I’ve never been one to spend a great deal of money on a farm 4X4. If I have any spare cash, I prefer to invest it in machines than will make me savings in the field, like a more efficient fertiliser spreader or an upgrade in my cultivation equipment. So, provided my truck gets me from A to B, anything will do.
For decades, then, I have been scraping around the farm in a Land Rover 90, which is so old it was manufactured long before anyone thought to call it a ‘Defender’.
I bought it very second hand for £2,000 20 years ago and it is now written down to a value of £25 in the farm accounts. It has a canvas tilt that is great in summer but decidedly chilly in winter.
On the face of it, then, my farm 4X4 provision is very economical. But, as anyone who’s run an old Land Rover knows to their cost, they are not necessarily the most reliable of vehicles. They suffer regular problems, including a capacity for eating universal joints on the driveshaft and a tendency for the chassis to rust. Endless repairs become tedious but, increasingly, there is another difficulty with my not very reliable old workhorse: air pollution. When I first fire it up in the morning, so alarming is the cloud of black smoke that belches out of the exhaust that I have to drive quickly away, fearing the health consequences of breathing in the dangerous ‘particulates’ now identified as a major health hazard with diesel engines. But driving any sort of fossil-fuelled vehicle, let alone a 36 year-old diesel-guzzling-smoke-stack of a Land Rover is also becoming less and less acceptable from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint.
So I find myself considering greener alternatives. But, as yet, 4x4 electric vehicles aren’t very thick on the ground. Land Rover has produced a new Defender in ‘hybrid’ form, but the electric mileage range seems like a token gesture (27 miles) and the £81,000 price tag is surely a joke as far as working farmers are concerned?
So what to do? With the sale of all petrol and diesel cars due to be illegal in the UK by 2030, it is predicted that by 2024, 230 different electric vehicles will be available to British consumers. My latest brainwave is to wait until Tesla or other brands of electric vehicles become so thick on the ground that the drive mechanisms from insurance write-offs can be purchased cheaply. Then one of these can be slipped into my old Land Rover in place of the 2.5 litre diesel engine, along with some rechargeable batteries.
Surely this is the perfect solution to my farm 4x4 requirement? Not only does it avoid all the emissions from the manufacture of a new vehicle, but it will leave me with a stylish retro-look truck that will turn heads wherever I drive it. Best of all will be watching the faces of my fellow farmers as I silently pull away from the forecourt of my local agricultural engineers in my 1985 Land Rover… reaching 0-60 in 3.1 seconds.
Tempting as all this sounds, such a conversion will have to be cheap. Nothing I have seen so far about my farming future in the UK post-Brexit, particularly the swingeing cut in Basic Payments this year, leads me to think I will soon have surplus cash to splash on anything remotely flash.