ON THE OTHER SIDE
ON THE OTHER SIDE
Out in Saudi Arabia and now seconded to British Aerospace as a flying Instructor teaching the Royal
Saudi Air Force and now heavily involved in Operation Desert Shield time has come to find something
to do in my spare time and also get some wheels!
Obviously I would like to get off base and see some of the desert as well as have some transport to
get to the 21 Club and various other watering holes. Either because of the imminent war or for other
reasons there were several english speaking peoples wanting to sell their cars so any offer was a
good offer and would generally be accepted on the spot.
So this will be my first vehicle with the steering wheel on the wrong side and the rest of this article will
go through all the joys of left hand drive ownership. Strange thing is nobody (fortunately) ever changed
the gate over on the manual gearbox, I wonder why?
My first left hander becomes an early Range Rover manual which somebody has resprayed in a dark reddish color. It looks reasonable and seems to drive well enough but whoever took it to bits to do the respray did not have a tech workshop manual for the rebuild as on purchase there were 64 electrical
faults and things that didn’t work. No matter that was the plan and would occupy my time.
About 3000 GBP changes hands and work commences. Wire brushes, circuit testers and a toolkit are acquired and I start on the many electrical problems on my list. Wheels are resprayed and lights start
coming back on as things get reconnected. Even discovered it had central locking while trying to get the electric windows to work….. who knew?
Hours spent solving the wiring problems
During the initial phase of ownership I would often find myself climbing in the right hand seat only to
find someone had stolen all the controls and would then sheepishly pretend I was looking for
something to cover up the error and embarassment!
Would you believe it! some bastards stolen the steering wheel and all
the pedals and left me with a grab handle !!
After the war was over there was a glut of nearly new used vehicles as the massed forces of the
military had either purchased them or comandeered them. Saudis don’t buy USED vehicles so you
can imagine the prices were exceptionally low. I pick up another Range Rover less than 1 year old
with 9000 miles on it for 9500 GBP……. an absolute steal and also sell my nearly fully restored red
one for 4000 !
Nearly all working and sells for a profit
The brown beast requires nothing other than continuous cleaning and polishing and I kept this one
with me until I left Saudi in August 94 when my Darts partner bought it off me for 10,000. I don’t know
which nation used this during the conflict but they sure loved sun flower seeds as two years later I
was still cleaning them out !!
Hours and hours of mindless polishing
The Gift that keeps on giving……. Sunflower Seeds!!
Coming to America I’m now very much a Range Rover devotee and on starting up the Grading & Trash company I buy a white Range Rover County from the CEO of a company who awards us a huge
contract. It seems to be that Range Rovers in America are very well equipped as first time owners
seem to go for every available option and extra. This one had the special alloy wheels, Hella lamps,
brush guard and roof mounted top of the line ski racks.
My first US purchase
As the business starts to become successful other company vehicles get purchased and on a visit to
the Dodge dealership there is an amazing exhibit on the showroom floor! It claims to be a Dodge but
is in fact a Mitsubishi 3000GT twin turbo that the owner, who owns a paint and body shop, has spent
a fortune on it with special wheels and an exotic paint job. The Dodge model is called the Stealth and
our man’s paint shop have gone to town airbrushing a stealth fighter on the hood with reheat plumes
going all the way back. Yes, it just has to be! ………. and another one of those impulse purchases is
Fantastic to look at and an unbelievable paint job
The bat thing is a Stealth Fighter, but you can’t see it unless you are up
Now you are up close
Gorgeous from any angle
Great fun to drive, blistering acceleration, but I never get to use it as I’m always driving something
else. I think I probably only drove it about 3 times a year and usually had to jump start it as the
batteries had gone low through lack of use. A fantastic white elephant but gorgeous to look at………
and it was MANUAL!!
The white RR gets traded as the dealership tell me they are getting a British Racing Green Range
Rover County long wheelbase with hi-chrome wheels and it does seem that Range Rover have
listened to all the complaints and have actually done something about it. This one has dual control
heaters and real air conditioning whereby the passenger gets some! We all know that most
vehicles have their problems and known defects and the RR has quite a few. Unless you have
extended warranty you are in for a shock when it comes to the brakes. About every 12,000 you are
looking at new pads and at every 50,000 all the rotors have to be replaced…. and they are not
All the “goodies” fitted time for a test drive……..
Test drive complete……. oh crap! is that the neighbor’s cat ?
Time moves on and the accountant advises me I’m making too much money so I need to spend
some quickly in the current tax year. A Lincoln Navigator is ordered including rear TV and video and
once it arrives and I’m minus the RR it seems I’m never, or rarely, going to see the inside of this machine……… so I can clearly see where this is going!
My badges were removed within the week when I found out I would not
be driving this one !
At the Chevrolet dealership where I have just bought 4 new big trucks for the company they have a
series of limited edition models for Ducks Unlimited. After 4 Range Rovers its time to buy something
else so after a quick test drive I now have a Ducks Unlimited Tahoe in a very nice green and gold livery.
An extra of a burr walnut dash completes the story. This was a pretty good vehicle with reasonable
mileage to the gallon, 4 wheel drive “on the fly” which I very much liked, and tons of room inside. The
only thing I disliked was the double rear doors which made it like a grocer’s truck. I see later models
now use the one piece tailgate.
The “Duckmobile” with grocer’s rear doors
So as the final divorce gets underway, the Lincoln Navigator departs (no surprize) and I get to enjoy
the Tahoe. As the lease is coming to an end on the Tahoe time to see where we will be going next.
The new bodied Range Rovers look nice but where has all the boot and luggage space gone ? The
BMW entry into SUVs is OK but on the small size and then there is this new Escalade thing from
GM’s Cadillac division.
Previous Escalades have been little more than a luxurious Tahoe but the new one is a completely
different animal. It is indeed an exceptionally well built and designed car and I fall in love with it on
the spot. It does have all wheel drive but you as the driver don’t get to select it, and even when, or if,
it engages nothing on the dash tells you…….. does it really exist ?
It arrives in a Sandy Beige metallic which is ideal for the dusty Phoenix conditions, I put 90,000
miles on it and other than regular oil changes and air filters I do nothing. When I eventually trade it
in I have never changed the brake pads and at over 90 thousand its still running the original
Michelin Pilots !!!
The all purpose beige Escalade with two bikes on the rack
When it was delivered the salesman took me out to do the talk through and we got to the newfangled
“On Star” system which then refused to cooperate. No matter I would take it and bring it back next
week. The car is duly returned on Monday and I’m given a “loaner”. After nearly three weeks of
frustration, wrong parts, “its on back order” etc, etc I’m told it is finally ready. By now I have composed
and rehearsed my speech and there is no “sugar coating” on this one and somebody better have
their earplugs in when I start venting !!!
Arrive all fired up, see the now working On Star system and all its joys and now its time to see the
Manager and read him the state of the union address!
” Come in, Mr Down…….. I believe you have had a less than acceptable experience with your new
vehicle……here at Cadillac we don’t expect this………. so on behalf of the Company please accept our
check for $1000 and dinner for 2 at any of these Scottsdale restaurants”
“Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh………. ummmmmm, stutter, stutter, cough politely……. meek and humble … thank you”
Well that was very clever, completely knocked the wind out of my sails and I found myself becalmed
in the Sea of Cadillac!
With the sandy beige edition at 90,000 time to go shopping again as the company is on another
upswing. This time the dealership have the very latest EXT version which is a longer wheelbase
chasis, the pick-up rear end, true 4-5 seater with 4 doors, navigation system and hi-tech bose radio
and disc player. Big chrome wheels, a host of custom billet parts and red pinstriping and motifs over
stunning black. Its a MUST !
Home with the black EXT
The drive home reveals an annoying wheel balance problem at about 65 mph, but as this super
hi-tech machine has every bell and whistle imaginable I can flash through the comp which shows me
the tire pressure on every wheel. The dealership says bring it back and the following day they spend
trying to balance it. They claim it is better but not good enough so they will change all the new tires the
next day at around $350 a pop! These tires are the super wide low profile Toyos. Well once more I’m impressed with Mr Cadillac.
40 miles later with another $1400 of new tires!
The next year Brenda decides to change her car as she doesn’t like the Chevrolet she is driving.
Sadly she is the wrong way up in it financially but she does have a very nice boat which is not getting
used enough so she arranges a cracking deal using all her realator expertise.
On the day of the deal, which is a Sunday, I pump up all the cross ply trailer tires for the boat and they
are all dry rotted in the Arizona sun but we only have 30 miles to go to the dealership so they should
do one more trip.
The trailer tires are pumped up, in some cases for the last time
Trailer is hitched, full lights checked, and off we go. The first 20 miles goes by and we are on the 101 freeway and then there is an almight BOOOM and the left side rear trailer tire goes on the number two
axle ! Well I suppose that was fairly predictable so with hazards on we limp down the hard shoulder
at around 15 mph. 3 miles later with the rapidly shredding carcass flapping and bashing the fender
there is another BOOOM as the front right axle loses it’s rubber! Now we have a matched set !
We pull into a gas station to survey the damage and of course being Sunday lunchtime to find an
open tire shop who has trailer tires and a mobile service, even in Phoenix, just isn’t going to happen.
With only 3 miles to go we will creep down the side roads in town and hope the Police are all at lunch.
With tires throwing chunks of rubber and flailling around we press on at less than 10 mph and find pedestrians turning round to look at the carnage and even get overtaken by cyclists and barking dogs.
Finally the dealership is in sight and we limp in and park in an area where we can’t be seen.
At the dealership its not all wine and roses either as our salesman has his own problems to deal
with! He can’t find the Escalade that he has sold Brenda……….. it was here yesterday, went through the
valet service, and was taken over to the frontage used car lot. That was yesterday…… so where is it ?
Frantic searches are conducted through their entire inventory including other lots and workshops…….
NO CAR ! It appears someone just got in it and drove off and is most likely in Mexico by now.
A full search of the dealership reveals nothing…. not even on the roof
Our minor tire problems pale into insignificance at this stage but the salesman will not be denied
and drops the price several thousands on another Escalade of the same year. This one is in
pearlesant white with super chrome wheels and the “gold” package. Brenda is asked if this will be acceptable and after much thought, and further review, lasting all of 10 seconds, agrees to their plans.
The deal proceeds at the same price as though nothing has changed ! …….. we drive home laughing.
Still laughing Brenda drives home her Cadillac Escalade