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    To Le Mans, with zest

    The most practical
    car in the paddock?
    We think so

    CAR #1972 #Range-Rover / #Land-Rover-Range-Rover / #Land-Rover
    Owned by Charlie Magee classic.cars@bauermedia.co.uk
    Time owned 23 months Miles this month 732
    Costs £200
    Previously Chopping out lots of rust, welding in lots of new metal, dreading the final bill

    Le Mans Classic had been pencilled in on the calendar for weeks. And the reality of a little European adventure had started to crystallise as the days counted down. Nights under canvas, bush skills, gnat bites, and a subtle mix of sunstroke and hangovers.

    But crucially, it had the makings of a great weekend with the addition of some world-class classic car racing. Something about Le Mans Classic has always appealed to me, more than similar domestic events. Maybe it’s the historic circuit, the relaxed atmosphere and, I suppose, the adventure of getting there.

    Well, hopefully not too much adventure. That depends on your mode of travel. Up until a few days before, I had planned to buddy-up with Ross Alkureishi in his Lancia Zagato for a fast and furious blast across northern France, inevitably travelling light.

    Then I received a phone call from Ross – the sort of call you know is going to impart bad news. Sure enough, the Lancia’s gearbox wasn’t ready following a rebuild, so no fun in France for us. Bottle opener, multi-tool and head torch were heading back into the cupboard for another couple of years.

    Or could it be that my blue 1972 Range Rover would come to the rescue? Relieved of its usual duties as a city runabout, it was deputised to make the fuel-hungry jaunt to Le Mans. Thanks to the very helpful people at speedchills.com, we were able to change some details in our booking and hey presto! We were packing everything in sight, including the kitchen sink.

    I have to say I wasn’t expecting to take the Range Rover. It has some great qualities as a car but bombing along the autoroute isn’t one of them. I quickly ordered some judicious spare parts, including a radiator top hose, fanbelt, a full set of spare bulbs (French police can get stroppy about this) and five litres of oil – something that tends to escape at high cruising speeds. I printed out my list of RAC Eurocover phone numbers and headed off to pick Ross up on the way to the Eurotunnel.

    Getting a few miles under our wheels seemed to prove that it was all going well. We relaxed on our later-than-planned journey on the A28 toward Rouen, save for keeping a watchful eye on water temperature, oil pressure and slowly but inexorably falling fuel gauge needle. I had put all various levers in their optimum positions for high-speed touring and hopefully the optional overdrive would earn its keep. Much as I’d been practising my French – ‘Pompe cinq, s’il vous plaît’ – we made it all the way to the track, barring the odd comfort stop, on a single 19-gallon tank of fuel – that’s 16mpg. Not great but not as bad as I thought it might have been.

    Arriving just after midnight, our next test was erecting an as-yet unseen tent for the first time. I was running on adrenalin by this stage and I think we managed it in about 20 minutes, leaving just enough time for a quick beer at the bar before bedtime.

    I mean, who’s ever slept in a tent sober?

    Range Rover meets Ferrari 412, Mustang and GT40 replica.
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    The Mercedes that thinks it’s an M3 but for half the cost. And this one has a manual box, reports Paul Hardiman / #1990 #Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 £15,500

    This Mercedes was extensively restored around 2008 with new metal in the rear wheelarches, new front wings and fresh paint. Structurally it remains solid beneath and has no bubbles in the body panels. The Almandine respray is holding up well, with no significant chips or scratches to fuss over and the plastics are all in good shape.

    The wheels have been upgraded to AMG-type 16in alloys in place of the standard 15in Fuchs Gullydeckels and the tyres – 205/50 R16s all round – comprise 2014-dated Falkens at the front and older Events at the rear. All have decent tread. The unmatching 16in spare wheel wears a Yokohama tyre.

    Some of the suspension bushes have recently been changed; a little digging in the history file shows that the engine mounts have also been renewed and the steering box rebuilt.

    Inside, the leather is lightly creased but nowhere near worn and the rear seat looks unused. The carpets and dashboard are in good shape, with both the trip computer and temperature read-out still working. All four electric windows work but the nearside rear switch has been wired back to front – possibly when it was replaced – so up is down and vice versa. The trim is also slightly loose on this door. The heated seats and electric driver’s seat adjustment work perfectly and the original first-aid kit remains unopened in its compartment in the rear parcel shelf. The only area that lets the side down is the centre console veneer, which is starting to crack.

    The motor is tidy, with its coolant pink and to the correct level in the header tank. It was treated to a top-end rebuild with new valves and guides not many miles ago and as a result is less rattly than many of these cars. It starts easily and shows the correct Mercedes full-scale three-bar deflection on the oil pressure gauge when warm. The temperature gauge holds steady at 80ºC. The motor pulls well towards the 7000rpm redline but there is a hint of blue smoke when accelerating from rest. There’s only a tiny – and normal – amount of play in the steering and the dogleg gearchange shifts easily with good synchromesh. The brakes are strong and pull up straight. However, there’s a hint of differential whine that concurs with an advisory on the last MoT certificate suggesting an oil leak.

    The service book was stamped up to 85,060 miles in 1999 and there are bills to substantiate further servicing and care since. It’s only done 5000 miles in the past two years, with a total now reading 147,517. It comes with the original owners’ manual and will have a new MoT at sale.

    These Mercedes are good value compared with E30 BMW M3s, which would fetch twice as much in similar condition.

    Leather seats in the front look used but not worn. The rear seats look untouched.

    Motor had a top-end rebuild recently and is rattle-free. It starts easily and revs sweetly.

    CHOOSE YOUR 190
    The 190E 2.3-16 homologation special is launched in 1984 so Mercedes can compete in DTM racing. It has a five-speed dogleg ZF manual or four-speed automatic gearbox, limited-slip differential, quicker steering, self-levelling rear suspension and – thanks to a Cosworth-designed cylinder head – 185bhp. 19,487 are built.

    The 1988-on 190E 2.5-16 adds 200cc and 10bhp, duplex timing chains and ASD locking differential. 5743 are made from July 1988-June 1993. Further homologation of improvements in 1989 give the 2.5-16 Evo 1 a larger bore and shorter stroke, boosting power by 9bhp to 204bhp. 502 are made from 1989-1990.


    Aggressive, wide-arch 2.5-16 Evo II arrives in 1990 with 235bhp delivered at a screaming 7200rpm, a more prominent bodykit – including a giant rear bootlid spoiler – and 17in alloy wheels. 502 are made and sell out almost immediately. Klaus Ludwig finally wins the DTM championship in the racing version of this car in 1992.

    SPECIFICATION
    CAR #Mercedes-Benz-190E-2.5-16 / #Mercedes-Benz-190E-2.5-16-W201 / #Mercedes-Benz-W201 / #Mercedes-Benz-190E-W201 / #Mercedes-Benz-190E / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-190E-2.5-16-Evo-II-W201
    YEAR #1990
    Price £15,500
    Contact The Motor Shed, Bicester Heritage, Oxfordshire (vintageandclassiccars.co.uk, 01869 249999/07718 764463)
    Engine 2498cc inline four-cylinder dohc
    Power 195bhp @ 6200rpm
    Torque 174lb ft @ 4200rpm
    Performance
    Top speed: 146mph;
    0-60mph: 7.2sec
    Fuel consumption 24mpg
    Length 4430mm
    Width 1760mm
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    Charlie Magee
    Charlie Magee joined the group Mercedes-Benz 190 W201
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    Charlie Magee
    Charlie Magee unlocked the badge Reviewer
    Reviewer
    Reviews blog posts that is created on the site.
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    Range Rover smiles through the pain

    THE STORY SO FAR
    YEAR #1973
    CAR #Range-Rover / #Land-Rover-Range-Rover / #Land-Rover /
    Owned by Charlie Magee
    Time owned 18 months
    Miles this month 0
    Costs Waiting for the bill – somewhat nervously
    Previously Went on holiday in it – beloved offspring even enjoyed a free insect safari in the rotten boot

    The Range Rover’s MoT test date had been looming in the diary like a grim dental appointment for weeks – the sort of consultation where you listen to the dentist tutting and contemplate all those rushed brushes and biscuits before bedtime.

    I realised that this was what I would be in for if I just checked the bulbs and made sure the horn worked before taking it in to the test station; more direct action would be needed for the Range Rover to pass its MoT this time, let alone get a smiley-face sticker for being a brave soldier.

    Having inspected the car’s underside and prodded nervously – I wasn’t brave enough to poke too hard – at bits of brown and scaly metal (and I use the word ‘metal’ in its loosest possible sense), I armed myself with a set of scene-of-crime photos and arranged to meet Richard Varrall from Land Rover specialist Famous Four at the NEC Classic Motor Show last year.

    Richard compared the photos of my car with the immaculate – if only partly completed – early two-door that he and his team were exhibiting and took me through the process that would banish the corrosion from my over-dunked digestive of a car. It gradually dawned on me that I was going to have to take the restoration work more seriously than I had first thought.

    Adopting his best chassis-side manner, Richard explained that he has supervised this kind of work many times before and that all would be well. Even so, I still felt a little overwhelmed by the thought of how much of my car would be cut out and how much welding would be needed. Richard seems to be able to sniff out all the classic rust traps – of which there are many on a Range Rover – like a truffle hunter’s dog.

    I made my way up the A1 to Famous Four a couple of weeks later, this time to drop the car off. The journey was a good opportunity to contemplate what lay ahead while still enjoying the drive – rusty as it was, it reminded me just how great these early Range Rovers are and how far ahead of their time they were.

    Famous Four’s inspections were rather more vigorous than mine and revealed that rust was indeed festering in all the usual places. The guys set to work, with my only proviso being that they should keep the body on the chassis if at all possible.

    I was too busy with work to visit in person so Famous Four emailed me numerous photos during the process detailing how the work was progressing; they’ve ended up doing far more work than I was expecting to banish the corrosion and make the underbody as sound as possible.

    I’ve resisted the temptation of having the exterior repainted – save for a few body panels – because this is a job for the future, but I did get the wheels and bumpers refurbished. This should sharpen up the Range Rover’s looks a little and give it a bit of a Hollywood smile.

    I think I’ll be needing that smiley-face sticker myself when I see the final bill.

    Inner structure gleams after much work from Famous Four.

    Lots of new metal in the sills and at the bottom of the driver’s side A-post.

    Spare rusty metal, or modern art on a budget? Range Rovers love to trap mud.
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    Charlie Magee
    Charlie Magee joined the group Range Rover Club
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