The Scots revealed recently that young people have unreal expectations of their future earning capacity. They expect to be banking over 60 grand a year by the time they’re 30 but are, according to some figures or other, unlikely to be earning more than 20p a week by their 31st birthday. Well, I have the answer; a business opportunity for the young car-enthusiast with even the tiniest mechanical ability to make squillions of pounds and provide a service of such value it will get them knighted. Please take out a notepad and read on.
It’s no secret that I like an old Land Rover. Some years ago, I even went so far as outing myself as an enthusiast of modifying leaky old crates made decades ago in Solihull, thus pre-empting any potentially damaging revelations in the press to such effect. My heavily modified black 110has featured on the pages of this magazine, displaying for all to see the time, attention and not-inconsiderable funds lavished by me on its handbuilt V8 engine, dislocating suspension, racks of spotlights, modified axles and such.
Appropriate, then, that I should choose to present my wife, on the day of our wedding anniversary, with a Land Rover as a present. And not just any Land Rover; this was the very same aged 110 station wagon that we bought as our first family car a decade or so back and that quickly became a member of our little family, taking us, our first daughter and our first dog on day trips and holidays, even starring at our wedding, complete with decorative ribbons.
Ten years later, and in the only romantic gesture I have ever made in the 15 years I have enjoyed with Mindy, I tracked down the same Landie, bought it, stuck a couple of ribbons on it and parked it up at the front of our house as an anniversary gift. Much weeping later, we set off in it for the pub and an anniversary dinner. And at the wheel on the way back, a terrible thing dawned on me. Wally-car – an entirely boggo 110 Station Wagon which seats 12, has a 300 Tdi engine and totally standard specification (apart from patches of rust around every single rivet holding the body to the largely ruined chassis and all the other little scrapes and dings that you too would accumulate after 217,000 miles) – felt better than my heavily modified Land Rover.
The steering, being asked only to operate the skinny, standard-issue tyres fitted to narrow steel wheels – rather than heft about the enormous, aggressively treaded terrain-chewers I have fitted to the fat alloys on mine – felt neutral, natural and smooth by comparison. I fitted a Discovery rear axle to my Landie to give discs at the back to improve the braking. Wally-car’s brakes are the standard discs up front and drums at the back, but rather than squealing and howling in protest at reining in the inertia imparted to several tonnes of aluminium and steel by a bored and stroked V8, they simply bring the car to a smooth halt. The windows don’t hiss and shudder with the effort of holding back the rush of air from an extra 10mph top speed, and the lights don’t drain the battery, despite the best efforts of the alternator to keep up with the massive extra demands of a rack of spotlights bright enough to bring ships crashing to the shore on stormy nights. It is better in every single way than my modified Landie. Or to be precise, it is better in every single one of the departments in which I have modified my car. And the experience has served to confirm for me, once and for all, what I already suspected but failed to accept: modifying cars just doesn’t work.
But it’s done now; I have modified and am regretting it. And here comes the opportunity: If you’re one of those college-leavers looking at a bleak landscape, or mid-career and fancy a change, you could do a lot worse than to set up in business as a car de-modifier. Build up a stock of standard parts for cars that are typically messed with – everything from Landies to hot hatches – and offer a service whereby you take in their sad, ruined cars and return them to their owners fresh, cleaned and happy again. The work will be easy, because you will simply be undoing things that idiots like me have been able to attach with a pair of pliers and some electrical tape. With nothing more than a lock-up garage and a basic toolkit, you will enjoy the affections of happy customers, and you will become rich and buy any car you want. Just don’t mess with it when you do.
There, you can have that tip on me.