JOY FROM CARS THAT DON'T COST THE EARTH?

This summer I have spent more time slobbing about in my old V8 diesel Land Cruiser than anything else.

JOY FROM CARS THAT DON'T COST THE EARTH?

CHRIS HARRIS COLUMN WEEK 8

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a bit. Had a summer break!

Relentless bad news is the new normal of life. Even if it was true, only a mad person would publicly state that the next few years will be anything but a struggle for most people. I’m not quite sure how the motor car fits into a world where families’ lives are turned upside down, but people will continue to drive them and they will still be a source of fun and joy for people like you and I. That last sentiment surely makes them quite important. Conventional financial advice suggests that we should all ditch expensive hobbies, but what if they’re one of the few things that makes you smile? Surely we need to smile now, more than ever?

That’s what reminds us how much joy there is to be had in cars that don’t cost the earth. I know I spend much of my life making films about very flash and expensive machinery, but that’s more about viewing figures than what really makes me tick. This summer I have spent more time slobbing about in my old V8 diesel Land Cruiser than anything else. No one pays it a second glance and it’s three different shades of silver from a previous life that was clearly tough, and which would probably have destroyed most other vehicles of its type.

The joy here is that a new, more expensive truck wouldn’t have wormed its way into mine or my kids’ affections. I sold the G-Wagen on here; it wasn’t my daily driver, and part of a truck’s life for me is dropping an equally scabby old speedboat into salty water – and that isn’t something I’d want to be doing with a fancy new G. I bought the Land Cruiser last April, for the saline reasons listed above, but also because I’d always wanted to see just how legendary they were. I can report that everything you heard is true. It is so much better in its intended role than anything made by Land Rover or anyone else it’s hard to know where to begin listing its strengths. An L322 Range Rover that had led the same life as this LC would be a pile of bits.

But perhaps what’s better than the car is what it represents. It’s old and dented, but crucially it’s not a machine I don’t care about. In a world of carbon trim and complicated aero-formed panels that cost thousands to repair, the simple pleasure of parking something and not worrying whether some clown opens a door into it cannot be over-estimated. I’m cyclical about this stuff and right now I’m a bit over hunting around car parks for spots that might hide something new and undented from the usual morons. You couldn’t kerb a wheel on this Land Cruiser, even if you spent a week trying.

The role of ‘partly knackered old hack’ automatically makes it more endearing for those around it. It’s like an old family Labrador - you can forgive it the odd flatulent moment because it has charm. It’s a respected member of the pack. 

I paid £24k for this. My basic man-maths suggests that sum is about the same as a year of G-Wagen finance payments. Don’t get me wrong - a new G400d is in most ways a better SUV than a 14-year-old ‘Cruiser, but the difference isn’t anything like as large as I’d expected. And this has me thinking what it would be like if I applied the same old-for-new strategy with other cars. If there’s one thing many people are thinking, surely it’s that they’d rather own something outright than be hanging on the drip every month. I keep wondering if I shouldn’t sell all the new, expensive machinery I’m luckily enough to have - much of which is owned by the bank - and shuffle into old gear that I could own outright.

But this strategy could merely serve to reinforce how amazing the Land Cruiser is, because attempting such a swap with any fast saloon, estate or sports car would be fraught with risk. But risk is exciting, which is why I’m waiting for a few R33 Skyline GT-Rs to appear on here.