Things have been moving quickly on the Land Rover front. As impressed as I was with the folks at Arkonik, I decided I couldn’t wait 13 months. And the Universe seems to be cooperating with me at every turn. A friend put me in touch a “concierge buyer.” He’s an expert when it comes to vintage vehicles in general and Land Rovers in particular. Let’s call him Mr. Wolf.
“I intentionally keep as small a footprint as possible. I have zero social media, I keep my face off of the internet, etc… I’m one of “those guys” I guess, ha! I don’t mind if you mention me by name, or put up pictures of my vehicles or whatever, but no links to me, please. However, if someone asks (and they don’t seem like a complete toolshed) I would be happy to help other folks.”
“All of my car work comes from word of mouth, friends recommending friends, which works beautifully because it tends to weed out the jerks, and keeps it fun for everyone involved. At the end of the day, I don’t do the car stuff as a real business, I do it because I get to play with all kinds of interesting cars, and I get a huge hobby shop to play in. I am completely, hopelessly in love with vehicles of all sorts. I love researching, repairing, and modifying cars, but mostly I want to use them the way they were intended to be used. If it has four wheel drive, I will find new trails to explore. If it is a sports car, I will get it sideways every chance I get, take it on road trips, and then take it to the race track and wring its neck.”
“Somehow I find a way to incorporate cars or motorcycles into everything I do. Rent a Nissan March to explore the twisty roads outside Tokyo? Yes! Buy shitty Russian motorcycles and ride them through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia? What could go wrong? Drive a notoriously unreliable Range Rover Classic through Baja with no backup plan? You know it. Heck, nobody died the first time, let’s do it twice! Drive a leaky Alfa Romeo 1,000 miles in the middle of winter to look for fun roads through the redwoods? I think you get the idea…”
“Really what I want is to be an enabler. Put people in the vehicle they have always dreamed of, but never bought, because where do you get the fuel injection tuned on a Morgan Plus 8, anyway?”
I’ll share some of his work in future posts. Before this is all said and done, I plan to jet out to The Coast and meet Mr. Wolf. He promised to take me off-roading.
This morning I heard about Arkonik, a company in the UK that does custom restorations of vintage Land Rovers. I submitted my name and email address on their website and within 5 minutes got a call from Tom Maxwell who might just be the best phone salesman I’ve ever encountered. He talked for half an hour but it was all good stuff. A full-on core dump. Where I could get no information from the Cool & Vintage guys, I got more from Tom than I could process. (D90 below is just a sample image from their website)
It’s becoming clear I’m gonna drop a bundle if I want to own a Land Rover D90. Did I mention the 12 month wait? This is clearly a seller’s market. Much more like buying/investing in fine art than driving a new Prelude off the lot. Or a bespoke suit on Savile Row. Deep water for a small town boy like me. But I’m hooked. Unless I get unhooked. From the jump Tom (and others) have stressed how much are and attention a 25 year old vehicle demands. It’s really more like buying a Golden Retriever than a truck. So why the hell is the Defender worth so much?
“I’ll tell you why: because it’s so damn cool. Yes, it’s loud, and rough, and slow, and unreliable. Yes, the Jeep Wrangler is better than the Defender in every objective way. But that’s the point of the Defender: it’s unique. It’s special. It’s unusual. The Jeep Wrangler is for people who leave their dealership license plate frame on. For people who drive past six gas stations to get to a Texaco two miles from their house because gas there is three cents cheaper.” (Jalopnik)
That is how Ricardo Pessoa — the founder of Cool & Vintage — decides which cars to restore. I found several interviews and articles about Ricardo and his company.
“We are a couple of creative guys that have marketing/photography/fashion/filmmaking backgrounds and this is our take on cars. We were already dealing with restorations since we were driving mainly classic cars in our everyday life. We try to create the environment that will inspire people to use the cars, whether you buy it from us or not. The concept behind the company is to enjoy life through experiences and cars do that for us because we love to travel by car.”
That works for me. As does this:
“The new generation doesn’t want to buy from big, mainstream companies — they’re selective and look for small businesses who really care about their product and have a brand they can connect with”, comments Founder Ricardo Pessoa.
I’ve found lots of photos of the cars and the workshop but none of Ricardo yet. I’ll see if I can get one of him and the boys with “my” Land Rover.
My buddy Phil pointed me to this blog post by David duChemin (“World & Humanitarian Photographer”)
“So I want to introduce you to Jessie. She’s the one in blue. Jessie is a 1993 Land Rover Defender. In late February Jessie and I are leaving for a while, setting out on an adventure. I’m selling some of my stuff, putting the rest in storage, packing my cameras into Peli-cases and throwing my laptop, sleeping bag and tripods in the back, and we’re embarking on an adventure. I turn 40 this coming year, December 24, 2011, and before I do that I want to spend a year doing something that scares me, something that simplifies my life, something that forces me to breathe deeply and open my eyes. See what watching Dead Poet’s Society one too many times will do to you? The fact that I am turning 40 isn’t relevant, but it’s convenient.”
Seems to be some… mystique surrounding Land Rovers. I expect to come across more stories like this.
UPDATE: (May 17, 2017) After two weeks of struggling to get email and phone calls returned, I’ve decided to look elsewhere for my Land Rover D90. The folks at Cool & Vintage are talented marketers and they’re probably pretty good at restoring Land Rovers, but I found their communication skills wanting.
Regardless of how it ends, I’ll probably mark today as the beginning of my Land Rover D90 adventure. It really started last week when spotted a nifty looking vehicle on one of the websites I frequent. They had linked to www.CoolVintage.com’s photo spread of a restored vintage Land Rover (D90). I’ve always liked the looks of these but never gave a thought to owning one but that day I filled out the webform (“Will I have to rob a liquor store to purchase one of these?”)I promptly received an email from Francisca, the Product Manager at Cool Vintage.com.
Turns out the Land Rover with the hot model is not available for export to US but they were restoring a few D90’s that would be ready in September. I fell in love with the 1993 D90 in Nardo Grey with Rugged Interior Trim. I finally got the company founder, Ricardo, on the phone today
and while “my” car is still being restored, he promised to send me some photos next week. (This is where you take a few minutes to limber up your eyeballs because you’re gonna want to roll ‘em in a few seconds.)
According to Francisca, I send them 60% of the money up front and the remainder when the car arrives. If this goes down it will probably be my largest online purchase for a while. I’ve already answered a few questions from friends: Can’t you get one of these in the US? Can’t you get one cheaper? Are you out of your fucking mind? Have you thought this through?
No to that last question. Total impulse buy. I fell in love with the look of this car and the idea of some some guys/girls in a garage in Lisbon, Portugal, restoring a vintage Land Rover from the ground up. (“Everything either restored or new down to the last bolt. Probably better than new.” Says Francisca.)
I’ll chronicle this adventure here if you want to following along. Photos next week. And I’ll try to find out a bit more about Francisca and Ricard and CoolVintage.com
UPDATE: I’ve never tried so hard to send a bunch of money to strangers in a foreign country. It is not certain I will be able to purchase one of these. A very “tough ticket.”