I was fascinated by eBay’s restoration of a 1983 Range Rover in three days, live before the 100,000 crowd, at this year’s Silverstone Classic. Was it genuine or did they cheat? I went behind the scenes to find out.
So what about the claim that all the parts were sourced on eBay. That was true, although obviously the parts were ordered in ahead of time so that they were all present and ready to be installed over the three days at Silverstone. The Range Rover was assessed before the event and all the parts needed were purchased – over 126 many of which were kits with multiple parts plus consumables and they were all ordered on eBay at a cost of around £2500.
The major parts sourced on eBay included a new Front Facia; Front Wiper Arms; Mirrors; Door frames; Rear tow hitch bar; Hub Centre Caps; Rear bumper; Panel above rear bumper; Chassis; Axles; Suspension arms; Front shock towers; Rear seat top panel; Rear Quarterlight Seal RH; Rear Quarterlight Seal LH; Upper Tailgate Lower Seal; and Wheel Nuts.
They were at least organised, all the parts were stored in labelled crates ready to be picked and fitted at the allotted time in the restoration.
Apparently Range Rovers, especially the early models, are back in vogue and can fetch anything up to £30,000 when fully restored. This one was valued at around £4-5,000 before the restoration began so with a modest spend on parts there was plenty of value to add.
The good thing about the eBay Range Rover was that it was a runner and it wasn’t too badly rusted. It had spent it’s life in South Africa hence the string of National Park stickers still on the windows.
And yes the Range Rover had a real owner who was expecting it to be returned in a much better state of repair then when it was handed over to eBay. This wasn’t a fudge to entertain the crowd, the finished vehicle had to be roadworthy ready to pass an MOT.
How much work was done before Silverstone?
Kudos to the eBay PR team, they insisted that if this was to be done then it had to be genuine. Yes the motor was assessed before time to see what spares would be needed, but no actual work was done before 7am on the Friday that the Silverstone Classic festival kicked off.
Even when I was there it was obvious that there was a certain amount of tension for the eBay PR team, with mechanics shaking their heads and looking at various parts of the Range Rover often with no discernible work taking place. Would anything actually get done and would there be a restored vehicle three day’s later?
Then in a flurry of activity it was stripped of seats and body panels disappeared before mechanics again did what mechanics the world over do – They scratched their chins and frowned a bit giving the impression this wasn’t a trivial job.
There was a little bit of “behind the scenes” activity, but it wasn’t pretty. Dodging the security detail I managed to slip around the back of the workshop to find a somewhat dejected looking mechanic getting to grips with stripping the seats down
And it wasn’t trivial, the more that came off the Range Rover the more that needed patching up, grinding down and welding back together and it was all done live in front of the Silverstone crowds.
There was much trimming of metal plate, welding unscrewing and reattaching going on and for the eBay PR team the constant fear of something going wrong. What if a major part needed replacing that hadn’t been sourced or what happens if a critical component is found to be rotten and simply too far gone to be repaired. With the public watching every move and a deadline of Sunday with Mike Brewer waiting to cast his verdict and the Range Rover’s owner on hand to collect the keys it was a nervous wait to see if the mechanics could actually pull this one off.
As we now know, the whirlwind restoration was completed in time and the car put back together in time to be presented back to it’s owner. It was a brave PR person that signed off on this one though… far too much could have gone wrong but they put their complete faith in head restorer Fergus Walkinshaw and his team of mechanics. Much as the team appeared to do little or no work for most of the time, they pulled it off and the eBay PR team live to dream up their next seemingly impossible challenge.