Choosing Poisons

I get obsessed with older gear. Once I get interested in a piece of yesteryear, I can’t help but dig into every detail, option, and limit. I’ll sometimes waste hours, days, or months sweating the small things. Often becoming disinterested in the end. It’s something about finding a unique balance of nostalgia, design, utility, and price.

A good example is my recent rebuild of an Apple Power Macintosh 9500 as a web & file server: buuto.makkintosshu.com. Mid-‘90s compunabula at it’s best: tower design, PowerPC 604 processor, 6 PCI slots, low wattage power supply, etc. I even drove four hours to pick up the [free] gear. This one was a success.

I use my Apple Newton MessagePad 2100—tricked out with Compact Flash storage and Bluetooth—every day for tracking appointments, contacts, and finances. Occasionally to write, scribble, or read a classic novel. I get an odd kick out of having the oldest, useful gear in a meeting.

My Mystic Apple Macintosh Color Classic, on the other hand, is back in a pile in our bedroom. Much to Emily’s distaste.

It’s not limited to Apple computers. There are vehicles too. A number of years ago my fetish was a 1968 Volvo 122 with supercharger and all-disc brakes. Man, I can’t even talk about them without a struggle against perusing bookmarks on the subject.

The problem there was rust. I’d have been fighting every Vermont winter, tooth-and-nail. I want a vehicle I can drive any day I want, not squirrel away for the next generation.

Then there was the 1995 Toyota MR2 Turbo. Probably the best performance and handling you can get on a moderate budget. I’d have killed myself within six months. I have an addiction to speed. All-natural, pedal-to-the-floor conceived adrenaline.

Where does one turn if you don’t want to forever apply bondo and should live by the “fifty-five to stay alive” motto? Only one classic bubbled to the top of my mind that might fit that criteria: a Series Land Rover.

I did my usual smidgen of research and rooted out as many permutations as I could. The model for me would be an early 80’s 5-door Land Rover Series III 109”. The Series III has slightly more modern electrical and accessories, a few more interior trimmings, and a gearbox with syncro in all four gears (less double-clutching required). I’d lean towards diesel. Later additions would likely include a ROVERDRIVE SX, roof rack, and a canvas & hoop set for summer.

I’ve been scouring ebay and craigslist for months. In the process discovering what I wanted was outside my budget. Many 2-door pickups with god-awful frames and swiss-cheese footwells scrolled through my browser. The prospect of having to ship such a beast across the country haunted my dreams.

A few weeks ago a local man saw my request on craigslist. He had imported a few Series IIA & III 88“s from the U.K. in February and had one drivable beater that barely fell into my price range. Naturally, I arranged to look at it on my way back over the App Gap one night.

And, as cliché as it is, that’s where this story begins…