My ‘Franken-Land Rover’ has had three new chassis and using the indicators turns on the windscreen wipers. But I just can’t get rid of it.

Joe Gibbs pours his heart out about his classic Land Rover Defender, and the peculiar strain of nutty devotion it's inspired.

Consider a vehicle that, so far, has had three replacement chassis, four new prop shafts and which, when you indicate left, turns the windscreen wipers on. What sort of car might it be? Yes, indeed. Only the deranged owner of a Land Rover Defender would keep it on the road with a record like that. Save for the diesel engine, which has done nearly 300,000 miles, just about everything else on my old bus has been substituted several times over. It has much in common with the band Thin Lizzy: still heavy and rocking, but with none of the original parts.

I have owned it, from new, since 1990, but returning from the umpteenth visit to the workshop this week, I asked myself why I still bother. I sit in howling draughts under a cold shower from a leaking sunroof. I inhale a lethal cocktail of sooty particulates, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide in escaped exhaust fumes. I persist in throwing spondulix at this antiquated monster when I could be sitting soft in a luxury truck. I could be listening to smooth classics rather than being deafened by an expressionist symphony of metal against metal.

The answer is a vehicular form of Stockholm syndrome. We, the Land Rover and I, are in a relationship and I am the hostage. As do all lasting relationships, ours involves compromise, mostly by me. When a radio presenter asked Damien Hirst how it was that an infallible deity could allow the cruelty in our world to persist, he replied: ‘I blame his parents.’ I level the same accusation. My chronic Landroveritis is down to early 4×4 grooming by my parents.

They don’t make ’em like this any more. And when you take a look at the interior, it’s not hard to see why… Credit: Getty

I have childhood memories of excursions along the drive in a Land Rover pedal car. Stuck in a family album, there is a faded square colour photograph taken on my grandmother’s Leica. I sit cherry-cheeked with proprietorial pride in my prized possession. It even had its own home, with a sign over it saying ‘Joe’s Garage’. I never got over it.

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From the miniature, I graduated to worship of the real thing. Our keeper, lovely old rheumy-eyed Jock Stewart, was a sort of human Land Rover. He traversed all terrains tirelessly in low ratio attached to any number of large dogs until the sciatica got him. His tyres were his black hobnailed tackety boots, the sort with fringed tongues that curled up at the toes. He was panelled in tweed and plus-fours that were as wide as they were tall.

Jock’s exhaust was the Tam O’Shanter flake baccy that puffed from his pipe. I have an empty tin on my chimneypiece to remind me of him. Naturally, it was in a canvas-topped Series 2 that he ground up to hill and loch with slavering pointers in the back. With Jock, I absorbed the arcana of the wildly shuddering gear stick, the mysterious yellow- and red-topped levers, the quivering speedo needle, the Lucas windscreen wipers with their individual motors and, after a wet day in the heather, the joy of opening the flaps of the Smith’s heater unit.

On reaching man’s estate, I was allowed to hurtle about in the farm Land Rover. And then, having poured the Kool-Aid down my throat like engine oil, what did my parents do? They binned their faithful workhorses and bought hideous Renault 4 vans. Economy, they said. How could they? In a dark corner of a shed, I still have the pedal car. I also have three baby grandsons. Who is to say whether the sins of the fathers will be visited on the children?