Like many gearhead fathers, I dread the coming day when the wall goes up. And it’s not just the teen years either - cars and coffee has a tough time competing with Minecraft. Happily there is a solution. A Defender, in fact.
This one belongs to my neighbour Scott (note the U, eh? We’re Canadian, bub). It’s a 2000 Defender 110 TD5, mostly factory with a few upgrades. This is Scott’s third Defender, and while he misses his free-wheelin’ D90 the most, I think this is going to be the one that sticks around the longest. If you’d like to read a bit more about it, you can do so here at one of my regular outlets.
“Why don’t kids care about cars anymore?” is a headline I’m sure you’ve seen in the past, largely the bleatings of bewildered boomers who forget that the Datsun B210 always outsold the 510. Most people have never cared about cars, it’s just like any other relatively niche interest. It’s why Camrys sell so well, but by the same token there is still currently a healthy a varied automotive culture today. Stance, for instance, seems weird and scary to me, but it’s basically just a new take on the lowrider thing. Drifting is huge. Instagram lets people show off their rides to a global audience. Videogames let you “own” cars you might never even see in your hometown. Everything’s fine, Grandpa Simpson. Stop panicking and go watch Matlock.
But that’s not to say things couldn’t be better. Enter the Land Rover.
The Land Rover Series III is absolutely the reason I’m interested in cars (well, that and Test Drive II: the Duel). I’ve been driving these things since I was eight, and the combination of utter simplicity and complete unreliability forces you to learn how to things work under the tire-bolted-to-it bonnet.
So that’s one part of it, the hands-on requirement. However, there is something else, a sort of shape-memory that affects both old and young when they see that classic boxy outline. Adventure! Attenborough! Everything’s a safari in a Land Rover. Kids love them. My eldest daughter, who is two, starts jumping around shouting “Land Rover!” any time she sees one.
There’s more too. Scott drove his Landie down to Moab this spring break for a camping trip with his two kids. Had he done so in a perfectly competent Kia Sorento or something, you know what the trip would’ve been like: iPads glued to faces, earbuds in, DVDs playing - tune out, turn off, drop out of the real.
But the Pelly family didn’t even pack a single touchscreen and they didn’t need to. Unlike modern high-beltline crossovers, you can actually see out of a Land Rover, feel the bumps and jounces, watch the horizon, peer into the cockpits of other passing cars at their bored occupants. Again, everything’s a safari, and adventure.
That’s what driving should be like, what I want it to be like for my own kids. So much of the modern automobile can be sheer drudgery that your kids might grow up to regard all time spent in-car as a necessary evil.
But with a Defender (a Wrangler might do the job too), there’s that sense of potential every time you slam those thin-skinned doors and crank up that agricultural engine. We could drive to school. We could drive to the Baja.
The Defender says, it’s your choice: your world can be a brightly-lit screen, or it can be, you know, the world. I know which I’d choose for my kids. It’s the better four-by-four choice by far.