I don’t know why agricultural stuff like green wellies and shooting and Land-Rovers got so popular in the 1980s with people who wanted to be thought of if not as ‘posh’ then certainly as Sloanes.
Both things were invented. Or rather the labels were invented. Posh was supposed to stand for (maybe) Port Out, Starboard Home, describing which side of the ship one’s cabin had been booked for the passage to India, before you stood with everyone else taking their belts and shoes off, not at a swingers party or a mosque but in the Departures security queue at Heathrow. Except some people say it didn’t mean that at all.
Sloanes were obviously a more recent invention. Peter York made them up, or at least the label, when he helped to write the Official Sloane Ranger Handbook back in the dawn of Thatcherism, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Or if not the earth, then at least the Cromwell Road and Sloane Square and when in my own memory, someone on a very ordinary income could still just about afford a house, no, a proper house, not a flat, in Fulham, if you didn’t mind being down the wrong end. Assuming there even is one anymore. Which was the funny thing. There weren’t real dinosaurs, obviously. Just people whose behaviour hadn’t changed much since 1910. The boys got jobs in the Army or a bank or publishing, quite often straight from school and did well, because people did in those jobs when they didn’t really need to work. The girls – well, that was another story. Everyone had a Sloane girl story.
Even at the BBC, when they started getting jobs instead of, or usually before marrying a merchant banker, the keen, enthusiastic Fionas and Vickys (never Kellys, or Tanya, although there was a Tansy I remember, notwithstanding that James Bond’s wife was called Tracy) were dubbed VodaSloanes back in the day. They were the only people who somehow, nobody quite knew how, had mobile phones back when only Bodie and Doyle could call the office without going to a phone box.
And like me, they liked all that stuff. Some of them even liked me, a bit. I’m looking for a car and like them, like then, like now, whatever the specification, whatever I actually need it to do, I always think ‘hmm, what about a LandRover?’
Not a Disco. Not a RangeRover. A proper one. A real Landie. A Defender. Even the Financial Times is talking about them. Although they’ve been making them since 1948 with not many changes, although Americans don’t like them, although it’s unclear how that’s a bad thing in itself, LandRover, or at least the Indian Tata corporation, has decided to stop making them.
The FT claims the lack of a crumple zone and the thin, bendy aluminium bodywork makes them unsafe. I know for a fact it isn’t, because a ladder chassis saved my life.
Like the rest of a LandRover, a ladder chassis is an old-fashioned thing. Think of two big bits of metal, like a railway line, running the length of the car. The rungs are the axles and the bumpers. Everything else is bolted onto that. It doesn’t crumple. That’s the whole point. In a front or rear collision, all the weight is transferred along the ladder. If you’re on the other end of it, that’s a problem. I suspect that’s the ‘safety issue.’
I hit a Ford Mondeo just in front of the driver’s door on a streaming wet lane and opened a hole down the length of the car. I had a small scratch on my bumper. That was a bit embarrassing.
A year later I hit a lorry coming the other way, just managing not to hit it head on and impacting just behind the cab. A policeman saw it happen and ran over, opening my door white-faced expecting to find blood and body parts. I was fine. Ladder chassis, officer.
The fact that the atrocious handling of the thing caused both accidents isn’t the point. And now they aren’t going to make them anymore, the only question that matters is the one I’m asking myself a lot these days.
If not now, when?