 1980 to 1990. It gives nothing like the performance of the V8, but it costs a lot less to run. Because of the age of the engine type, the vehicles are more basic than than the last of the classics, but it's a choice well worth considering. As far as I know, this is a reliable engine, but not a star performer. There are 2.4 and 2.5 varients.

200 and 300 Tdi engines were fitted to Range Rovers for a short while, they also pop up as conversions. The 300 Tdi is usually set up to deliver more power than in the Defender and works well with the manual gearbox. It still isn't a V8, but it behaves very well. This, of course, puts the price up and just as with a 300 Tdi Defender, the potential buyer needs to ask himself why a valuable vehicle is going for a song.

Many owners have fallen in love with their RRC and then decided to convert to diesel from V8 petrol rather than sell and buy a new diesel version. Here you have to be very careful: some aftermarket conversions are excellent and, if properly executed, result in near-V8 performance for diesel running costs. I'd cite the M & D Mazda SL 35Ti as an example of a good conversion, but there are many others. There are also a lot of disasters: engines that simply don't work efficently with the transmission that they've been bolted to, shoddy adaptors, bodged up exhaust systems, mis-matched intercoolers and so-on. The only safe route is to stick to a firm of well known engineers: Steve Parker and M & D are two names that spring to my mind. As a newcomer, you would be well advised to visit one of the Land Rover bulletin boards, search old posts and ask questions. Failing that, or in addition, try to get behind the wheel of a friend's decent diesel Range Rover, get a feel for it, then go and try the one you're interested in on e-bay. Remembering that there is no such thing as a free lunch, you will really struggle to find a really good diesel conversion for under £2,000.

Good Luck and Happy Range Rovering!
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