So now it is time to say goodbye to the VW. We’ve had a Tiguan of some description on the fleet for a long time and have got to know them well. The Escape model was a decent upgrade to the standard auto-engaging SE that we ran for six months previously. In the most recent winter snow it was comforting to have the additional off-road switch, which meant a smoother journey in the deep snow that Kent enjoyed, and the increased approach angle that the redesigned nose of the Escape offers.
The Escape is really not a bad off-roader, it’s just that, being a lower-slung SUV than more traditional off-road vehicles, it feels inappropriate to take it anywhere really rough. Although the Escape’s angled nose allows for more serious playtime, the lower ground clearance that crossovers/modern SUVs offer makes me rather nervous to tackle anything too strenuous.
It’s that time of year again, when my daughter Kerrie presents a play at an annual drama festival in Rochester. And since that play involves a variety of bulky items of scenery, which has to be transported from workshop to theatre, she requires a vehicle to do the transporting, which inevitably means the Cherokee on account of the ease with which it converts into a van-like cargo carrier. The play this year involves four metre-and-a-half box-like frames that open to reveal a garden – don’t ask – along with a matching garden bench and – again don’t ask - a ventriloquist’s dummy called Benny. Since the garden frames pretty much stretched the Cherokee’s internal cargo space to the limit, the bench had to go on the roof, leaving Benny to share the remaining passenger space with me… and yes, I know, it was hard to tell which of us was the dummy as we carted the scenery down to the theatre.
Well, after an eventful first few months to the year, there were thankfully no surprises in Discovery ownership throughout April and May. After finishing the multiple jobs that had reared their head I was looking forward to some peaceful driving. The only expense I have had to fork out for was a pair of light guards courtesy of John Craddock Limited. After fitting some rear light guards over two years ago I finally decided to bite the bullet and go the full way and guard-up the headlights. The easy to install kit was in my opinion a bargain at £61.75 delivered, however these were for the replacement items at half the price of genuine Land Rover parts. However I have been informed they may no longer be available in the future, so the genuine article will be the only option – good timing!
Now the plus side is all the lights are protected from the rogue cow or stray pheasant but cleaning the lights will now certainly be a challenge!
You may recall in the March 2013 issue of 4x4 that I waved goodbye to my Ford Maverick. I challenged myself to run a capable 4x4 on a shoestring budget, and I pretty much managed it for an enjoyable eight months. The Maverick was surprisingly good off-road, but didn't quite deliver what I wanted. The main problem is that I really wanted a Land Rover Discovery. I paid £500 for the Maverick and thought there was no way I could get a Discovery for that. However, I boldly stated in March that I'd sell the Maverick in the winter, to maximise income, then see what I could buy in the spring. It required a level of patience that I'm not really used to, but I actually did it.
But why did I want a Discovery so badly? When I told Editor Fryatt of my plans, he laughed and said I'd only get a complete wreck. Glancing at the classifieds, I was forced to concede he might be right.
The answer stems from the fact that I had my school work experience at Lode Lane back in 1993. Scary to think that's over 20 years ago. I rather naughtily got the chance to drive a Discovery 200Tdi automatic prototype at the Eastnor Castle proving ground – most 15-year olds don't get that much excitement on work experience! From that moment on, I simply had to have a Discovery.
The only thing I generally tow behind the Cherokee is the Hotchkiss, and since last year’s summer wasn’t much better than this year, the poor old thing – which really needs a dry and sunny day to provide the necessary driving enjoyment – hasn’t been out of the garage for at least 10 months. However, since we have experienced a few sunny days and there’s the prospect of a few more to come, it looks as if we may be able to take the Hotchkiss out one weekend soon, so I decided it was time to do something about the dodgy trailer lighting socket on the Jeep’s tow bar. Off-roading mud and water splashes had taken their toll on the socket’s contacts, which hadn’t been in the best state when I’d acquired the car. I figured it was time to clean the socket out with a wire brush and a strong blast of cleaning air from my compressor. However, when I saw the state of the contacts after a year’s negligence I realised there was no alternative but to replace the socket.
Halfords provided the necessary. For little more than a fiver I could have bought a nice black plastic one that would have been a straight swap for the original, but the shiny silver metal one caught my eye and I thought wow, that’s the one for me. I’m not sure it was the right choice. It got so hot in the sun that I could hardly handle it, and I can imagine it freezing solid in the winter. Still, it was only eight and a bit quid and it does look good.