Every auto enthusiast, married or otherwise, knows life eases substantially with a patient and understanding significant other. Washing, waxing and wrenching on our Land Rovers can be costly and can take away from quality time at home. It’s a bonus when your partner supports your passion, and that support gets put to the test in a quest to bring home a Range Rover Classic.
Doug needed that support when, three years ago, he found a neglected Range Rover Great Divide Expedition in North Carolina. “I have always loved the look of the Range Rover Classic but was a little intimidated by the work associated with keeping one in good running condition,” he said.“I also knew I would most likely have to travel far from South Florida to find one. There are quite a few Defenders and a fair number of Series II’s in the Palm Beach area, but you do not see many Range Rover Classics.”
Doug’s search ultimately led him to an ad for a ‘91 Range Rover Great Divide Edition #359 for sale in Wilmington, NC. “The four or five photos in the ad were blurry and the description did not offer much info. Initially I breezed by the listing thinking it was months old — or a scam — and the seller had not taken it down yet, so I ignored it. “
After unsuccessfully bidding on a few California-based Range Rovers, Doug came across the ad again and called the number. The owner picked up, saying the Rover was still for sale, and that he was surprised there had not been much interest in the vehicle; Doug played along. (“I didn’t have the heart to tell him the blurry photos and lack of information likely hurt responses.”) The owner agreed to drop off the truck for inspection at an independent Land Rover shop in Wilmington; negotiation led to the Range Rover joining the Philibin family.
Before picking it up, Doug had the Wilmington shop install new springs, struts, oil cooler lines, new coolant hoses, CV joints and tires, as well as an ignition coil and catalytic converter. “Doug wanted to address the items that would give us the best chance to make it home,” Jackie recalls. “We planned on driving the Range Rover back to Palm Beach after taking a few days to enjoy Charleston and Savannah; our Airedale, Margot, would also join us.”
The anticipated departure day from Wilmington soured under a heavy rainstorm. The Range Rover’s white paint had a lime-green glow from the thick, green mold that grew in every crevice (and there are many in a Range Rover Classic); even the white body panels took on a hazy, lime-green hue. But to Doug,“Even in its neglected state the Rover was still beautiful in my eyes, the new tires and modest suspension lift looked great.”
Alas, the course of true love never does run smooth; the seller, unfortunately, did not come prepared to transfer ownership — no title, no registration and a bunch of, “I swear I had it right here” comments. After a few trying hours at the Wilmington Department of Motor
Vehicles office sorting out the mess, Doug and Jackie had the title in hand and a running Range Rover Classic ready for a now much-delayed road trip. “My wife Jackie’s patience had about run out, but Margo’s tail was wagging with excitement, sticking her wet nose out the back window of our new Rover as we headed for Charleston, SC.”
“The four-hour trip along the coast to Charleston went beautifully,” Jackie recalls; “the storms cleared, and we first-time Rover owners relaxed and appreciated the surprisingly well-preserved, luxurious wood-trimmed interior. All the gauges and buttons worked, and we enjoyed the wide-open view granted by the slim window and windshield pillars, and our tall seating height. We arrived in time for a walk around historic downtown Charleston and a late dinner before settling in at a dog-friendly venue for the evening.”
“After a walk for a cup of coffee in the morning and a quick fluid-level check,” Doug recollects, “we jumped into the Range Rover for the two-hour drive to Savannah. “With Jackie now behind the wheel, we wanted to enjoy the less-traveled plantation backroads in the low
country of South Carolina.” Their enjoyment was real — but short-lived. “Near Green Pond, SC, we started losing power and began to smell burning wire. Wisely, Jackie switched off the ignition and came to a rolling stop. Having no previous experience with a Land Rover, we found ourselves marooned in a weak cell service area, so we walked for a while until phone service improved; there we requested help from a garage about 45 minutes away.”
A flatbed from Gerald’s Garage of Walterboro, SC, came to the rescue. The owner’s son, Gerald Jr., took the call and had the Range Rover on the flatbed quickly. “We sat three-across on the cramped bench seat with our Margo showing her appreciation by slurping
Gerald Jr.’s face the entire way. The route to Gerald’s Garage took us through two-lane roads of dense low country swamp and forest. Upon arrival, Gerald Sr., along with his tech team and shop dog, an unfriendly Doberman, greeted us.”
Following an hour or so under the hood, the truck would still not turn over. The well-intentioned mechanics at Gerald’s had zero experience in diagnosing problems on a Range Rover Classic. “I think your engine is shot,” concluded Gerald Sr. Before things got out of hand, Doug recalls, “I thanked everyone for their help, and they agreed to keep the truck at their garage until I could arrange to ship it home.”
Uber, Lyft and taxis do not operate in Walterboro, SC. The nearest rental car companies informed the travelers over the phone that they had no cars. “Gerald’s son graciously gave us a lift to the nearest hotel in his restored ‘68 Chevy pickup — three across the bench seat and Margo showering him with kisses once again. After we had waved goodbye to Jr., the hotel politely let us know they have a no-pet policy, at which point Jackie first started showing signs of a possible breakdown. She was attempting to join a zoom meeting for work with no WiFi and little cell service, and the news of being stranded did not sit well. With things looking dim, I called my only friend in town — Gerald — and asked if he knew anyone who would be interested in driving us 85 miles to the nearest available rental car at the Savanah Airport.”
“I might know a guy,” replied Gerald. “Minutes later,” a surprised Doug recalls, “I received a call from Johnny, who said he would be at the hotel to pick us up in no less than 10 minutes. The 70-plus-year-old Johnny arrived in a spacious Toyota Sienna Minivan and introduced himself as the “Good Samaritan around these parts.” He promptly grabbed and stowed our luggage in his van, just as a professional cab or Uber driver would. When asked what we could pay him for the lift, he replied, “Whatever is fair for you works for me.”
“Johnny took us along the scenic route, adding some extra time and miles onto our trip, but we were in no position to complain. He pointed out the best areas to find arrowheads and catch fish, and told stories of his time growing up there. Margo kept one paw on the armrest and the other paw nestled on Johnny’s arm for much of the ride to Savannah. There, we secured a rental car and arrived in south Florida late that evening.”
“The Range Rover arrived via flatbed days later and I sent it to Longwood Motors, an independent Land Rover shop in West Palm Beach. Shop owner Jack Wood saw the problem even before he pushed the Rover into his shop — a fried wire from the ignition coil had nearly disintegrated; Jack ran some fresh wiring from the coil and replaced all of the other damaged wires in sight. The Rover came back to life immediately and ran strong. Jack gave me some trouble-shooting tips and advised me of what spares to carry in the truck. Over the next few weeks, I installed a new distributor and spark plug wires for extra peace of mind.”
Routine maintenance and regular driving have kept the Classic in working order ever since. Doug, an aviation technician for corporate jets, and Jackie, a designer who works for Amanda Lindroth, have demanding jobs. After their workdays are done, the Range Rover is their vehicle of choice when heading to the beach, tennis courts, a night out, or running
errands with Margo.
Doug calls the Range Rover, “the most enjoyable driving experience I can recall. We have a 911 and an overlanding vehicle but the Range Rover is our favorite hands down. The view, the ride height, the giant steering wheel and perfectly patinated wood trim on the interior all do it for me. I always have a calm and relaxed disposition when behind the wheel and am looking for any excuse to get out for a cruise.”
“Our goal is to own the vehicle for decades to come, and to keep it intact for our 7-month old daughter, Nina. I know that major repairs to some squashed and rotting body mounts will be required down the road, but for right now the truck serves its purpose and is a joy for us. The current state of the interior is ideal for my taste and hopefully will stay intact. A respray of the exterior will be addressed in the near future.”
“The adventure gone wrong in getting our Rover was definitely worth it, the memories and stories from the journey are something special for Jackie and I; we look forward to many more rides in our favorite vehicle.”