It's been six and a half years since the last 1.8 Freelander appeared in Shed of the Week, and two and a half since the last KV8-engined 2.5. You may say that this dearth of Freelanders is because there have never been any examples good enough to get beyond the short list and onto the published electronic page, and in all honesty there could be some truth in that.
On the other hand, there are some surprisingly clean looking ones still around and, despite the unflattering two-minute hose-down and legal briefcase-full of 'nowt to do with us' disclaimers littering its ad, this week's 1.8 seems to fall into that category.
Donning his dusty old barrister's wig, Shed has been trying to justify the purchase of this particular car to himself, as this is in fact the sort of thing he would happily buy for himself. He likes to champion the underdog, and the forum following this story will most definitely include more than one poster suggesting that there are few vehicles more deserving of that title. They might leave the 'under' bit out, however.
Is it such a bad car, though? Stop shouting 'yes!' for a minute and consider the positives. Stop shouting 'there are none!' for a minute and please listen quietly to the case for the defence.
Unlike the grown-up members of the LR family the Freelander didn't have locking diffs, a low-range transmission or a separate chassis. In the case of the chassis, looking at the heroic rusting of those LRs that did have one, this was very much a good thing. The Freelander did have full-time four-wheel drive however and the first version of LR's clever Hill Descent Control system.
Admittedly, it also had a fairly unreliable viscous centre diff, a K-series 1.8 engine using gaskets recycled from cornflake boxes, a fragile gearbox, fracturing rear hub assemblies, front seats that would tip forward under heavy braking, sagging rear door hinges and chafing wiring harnesses that at a moment's notice would kill off any or all of the following items of minor importance: fuel pump, lights, aircon, ignition, engine management, ABS, HDC, and SRS. The Freelander also acquired a weird reputation for exploding rear screens, a fascinating phenomenon that even William Shatner's UnXplained could not Xplain.
But are these not mere trifles? Yes, you may say there's a huge power gap between the 174hp 2.5 V6 and the 115bhp 1.8 four, but surely it's better to be going relatively slowly when the ECU blows in the middle of a stormy night run to the Trossachs? And can you name any other car with such a clever ability to switch to two-wheel drive on the fly by breaking its own rear diff mounting? No.
Most of the Freelander's troubles were on early models, which some might say were the ones built between 1997 and 2006. This is a 2001 1.8 petrol. There was a diagnostic connector issue on 2000-2002 1.8 petrols, which for a car with so many potential problems was possibly the biggest problem of all, but at least its 2001 birth date means that our shed won't have the wonky child locks that appeared on cars built between July and September 2002.
Shed loves all this stuff. He loves it when things go wrong because the time he takes to fix them is less time he has to spend downwind of Mrs Shed. It also takes him back to the characterful days when Britain had a motor industry, when car owners needed more than a basic understanding of welding and annealing before they dared to venture out onto the open road.
Setting its minor foibles aside, you may take the same view on this Freelander as Shed, which could be summarised as 'if it's got this far it's been looked after and could be all right for a bit yet'. It's only had four owners, the MOTs have never thrown up anything more worrying than a corroded brake pipe (the last six certs being effectively clean) and Shed would bet a full pound on there being very clean seats underneath those lovingly applied viscose seat covers. Earth yourself carefully before removing them, obviously.
There's still plenty of winter to go yet, and as a station car this can be relied upon to provide ample warmth and comfort from pushing it to the side of the road and then waiting for the AA man.
Right, that's it, please pile in now.
1 / 4