By on July 30, 2013

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Some cars are cool, but it can be difficult to explain this to a non-car person. I recall a discussion I had with my dad several years ago about why I bought a $500 Land Rover, which I needed to park in his driveway (whereupon which it proceeded to deposit a startling variety of fluids). He wondered why a vehicle would be worth only $500. I explained that these things were notoriously unreliable and basically had zero resale value. (Bad electronics—on a British car? Surely you jest.) Because he is a sensible man, my dad quite predictably inquired: “So why on earth would you want one?”

In my high school drafting class, it was often remarked that a picture is worth a thousand words. Not having a picture handy, I launched into a lengthy account of my experience with Land Rovers in Sub Saharan Africa in my twenties, and the difference in philosophy between, say, a Rover and a Toyota Land Cruiser. While the latter was considered the gold standard for reliability, the complexity of the Toyota was daunting. Pull up a schematic from a shop manual at random for a mid-nineties Land Cruiser, and compare it to the same part on a similar era Land Rover, and you’ll see what I mean. As I ventured further from (what passes for) civilization in East Africa, it was not uncommon to be surrounded almost exclusively by old Rovers. To be sure, part of this is explicable simply in terms of the legacy of British colonization in the region. But as I talked to other expats during my time in that part of the world, I saw that many had a preference for Rovers over Cruisers. They’re simple, easy to work on, and parts are abundant. How simple? Let me tell you a story.

I was on a project somewhere in Massi Land near the Kenyan boarder, and as I walked through a village, I passed a gentleman sitting on a rock, grinding a valve with an old file. Sure enough, nearby was a dark green Series IIA with its hood up. The thing was beat to hell. The block (sans head) was sitting in the dust leaning against the front wheel. He was performing a valve job—with basically a rock. How many times the engine had been ‘rebuilt’ this way would be impossible to guess, but the machine’s simplicity and its aluminum body meant that it was essentially impervious to time.

At this point in my narrative, my dad had largely lost interest, and we had not yet even begun to talk about the legendary Camel Trophy!

Here, by the way, is the picture that would have been worth a thousand words:
“This, dad, is why a Land Rover is cool”.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 10.26.25 AM

What a shame to have lost one of motorsport’s most interesting and exciting events to the political-correct impetus to not advertise cigarettes. Now, granted, my truck is a Discovery, not a Defender like the vehicle pictured. Not as cool, but they did run the Trophy with Discoveries for a few years as well. Here’s the important part: the reason they could do this, is that under the soccer-mom-friendly body of a Disco 1 is the running gear of the Defender—they’re identical. This is not a modern CUV (cute utility vehicle); this is a truck that gets 11mpg. The lug nuts are an inch and a half in diameter. Peek underneath one sometime. Everything is about twice as big as you’d expect it to be. Look at the ground clearance, the approach and departure angles, the sheer diameter of the axles. Now, for purposes of contrast, let’s look at the same year Jeep Wrangler:

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 4.32.10 PM

Cute, isn’t it? You probably knew a sorority girl in college who had one.

Granted, the YJ epitomized some of Jeep’s darkest days, but we can see immediately that these represent entirely different notions of what a four-wheel-drive should be.

Whether history has been kind to the Discovery is a matter that can be taken up separately. Suffice to say, in such a discussion, ‘scandal’ might be an appropriate term for having buried a simple, capable chassis under a nest of Lucas electronics. Moreover, I suggest it is also a fitting term for the way our Federal government ‘protected’ us for decades from diesel engines, including the terrific TDi the Discovery came with in most of the rest of the world. Instead of a simple, torque-y, 25mpg diesel, we got the archaic 4.0L Rover V8, which hails from roughly the Eisenhower era. As Chris Harris memorably put it when describing this mill in his Range Rover: “Massive V8, about eleven horsepower”.

Also separate, would be a discussion of the current direction of Land Rover, and the market demand for luxury SUVs. The first step to appreciating old Land Rovers is to separate them from the phenomenon of ‘conspicuous consumption’ with which the brand has more recently entangled itself.

I wish here to simply opine on the ‘coolness’ of an old Land Rover whose paint is fading. Why does the green oval badge with the simple script Land-Rover evoke such strong emotion, while the nameplates ‘Suburban’, or ‘4-Runner’, merely induce a yawn? The answer is somehow bound up with all this lore, this legacy. There is a mythology to Land Rover, and this, I suggest is precisely what makes cars ‘cool’; their mythos. You cannot create it out of thin air, and it’s not the product of marketing genius.

I haven’t been back to Africa since the mid-nineties, and so cannot comment on affairs there relative to four-wheel-drives. But my guess? Not much has changed.

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136 Comments on “The Concept Of Myth, And Why Some Cars Are Cool...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    You have a smart dad, he’s cool

  • avatar
    Summicron

    Like that Jeep wasn’t garish enough; they had to ArmorAll the tires.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    In before the Jeep guys!

    Honestly, I love Land Rovers. They look so cool!

    • 0 avatar
      rushn

      Yeah, seriously, Jeep guys… Jeeps are awesomely capable… right after all the stock crap is replaced. I’ve gotten to wheel with several generations of these bar stools on tires and their story is the same as that of Land Rovers, stuff breaks a lot and then it’s either easily/cheaply replaced by stock stuff or much better after market.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Not bashing Land Rover, but I will be the first to admit I don’t “get” Land Rover.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. Great article too and it’s one opinion that I completely disagree with, but that’s what makes cars cool. We can agree to disagree.

      • 0 avatar
        thanh_n

        I agree with the disagreement. I personally think the Land Rover, Suburban & 4Runner are all yawners, except the Land Rover has become more of a status symbol. Also, although the Audi pictured above is a cool car, I don’t see its relevance or any connection with starting off this article.

        http://www.landrover-defender.eu/images/Land%20Rover%20Defender%202007%20mud%202.jpg

        http://www.celebritycarsblog.com/category/range-rover/

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I can get the history, and the associated romance, but still would never consider one. But I can understand why others would.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I don’t get it either. Then again I don’t get the Wrangler. I’ve ridden in them and ride is horrible (loud, stiff, rough… and this is coming from a 350Z owner). I understand them as an off road play-thing, but as normal vehicle they are terrible. Especially for the money! Why would someone pay so much for a vehicle with no roof and metal flaps for doors? Wranglers only make sense (to me) as a kit car type deal were you pay $5K and build it yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      They were all over Africa while British Empire was dismantled, then Toyota came and kicked them out. There’s really not much special to Rovers. They did ship a full-time t-case with a center diff in Defenders though, so that’s a point. And it’s good that Ryan can wear his biases and prejudices on his sleeve. That’s what makes a car enthusiast.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Pretty much Land Rovers are an anglophiles wet dream. I won’t lie, I love crappy little british sports cars but I recognize they’re crappy versus a miata, NSX, Z-anything, and corvettes of the same era. The Rover carries a certain amount of great white hunter panache that Land Cruisers don’t. I think if we were to go to a non-British influenced part of the world and ask these same questions we would get the opposite answer.

        The other part of rover mythos is nostalgia, as late as the 90s these things looked 40 years old. It’s thr same wffect as wranglers, the biggest change was square to round headlamps. Each model has grown a little over the previous but basically looks the same. Though I would point out, nobody is seriously taking these vehicles over 30 inch boulders in stock form, but you could take both on a logging path and get through where a less truck would fail.

    • 0 avatar
      daiheadjai

      The SAS used to run amok in the desert in open-topped, machinegun-armed Land Rovers, making trouble for “Zee Germans”, if I’m not mistaken.
      Long Range Desert Group.

      Of course, the modern equivalent might be the ubiquitous Hilux in the hands of various unsavoury characters rolling around Syria/Iraq/Afghanistan… But I don’t expect we’ll be celebrating the Hilux on account of that…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I do and don’t, just like the old FJ.

      I get the “it can go anywhere and is made of indestructium” factor, and the “easily maintained” factor, and I appreciate the utilitarian looks (caveat: I also like the Crosstour and hate all Ferraris, so I’m an outlier).

      I’d never want to deal with one myself, except as a third, purely-recreational vehicle.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Ryan, when were you in east Africa, how long where you there and how far did you stay in the bush?

    I worked for various different NGOs and international organizations, including MSF and the ICRC, very far from civilization in Uganda, Kenya, the Kivus in the DRC and Rwanda, from the mid 2000s to the early 2010s. My experience is vastly different from yours as Land Cruisers greatly outnumber Land Rovers.

    As someone who’s torn down a couple 70 series Land Cruiser, put it on a plane (Let-410) and rebuilt it them in the bush, I also disagree that LCs are that much more complex than Land Rover (Defenders).

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Given that he says “random for a mid-nineties Land Cruiser”, I think he means the Series 80, not the 70.

      In the US they transitioned to the Series 80 in 1989 (from the 60, I think), and the 70 was, by all I can find, never sold in the United States.

      I suspect the anecdote makes more sense when you think of the *US market* Land Cruiser for those dates.

      (The anecdote probably isn’t fair to Toyota on the grounds that the 70 was the appropriate model for the sub-Saharan context and I don’t know that anyone ever bothered to try a Series 80 there.)

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        The Series 80 might not be good enough for sub-Saharan Africa or the Australian outback, but it could certainly handle anything Mother Nature would throw at you in America.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Ryan,
    Good points about the design of LRs. But since this is TTAC, we require a minimum quantity of LR bashing in this type of article which you covered with the obligatory Lucas referece.
    How much effort and money did you need to bring the $500 LR to leak free and good running status?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There is no such thing as a leak-free Land Rover. Leaks are simply part and parcel of the design, and are to be taken in stride.

      That said, I learned to drive on a RHD one, and my family had a number of them over the years in my youth. They were actually quite reliable. Biggest problems are two – while the body work is aluminium alloy, the frame most assuredly is not, and the tinworm finds it utterly delicious. The other issue is that if you attempt to drive them at American highway speeds with the regular transmission, you will destroy the 2.25l engine in short order. The V8s don’t have that problem. An overdrive conversion helps a lot. We never had major electrical issues with any of them, the wiring is about as simple as simple can be.

      I’ll certainly have another one myself someday.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Hmm, Rover 4.0L V8, or AMC 4.0L I6? I’m sorry, there isn’t enough ‘cool’ in the world to get me into one of these turds over an XJ.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    … and thus why suburban moms in Richistan drive Range Rover Supercharged and Evoques. The only time these vehicles will ever go off the road is when they miss the turn to day care while drinking their double frappachino’s while talking on their cellphones about the next “ladies who lunch.” Too bad about that 12 MPG, earth.

    ….This myth is also why (almost) all new Porsche owners own P-cars – why, the racing heritage, of course. Unfortunately, 99.2% of these vehicle will never go above 75 (and god forbid EVER visit a proper racing course), and if it does it is likely to end up touching a guardrail or finding its way into the neighbor’s lawn.

    ….this “heritage myth” of which you speak is also why BMW can pawn off ridiculously complex cars that have the half-life of tissue paper — they build the “ultimate driving machine,” you know — just look at the original M3 and M5.

    It is a shame the “coolness” doesn’t stick with the things that are truly cool — old Rangies that have lived forever climbing goat trails, Porsche’s with stickers, and BMWs that don’t go “boom.:

    Great article and all the more reason to keep the old metal rolling….

  • avatar
    Waterview

    +1 to “davefromcalgary”

    I simply don’t “get” any vehicle whose owners profess to love the vehicle, but then proceed to warn you to never own one that’s not in the warranty period. Luxurious and fun to drive? Perhaps. Well-built? Hard to make that argument.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      It’s the same way with big dogs. Go look at a St Bernard or Newfoundland Dog breeder site. They all say the same thing: they’re great dogs, but here’s a list of reasons why you probably won’t want one. Some things are just not for everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      One can easily love a vehicle that is a horrible pile of crap from every logical quality or value perspective.

      Love ain’t rational.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @Waterview

      This is just silliness and makes no sense. If you can afford to buy one new, you can afford to maintain one out of warranty. Depreciation trumps repairs absolutely every single time when we are talking cars and trucks that start at 40K and up.

      The problem is when idiots buy them well used. A 60K car or truck is still a 60K car or truck when it is only worth $10K.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Much of what was said here about LRs can also be said of pre-1968 VWs. Simple, durable and nearly indestructible if not operated in areas with salted roads.

  • avatar
    Nate

    For the record, I think old Land Rovers are awesome as long as someone other than myself is driving them. But I just don’t get the cheap shot at the YJ Wrangler. What about that made it “some of Jeep’s darkest days”? It was more capable than a CJ, and more composed on the road, although I’ll freely admit that last part is damning with faint praise. Same axles, engine, transmission and transfer case as the XJ. Whatever edge Land Rovers have in the suspension department, I’d warrant Jeep more than makes up for it with the 4 liter inline 6. I’ve got one with nearly 160k miles on it and all I have to do is top off the oil once a month. I wouldn’t even have to do that if I could be bothered to fix the rear main seal.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “But I just don’t get the cheap shot at the YJ Wrangler.”

      It’s a Land Rover thing. There isn’t a LR product that I’d rather have than the equivalent Jeep product, at any price.

      • 0 avatar
        Nate

        LR owners must be jealous of our sweet-ass inline sixes…

        Seriously though, I love the look of an old Rover and I think the automotive world would be poorer without them, but they’re no cooler than an old Wagoneer or Cherokee. And I know the Defender is cool, but give me a mint CJ-7 Renegade any day.

        • 0 avatar
          Sam P

          And jealous of the bombproof reliability when compared to the equivalent Rover.

          And the fact that in the United States, for less than the price of a 17 year old Defender 90, one can run out and buy a brand-new Wrangler Rubicon off a dealer lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Land Rover owners intentionally eschew an equally capable vehicle for offroad use to buy a defender for double or triple the price. It’s an aesthetics issue mixed with anglophilia and general mythos. I would argue that the average defender sees less offroad than the average wrangler that was bought for offroading (yes, I had to quantify it only because these are atleast 50 or 60 to 1 ownership ratios).

      • 0 avatar
        rushn

        That was one hell of a “qualification” just to guarantee that you are right. How about all them Jeeps with broken off-roading? New Rubicon with 6000 miles on it and broken axle? Seen that. Transfer case falling out? Yep. Most of the level headed Jeepers I’ve met would say that Jeep is a good platform because there are so many good aftermarket parts, but the original stuff… yeah, Trail Rated to leave parts on the trail. I don’t see much of a difference between Jeeps and LR Defender that spilled its entire engine in front of me. One is just more expensive and has horrible door handles.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I won’t argue that they’re Jeeps are that much more durable than Land Rovers (even though in my anecdotal experience they are). It’s the fact that the price and availability of parts and service is far better, in North America anyway.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Lot of 90s era Rovers around here offering coolness in the form of shade to countless rodents as they await repair.

  • avatar

    Every time I see a HUMMER H2 on the road here in NYC, I wonder to myself: “how the hell did we ever get here???”

    I think back at how disgusted I am in myself for allowing myself to attempt to lease one – until I tried getting in and realizing how small it was inside and what a terrible value it was compared to my EXT.

    Now when I see them I shake my head. “How was that ever considered cool”???

    And it’s usually a Yellow model being driven by some 110 pound Asian lady.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Your first problem here is that your tryin to compare an offroad vehicle made by AM-General, to a luxury vehicle made by GM

      Luxury=/=offroad a 3/4 ton chassis isn’t going to ride like a 1/2.

      It’s good you didn’t get one, as I don’t understand why you would even consider one where it will never be used to its potential.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I think both the H2 and the EXT are both ridiculous vehicles and terrible values, especially in NYC.

        But in his defense, IIRC correctly, the H2 was also a luxury vehicle made my GM, I think even on a similar chassis as the EXT… both Chevy Suburbans dressed up for either soccer moms or wannabe gangsters depending on who you are trying to impress.

        The H1 was the only one actually made by AM General and a very different animal from the H2 or H3.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Sorry but the H2 was made by AM General across the road from HMMV production.
          It uses a 3/4 GM front section (1 ton for a couple of years when the 3/4 were selling very well)
          A 1-1/4 mid section made by AM general
          A HD 1/2 rear

          It has a 3/4 partial floater rear axle and a 3/4 variation font diff
          6.0 engine
          Factory locking rear diff
          Factory 35 in A/T
          4.10 axle ratio
          Brake modulation for wheel spin
          Made with majority of weight as low as possible without affecting ground clearence.

          If this truck was meant as a luxury truck why put so many components that luxury buyers don’t need?

          Agreement stated that any Hummer made must be able to complete the same rigorous test course as the H1, the same course AM teaches army personnel the capability of the Humvee. They can all complete the course through different methods

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Interesting, I didn’t realize the H2 was actually made by AM General. But aside from the semi-custom frame, it isn’t mechanically different from a Chevy HD pickup or HD Suburban with some off-road options, right?

            As to why they put components that luxury buyers don’t need, they did the same thing with Land Rovers… its an image thing, or at least is was back then before manufacturers figured out that they only need a brand, not an actually capable machine, to sell them to soccer moms. And I will bet that my 97 Disco could complete the same course the Hummers did, we used to run them on the dealers test track.

            I am not knocking the Hummer, I actually really like the H3 SUT Alpha and I realize the H2 was capable off road. Just not much more capable than any other 4wd truck. My main point was that it was way too big for NYC and was overpriced for what it was, and the comparison to the EXT was not so ridiculous.

            As a side note, my sister claims that her husband can purchase military surplus Humvees for around a grand that run and drive but have the interiors stripped out. If this is true I already convinced my wife to let me get one and turn it into a kick ass beach/mud/urban assault vehicle. I do not expect it to be as comfortable as an H2. Or an EXT.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Mechanically it has full time AWD, with a locking center diff for traditional 4wd. It also has a higher intake designed to take a little bit of water in safely, better clearence, approach, departure angles etc.

            Biggest weakness is the 4l65e which neither 3/4 have, but with aftermarket cooler or 4l80e swap that’s rectified.
            As well as the front steering which is rectified with a visit to dmax store.

            I’m not saying its the end all be all, but its a good setup especially stock.

            As for a military humvee, for a grand, the body and drive train are worth more than that, hop on that deal; however read up on getting them approved for civilian use on public roads, from some light reading I’ve done, the cost is pretty high.
            And no it’s definately not a comfy nor quite ride, but man is it fun, new tires ( factory size 37) are expensive, unless you get military take offs 98% treads run about $200 on eBay, so very good deal there.

            And no I wouldn’t drive it in NYC either, but then I have no reason to go there.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Excellent points, I hadn’t really considered all the design elements that applied to the H2 above and beyond the basic mechanicals.

            And thanks for the heads up on making the Humvee street legal, I didn’t know it needed anything to do that. And the tires, yes, I was hoping I could swap the original wheels and tires for something more commonly available. But all off-road tires are expensive so I guess I should expect that!

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Definately research what needs to be done, I would hop on that deal quick, regardless of what would be needed (course I have the land if I were unable to get street legal)

            It is expensive, but there’s a lot of fun to be had.

            Again I have no idea what is required, I’m just saying what I’ve read/heard.

  • avatar

    If I had the body shop for it, I’d buy a used Murcielago, stretch it, and design my own exterior for it – make it even cooler than the Reventon. Then cram in even MOAR power.

  • avatar
    FordRangerFTW

    Legends are born from durability; rarely reliability. We tend to get all misty-eyed over things that provide a linear continuity to our past & future. Baseball, Jack Nicholson, Volvo 240′s… It doesn’t matter if these things always work, as long as they are THERE. We subscribe to the past successes of durable items, and forgive them when they falter. “Why would you own such a thing?” “Because Land Rover.”

  • avatar
    JasontheF

    An excellent piece to which I must add that I am in some agreement with the idea of the LR myth.

    To be honest, I do get some of the Land Rover’s quaint nature which is brought by a dogged pursuit of maintaining “tradition” in the face of modern demands. I guess that’s one way of explaining the minute improvements from series to series alongside the consistently poor material quality and decidedly “hand made” assembly tolerances around a design with a comical understanding of ergonomics.

    A friend one told me that the Range Rover only differed by being a more comfortable place to wait for the inevitable tow truck.

    Far as I can see it, the greatest charm of Land Rover ownership is not the car, but the stories and the people which make it something to savor. This same friend who is hooked on it almost had me convinced, until I figured that it wasn’t his only car.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Another way to explain it with one word is that these vehicles have ‘character’ or, IOW, the complete opposite of a Toyota. Yeah, Toyotas are stone-cold reliable, but that makes them sterile and not much fun, the oft stated idea that they’re for people who view cars as nothing more than point A to point B appliances.

      That definitely can’t be said of vehicles like the Range Rover.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Toyota?

        Camry and Corolla, sure.

        But not the FJ, eh?

        And quite possibly not the Hilux/pre-Tacoma-Pickup.

        • 0 avatar
          rudiger

          The original FJ40 was A-OK. But the new FJ Cruiser? Not so much. In fact, for a modern Range Rover-esque vehicle, if I had the wherewithal, I’d spring for the latest Land Cruiser. It seems to be aimed at the Range Rover market but without the headaches (but no cache or character, either).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The Land Cruiser has not really been aimed at the Range Rover market, as that’s the Lexus LX’s job. Before the LX existed, the Land Cruiser was pretty basic. Both the LC and the LX do have “cache” (cachet), largely because of their reputation, size, and expense.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Why Some Cars Are Cool?

    When I was a kid and had just gotten my drivers license in 1963, any and all cars were cool to me as long as they could get me, and my friends who did not have cars, to where I needed to go, when I wanted to go there.

    And so a long succession of cars followed, starting with a ’49 Buick Straight-8 with Fluid Drive that got me through High School, and each was successively more cool than the previous one.

    I don’t believe that things have changed much since the days of my youth, except that maybe the difference between men and boys IS the price of their toys.

    Were my dad’s choices in cars an influence? Certainly, although his penchant for Drag-racing is no longer affordable these days. Now there were some cool cars!

    The coolest I care to go is mudding in 4WD Scout and Jeep vehicles. Did that have an influence on MY kids? Not in the least!

    They each have their own ‘cool’ car with the oldest son sporting a 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8, the two younger ones having pickup trucks, and the daughter a Honda Odyssey, each vehicle cool in its own way for its own purpose and application.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    What’s cool?
    If you believe it’s the opposite of what un-cool people do, then you better make sure you keep track of what un-cool people do so that you don’t do what they do.
    If you believe it’s rebellion, then you have to find out what’s worth rebelling against.
    If cool is early adoption of trends and technology, then you better keep up.
    If cool is individuality, self-expression and doing your own thing, just make sure that when you do your own thing, you’re not one of those nut-cases.
    If cool is about popularity, you better find out what’s pleases other people.
    If cool is about r-select vs k-select reproductive strategies, you better get in the fast lane.
    If cool is about youth differentiation from adult activities, you better act young.
    Or maybe cool is about adventure and taking chances. Then you better live life on the edge of disaster to win.
    If you want cool to be authentic, then find out what’s fake, and to whom.
    If you want cool to be self-actualization, then find out why people don’t.
    If cool is about being the best, then you better not end up second best.
    If cool is success, then you better be clear what success means to you.

    I’ll chime in with my insights into cool hunting, since status chasing behavior is an active research area for me. I think most people agree of cool as a positional good: a zero sum game where being cool/hip means someone else must be uncool/unhip. There are several definitions, none of which are mutually exclusive from each other.

    One definition of cool, the pedestal placed upon African-American culture, is subscribed to by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter in their book “Rebel Sell”. There is much to recommend for it: cool hierarchy is parallel to the WASP socioeconomic hierarchy; it is just possible to be poor and cool as it is to be rich and uncool.

    A second definition of cool is rebellion. A market is created when someone tells a rebel “You can’t have that.” Entire subcultures exist for the sole reason that they think mainstream taste is poison. Ironically, it’s often those born into the mainstream that despises what their family and peers want and seek elsewhere.

    A third definition of cool is authenticity. I believe the author’s article cites the Camel Trophy enduro’s as something that demonstrates pedigree. This is a marketer’s challenge, since it’s the consumer who grants authenticity upon a brand, not vice versa.

    And finally, there is the early adoption theory of cool. This definition, which you’re going to hear from me and not from Wikipedia or any sociology text book, says it is “the accelerating popularity of an idea, behavior, or thing before it crosses into mainstream adoption”. By that definition: if there is no popularity, it isn’t cool; if there is no acceleration or deceleration momentum in population adoption, it isn’t cool; you have to get there first before others do; once it becomes mainstream, it loses it’s cool.

    I have a lot of other ideas about cool chasing I don’t have room for, so I’m not going to discuss the multiple social hierarchies in an academic world that only focuses on the socioeconomic hierarchy; the density clustering of conformist versus individualist behavior; or a bunch of other ideas I’ve been developing that wows even me. In the end, status is like dancing. Class is like ballroom dancing. Cool is like latino dancing. If you want status, it’s better to have a little of both class and cool in your bag of tricks than to be locked into one or the other.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The cool thing about getting older is you stop worrying about what’s cool and start enjoying things that are important to you and if nobody else thinks that’s cool… you’ve succeeded

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Well spake.

        Another cool thing is shameless manipulation of your kids. Both my boys are coming over today and I plan to be in the yard with the lawnmower doing my best wounded-kildeer act when they drive up.

        It never fails with snow removal.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        The best part is, that’s cool.

        (Whoa.)

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Aka, “Why do senior citizens wear lime green polyester golf slacks. Because they can.” One of the wonder facets of aging is that you’re freed from the tyranny of cool and hip. Once past a certain age, you’ll never be cool again, and you’ll only look like an idiot if you try to be cool (and younger).

        Revel in it.

    • 0 avatar
      1998redwagon

      ^ +1 enjoyed reading that short essay immensely. i should show it to my 12 year old. not that he would read it mind you.

    • 0 avatar

      “If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis.”

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        Remember what I said about the nut-cases? Just kidding!

        I’m still mentally exhausted trying to formulate an insightful reply to Doug deMuro’s article on why luxury branded trucks failed, before I realized I actually don’t have a clue. The curse of investing 10,000 hours into a field, to be stumped by a simple question.

    • 0 avatar
      drvanwyk

      Well said, and very thought-provoking. I guess what it means in the end is that cool is in the eyes of the beholder. Out of curiosity, what has motivated you to study “cool” so much?

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        Cool hunting is just one aspect of status chasing. Status chasing is a universal human desire because it confers numerous evolutionary/reproductive/survival advantages to those who have it. Esteem is on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for a reason. There are numerous short cuts to getting it, as well as many dead ends. My interest is how to find the short cuts. Some people watch TV, others play video games, I people watch for entertainment. I’m good at reading class signals, and some signals have a better ROI than others in the context of WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized rich democratic) societies.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “If cool is individuality, self-expression and doing your own thing, just make sure that when you do your own thing, you’re not one of those nut-cases.”

      The cool part is not giving a f*ck

    • 0 avatar
      AoLetsGo

      Cool is success without appearing to be trying too hard.

      A talented athlete that does amazing things without banging on their chest with bling coming out their nose – think Steve Yzerman and most hockey players for that matter.

      A rich man who has nice yet tasteful things and is not garish nor a stuffy snob. Paul Newman comes to mind.

      Of course these are my definitions of cool; another person might say the cool guy is the flashy one with the gold plated car.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I wonder how much that guy doing the valve job with the rock charges, and if we could get him placed at a local JLR dealer for a stint as a guest video journalist? I would personally love to see the reactions of customers on seeing that kind of “maintenance” being done on their new model machines.

    My abiding Land Rover memory is of one being winched up a tree in “The Gods Must be Crazy.”

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Anything old, RWD, and V8 powered is cool to me.

    From a Chevelle SS396 to a frumpy 1980 Malibu sedan. I want a car I can fix myself.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “I want a car I can fix myself.”

      I want a car nobody has to fix while I own it.
      Just basic maintenance & a little TLC.

      I’ve heard there is a brand named…Totoya?…Yotota?
      Gotta check into that.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Of course, when I say “a car I can fix myself”, I mean “a car with simple mechanical everything so I can fix just about any problem with a set of tools and a few free hours”.

        Not some computer box that requires 700 dollar dealership repairs.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Yeah, I know… if I weren’t terminally tired of creepers, jack-stands and being continually speckled with chassis grit I’d still spend my free time wrenching in the garage.

          But only on pickups… damn modern cars are unapproachable with any skills or equipment I own. I don’t even know where I can put a floor jack without hurting something. The supposed lift points are the same pop can metal as everywhere else under there.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I’m just bitter because of my mom’s car (2005 Malibu Classic) requiring expensive repairs for stupid things (theft system locking her out of her own car). I never want to own a car like that.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Agreed.. insult to injury. You don’t want or need the trendy crap in the first place, you’re forced to take and pay for it (particularly elderly buyers bamboozled by salesmen) and it’s always the first stuff to expensively fail off warranty.

            It’s why I keep my cars so long.. I’d literally rather have another stent put in than deal with new car buying. Hell, the stent only takes about 20 minutes and you feel way better afterwards.

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            I don’t know where they went in on your stent, but I didn’t walk right for a week. But, I will concur on the feeling better. Too bad I needed a second.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I want a car that never needs fixin’ and is paid for, that’s the coolest car of all

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Depends on how much will you have to fix things yourself. I own cars ranging from 10 months to 50 years old. There isn’t much I won’t give a good solid attempt to figure out. In most cases, I’ll figure it out before the dealer does, then argue with them about the repair direction. Hilarious how many mechanics refuse to take any advice from “ecksperts”.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I just don’t trust car computers. So I’d like a car without a computer in it.

        Fortunately old RWD V8 cars without computers are still obtainable for fairly low sums of money.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Car computers are probably the most reliable parts in modern cars. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the “magic box” never gets replaced.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            And it’s a pricey expense. 700 dollars to replace one part in a 2005 car? That’s an decent chunk of change. You can buy an entire engine from a junkyard for 700 bucks.

  • avatar
    ash78

    My take on Land Rovers, both old and new. It’s a love/hate thing:

    http://taketheoutsideline.blogspot.com/2012/05/land-rover-suburban-usage-overtakes-off.html

  • avatar
    lon888

    I’d take “reliability” over “cool” when my life is at stake. In Africa put me in Toyota FJ jeep and I’ll get where I need to be in a relatively painless manner.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Thanks for a wonderful article! The Camel Trophy photo of the Defender up to its windscreen in water and burdened with all kinds of stuff on the roof is the apotheosis of any number of desirable male fantasies: adventure, ruggedness, toughness, etc. The cigarette boys were some of the best marketers ever, and this photo illustrates why.

    Of course, Land Rover is cool because it’s the original back country/bush/safari vehicle. It’s bigger than a Jeep and carries more people/stuff, so that’s why it was more useful. The Land Cruiser began its life as a Japanese knock-off. Of course, one may say that, today, the Land Cruiser is better than any current Land Rover on the market at performing the original mission for which these vehicles were designed.

    But, having ultimately failed to keep up with the Japanese “copy,” Land Rover have exploited their “heritage” to build aspirational vehicles whose owners care more about appearance than functionality, much less reliability.

    I had a friend who owned a Discovery, and I certainly agree that, on close inspection of the wheels, lug nuts, etc. this was one seriously over built off-road vehicle. If only it were not so unreliable (and, in the U.S. available with the diesel motor instead of that antique V-8 gas engine.)

  • avatar
    jmo

    For what it’s worth. A family member had a ’94 Discovery bought new and in the 10 years and 120k miles they had it the only thing to go wrong was a rattle in the cargo door latch that was fixed under warranty.

    As in most things here at TTAC the gap between a 5 year old Land Rover and a 5 year old Honda Passport might be a repair every 6 months for the Land Rover vs. once ever 18 months for the Passport. A difference sure. But hardly the only thing to consider when making a purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I do not believe this statement about the 94 (first year) Disco I. Maybe they never TOLD you all the things they’ve had fixed, or how many times it’s been in the shop – but there’s just no way.

      Guaranteed:
      -Tailgate water/rust issues.
      -Brake lamp/turn indicator issues.
      -Headliner issues.
      -Interior trim falling off.
      -Possible rust round rear of fenders/hatch *dependent on location.
      -Head gaskets.
      -EGR/ECU issues.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I sold a lot of Discos in the early 2000s. Most were around $20k after just 2-3 years of ownership (or “leasership” if that’s a word), a depreciation of roughly 50% in just a few years. They flew off the lots like crazy — to an interesting dichotomy of conspicuously consuming rich housewives and flashy urbanites.

    Highest extended warranty price in the book.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Highest extended warranty price in the book.”

      This is an excellent indicator. 6.0L Diesel Ford trucks are up there too.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      They flew off the lots because the subsidized lease deals made it too cheap to pass up. Our 97 Disco was $0/dn-$360/mo and insurance was cheaper than any other SUV we looked at making it a bargain.

      I liked it too, comfortable, handled well, braked well, and true, everything underneath looked like it was overbuilt and heavy duty. I didn’t realize it was identical mechanically to a Defender, but that would explain the off road abilities. I took it off-roading and mudding too, I used it as it was intended. I am not going to pretend nothing broke on it, it had some weird minor issues and one major mechanical failure but never left me stranded and the warranty was excellent. At the end of the lease the buyout was about $18k, and when I turned that down they called and offered it to me for $16k and that still wasn’t worth it, you could buy nicer, lower mileage used ones for even less.

      I would buy another one, I am actually considering picking up a used Disco II to replace our aging Honda CRV with 230k miles. Yea I know, glutton for punishment and all that, the Disco is cool, the CRV is not. Even if the Disco might never get to 230k miles LOL.

      • 0 avatar
        gessvt

        “I took it off-roading and mudding too, I used it as it was intended.”

        If you are using it as intended, I salute you. Case in point: most of the Raptors I saw on our recent trip to Colorado were covered in mud AND accessory racks. Raptors around Chicago and Detroit look like they are fresh off the showroom floor.

        I’ll likely never go off-roading anywhere near my current home. If my Legacy can get me to the mountain bike trailhead and through blizzards safely, that rules out a Raptor/Wrangler/Disco.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Too me all cars become cool after they hit a certain age. Their coolness is in the simple fact that they still exist. Especially if the car is not a show queen and someone is driving it on a regular basis. On that note: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/ :)

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      ++ Truly

      When I was in grad school (2000-2002) there was a professor in town whose daily driver was a plain-Jane ’55 Ford. I think it was the bottom-of-the-line “Fordor” model.

      It must have come from the Southwest because the paint had been nuked/fried/abraded away in bizarre patterns I’d never before seen, but no rust.

      He’d always keep right up with traffic and having it pass you when on foot presented no rattle, flop or any other untoward sight or sound.
      It was mechanically well maintained and to hell with appearances.

      That’s very cool.

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    Interesting post, to me Land Rover is just a shrug, it has no particular meaning or history. Here in Toronto it’s just an alternative to the Porsche Cayenne for too-rich banking households who want something “rugged” to drive 100 miles on the highway to their luxury cottage.

    The larger question of why a car is cool leads me to the question of aggressively uncool cars. I’ve always thought it took some guts to drive something like a Nissan Cube that is just so dorky and functional and purposefully un-sleek and non-sexy. Unlike a Corolla/Matrix which is just dull reliability, someone went out of their way to purchase something so uncool. Is that attitude cool in and of itself? I’m really not sure.

    Kind of ties in with the Volvo 240 discussion from yesterday… it was so rectangular, anti-stylish and uncool that it was cool.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      a Nissan Cube that is just so dorky and functional and purposefully un-sleek and non-sexy.

      A Cube is cool because it’s funky and different.

      Agressively uncool would be something like a Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      tpepin

      As a former Volvo 245 owner and current cube owner I would consider the cube and the 245 to be spiritual ancestors in that they are very similar; boxy bodies, utilitarian style, with few frills and *very* similar driving positions. Granted the cube tries harder to be different than the 240 ever did but they both fly in the face of convention in exactly the same manner.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Wow, if there’s a VW beetle in your past too, that would make you like the “Anti-Cool”, which is pretty cool ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          tpepin

          No Beetle though I did once own a metallic blue VW Fox Wagon, I thought it was coolest little car at the time. Bought it with 187K on the clock for $700, in perfect shape too, not a dent and no rust… Perfect car for my yacht rat lifestyle at the time.

  • avatar

    Cool is whatever makes you smile. I’d rather have anothe Turbo Shadow, another 200SX Turbo or another six cylinder three-on-the-tree Nova than a totally restored muscle car I have no personal conenction with any day.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Cool vehicles are purpose built with some goal other then being okay at everything. So sports cars that are cool are purpose built to be quick and fun. Whether its a Miata (Fun) or a Corvette (quick and fun).

    Jeep Wrangler’s are cool because they are built to be good at off-roading – even if it sacrifices some on road comfort. Having a purpose is what makes a vehicle cool – especially if it comes with some measure of impracticality. Reliability and stuff holding seems to have no positive effect on cool for most sane individuals. No one cares that an Aston Martin isn’t as reliable as a Toyota. The Martin is still cooler because its the ultimate ‘sporty cruiser.’

    Cars that try to do everything okay – OTOH are NOT cool. For example a Camry tries to do compromise on nothing. Its not too small – its not too big. It can hold a fair amount of stuff – but not as much as an SUV. It gets decent gas mileage but not great. It’s suppose to be decent looking but not ‘that’ sporty. etc etc.

  • avatar
    7402

    There is a story, possibly (probably?) apocryphal, that the original spec that resulted in the Willys WWII army jeep had an unpublished component. That component, passed on verbally as part of the acquisitions process, was that it had to be possible for an idiot to fix it in a muddy field with only a hammer, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, and a hammer.

    Anyone who has worked on one (idiot or not) knows that the resulting product pretty much conformed to this requirement. It was not uncommon for a soldier to recruit three other soldiers to turn the jeep on its side in order to work on the underside without getting under it in the mud.

    So, yeah, pretty cool. It’s safe to bet that the Land Rover deployed by the British in WWII conformed to a similar spec.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    “the Land Rover deployed by the British in WWII”….

    was a Jeep. See above.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’d rather have either one of these in $500 shape than a new Evoque, if you’re going to buy a vehicle with an off-road image do it right!

    Yes repairs could get costly, but I’d still have some money left over for gas.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Delorean anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Believe me, if DeLoreans weren’t uncommon, I would totally rip out the PRV boat anchor and drop in a SBC. Seems more fitting, given John Z’s long GM tenure.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m just trying to figure out how Chris Harris can call a 4.0L aluminum OHV Nailhead V8 that will fit in just about every vehicle ever built “massive”.

    There are plenty of knocks on the engine, but I don’t think mass is one of them.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Damn that hay bale and guardrail killer, the Porsche 911. (Spoken by everyone who’s never driven/lived with one).

    Woopsie! Still cool at 50.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I’ve been to Africa recently……….all the 4WDs are Toyotas now….all of them.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I really do think that the Grand Cherokee embodies all the best qualities of an SUV, and it’s what I’d have as a daily driver, but I have a lot of respect for the old, rugged Land Rovers and the new, flashier ones…

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    My current boss is a pom who spent some years in Solihull.

    I confirmed with him the wiki info that the Disco1 was based on the Range Rover chassis and not the Defender (or its equivalent at the time) as stated in the article.

    He was quite surprised to find out I am fan. I like Range Rovers in general but usually the classic ones.

    And yes, they are cool. Even the Discos

    Early Land Cruisers rusted quick. I saw many of the fabled FJ40 (and some of the newer SW variants) become rust buckets as quick as the Fiats of the time (I’m talking 80′s here).

    I also think GM Saabs are cool.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    One interesting thing about Land Rover vs Toyota (non) rivalry is that I have seen exactly one Defender, clearly a 1960s model, in Central America while Toyota’s body on frame trucks and SUVs are plentiful and are basically the golden standard there. Nissans and Mitsubishis are also plentiful. Whenever I watch various travel or animal shows about Africa on TV, I do see Defenders but they look like decades old Defenders, which makes me suspect that Land Rover Defender lost its grip on African market too.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Pulling up the the country/boat club in your Rover while wearing Nantucket Reds? Ultimate preppy cool. Having the towing service on sped dial? Essential. Drinking a 16oz American brew while waiting for the tow truck? Hipster cool. Not getting beaten, well just because, by the mini-mart clientele where you bought your 16oz American brew? Real life cool.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Got in here too late, yeah old Land Rovers are cool-ish, but vintage Jeeps….

    I’ll put up a old CJ-7, or Grand Wagoneer, up against any Land Rover. Snobs are gonna hate, and but besides matching my green Barbour, a Jeep can do it all better (pre-1986….. and probably now).

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    Old LRs are mainly cool for one reason: rarity. If you took the commonness of Wranglers with the rarity of Defenders, and then reversed models, the Wranglers would then be the cool-ass unobtainium.

    Undoubtedly, other stuff also factors in, but this is mainly it.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    For those who don’t “get” the Africa-Rover thing, I suggest you rent the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. One of my all-time favorites, the Land Rover plays a fairly central role. Er, roll.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I live in East Africa (Kenya, to be exact), and I’ve traveled across various anglo- and francophile countries as part of my job. In my experience, much has changed since the author last visited Africa in the 90′s. For one thing, Land Rovers don’t have the cachet they used to, having been replaced by the Land Cruiser as the vehicle of choice for expats (or anyone else) to go into the bush. If there is an individual crazy enough to own an old Land Rover, in my opinion it’s for one simple reason: They couldn’t afford a Land Cruiser. Out here, these vehicles will cost you an arm and a leg, and your first born, and they carry such a high resale value because unlike the land cruisers, they’re dead reliable, and you’ll never need to do a valve job with a rock.

    If the author were to go deep into the bush with his Land Rover nowadays, it’s quite likely that he will be surounded exclusively by Land Cruisers. These days, everybody has them, tour guides, NGO’s, government agencies. The Land Rover just isn’t as cool as it used to be.

  • avatar

    As an Anglophile, it is hard to argue with Mr Muphy. But the Land Cruiser has a mystique of its own, as do other, older Toyota trucks, like the HiLux (so memorably destroyed on Top Gear). And the reason you dont often see someone doing a valve job in the middle of the bush on an LC isnt that they are overly complex. It’s that they didnt break down in the first place! My dad had a 67 FJ40 that he plowed with in the mid-70s. He was called in on jobs no one else could do, such as the surprise Rhode Island Blizzard of 76, which shut down the whole state when all its plow trucks were literally stuck in their yards. Until, that is, my dad plowed them all out. Then the roads got cleared, schools reopened, and all my grammar school friends hated me for what seemed weeks. That’s also why 200k LCs are still worth all the chilly and LRs are scrap.

    Isaac Bouchard
    CarBuyingTipsGuide.com

  • avatar
    Power6

    Backwards rationalization going on here, Land Cruiser sucks because you have great memories of the Land Rovers. Life would be a bit more enjoyable if you were more honest with yourself!

  • avatar
    epsilonkore

    Growing up, between my immediate family, two good friends, three roommates in college and two ex’s, I can vouch for several Wranglers (CJ, XJ), AMC Wagoneer, Toyota Land Cruiser and 4 Land Rover Discovery (I and II).

    I can find something to say nice about every one of them, but its often a stretch for the Land Rovers. Everything nice about them (theatre seating, luxury, or Safari/Mudding capability) is distorted or crushed by the constant downtime at the dealership AFTER said Safari/Mudding trip. The idea that it is easier to fix than a Land Cruiser? (dont believe it, Ive worked on both from similar era’s… though using a REALLY large rock (read boulder) to smash a Rover may actually work at putting at least the Rover out of its misery.) Once the Rover is out of warranty RUN, take your heavily depreciated risk and shed it for one of the other options.

    I often view “die hard lovers of Land Rovers” as victims of a form of Stockholm Syndrome : a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them.


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