Our Journey

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In our recent van tour video with The Indie Projects I jokingly added at the end of the tour that my advice was not to buy an LDV. 

This seems to have caused a bit of confusion and controversy among LDV owners and potential buyers alike. So I wanted to elaborate in detail on the pros and cons of buying an LDV. 

Firstly I'd like to start by saying that we love our LDV, truly, despite all the headaches she's caused us over the years.  

When I said at the end of the video not to buy an LDV it's a bit of an in-joke with LDV owners. LDVs are a love-it-and-hate-it kind of van for many reasons.

Cost

The main reason we bought an LDV in the beginning is that they're cheap, one of the cheapest vans you can buy in the UK and a great blank canvas for build projects. You get a lot of van for your buck- the inside of our LDV Convoy is huge and gives Ben who is 6ft2" plenty of space to stand up in, although he has to lie slightly diagonally on our widthways bed. When you take away the cab and engine bay of our 5.6m long van you get a fair sized 2m x 3m living space, plus extra storage potential above the cab.

The curved roof can be a bit of a challenge to build around, as can the oddly sized windows, but it just means you have to get creative.

Berca Mud Volcanoes
The Stone Forest, Bulgaria

The interior of our LDV Convoy.

The other great thing about LDVs is that as they were mass produced there's ten a penny in scrapyards in the UK and this makes it really easy to find secondhand parts, especially as they are now defunct. The same cannot be said for Europe however, as whenever our van breaks down it's nearly impossible to find parts for it abroad, and things can get really expensive ordering all the way from the UK.

The other difficulty this adds is that LDVs are essentially made from a parts bin lucky dip- the radiator might come from a Vauxhall Astra, the brake pads could be from a Land Rover Defender, the vacuum pump may be from a Ford Transit... The master cylinder is made for an LDV but there are eighty nine different types it could be! There's no way of knowing what you've got until you take the thing apart and try to fit the new parts!

No joke, every time we've gone to a parts shop in England they've sent us away with the wrong part, sometimes two or three times. Our van has been left sitting in the driveway drained of water with no radiator for days having taken it apart only to realise we'd been given a completely wrong-sized replacement; the worst was when we discovered a leaking rear wheel cylinder the day before our departure, bought the new parts only to find they were wrong, the shops were closed and we were due to leave at 9am the following day. This ultimately cost us a whopping €500 when we eventually broke down in Spain.

It's these kind of nightmares that make us sometimes wish we'd bought a more reliable, easily fixable van.

Our van waiting for its new radiator.

Common problems

The most common problems with LDVs are the fact that they rust, badly (hence the name we built our entire blog and website around), and leak like a sieve. We ended up nicknaming our van Colin, short for colander.

The most common leak is in the cab which gives you a delightful paddling pool in your foot wells, but it can also surprise you with a leak from any window or door and often the seal between the roof and the body. The fibreglass roof has given us no end of headaches, as it's as fragile as glass and doesn't like being driven into guttering (not me) or trees (possibly me). It especially doesn't like being stood on, as we found out when we bought the van and later discovered a foot long crack in the roof, presumably where it had been stood on by its former owners. No worries, they'd fixed the job with a bucket to catch the water and a broom handle to prop the floppy roof up.

As for rust, it can spring up anywhere and it will. Particular areas are around the roof join, in the floor, in the cab floor where you'll mostly likely have been storing water for the past few years, around the seat mounts, the rear bumper... Yeah, the list goes on. If you don't mind a bit of cosmetic rust it's really not a big issue, but if you've got a rusty chassis on the van you're looking at buying then stay well clear. MOT guys will have great fun prodding and poking their fingers through all the holes underneath your LDV, just make sure your local mechanic is a little on the lenient side.

Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria Urbex

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Does our van look good in this shade of rust?

Another common fault with LDVs is the kingpins. They won't cause any issues if you grease them regularly, but if you buy a secondhand one that hasn't seen a drop of grease since the day it was made then it's likely you'll have to change them; this can either cost you hundreds and hundreds of pounds at a garage, or an afternoon of cursing, swearing and beating them out with a hammer. Before you attempt any of this yourself you might want to read our guide on how we changed our kingpins and the one lifesaving tool that'll make the job so much easier. 

As our van was an ex-minibus it's had a lot of brake-related issues. In fact just about every element of our brake system from the master cylinder to the rear wheel cylinders and mostly recently the vacuum pump has broken and been replaced in the last year or two. Truthfully I think we may have spent over double the price we paid for the van again on repairs.

In fact, when we totalled up the average of everything we'd spent mechanically to date over on our Build Page it came to a whopping £2,531.22!

Still, this isn't entirely LDV-specific, as these kinds of problems are likely to happen with any old van. Quite honestly I think we just got the small prize out of the LDV lucky dip, and we kind of rushed into buying the van initially, but gradually we've managed to sort out every problem that's arisen so far and for the past 6 months we've enjoyed a largely watertight van.

If you're thinking of buying an LDV, or you're sitting here pulling your hair out asking, "How do I stop it raining inside??" then we've detailed every one of our leaks on the Rust & Leaks section of our Build Page and how we fixed them, and we've also written an extensive mechanical history of everything that's gone wrong with our van. Ever. And how much it's all cost us.

The van's front axle removed ready to replace the kingpins.

The pros

Our LDV's biggest asset is definitely its engine, which is thankfully the most important part. Sure the van may have some cosmetic rust and brake issues leftover from its minibus days, but our 2.4L diesel Ford Duratorq engine is solid. It never fails to start even in minus temperatures, its 75bhp can tackle even the steepest of hills and considering the 2.6T load it's pulling it gets an impressive 25mpg on average. We've also heard of people raving about the York Banana engines some LDVs come with, as they are virtually indestructible. I can't say much for the Peugeot engine having never driven one.

When you buy an LDV you'll be welcomed into a large community of LDV Renaissance enthusiasts who are only too keen to workaround any problems and quirks that occur with LDVs, offering endless advice and support on LDV-dedicated Facebook pages and forums, and even creating their own manuals where LDV are lacking in them.

"LDV Manual" courtesy of The Van Without A Plan

The LDV's signature retro shape, which didn't change from its creation in 1996 until its discontinuation in 2006, is a throwback to a simpler time, and part of its charm. The interior was described as a "raid on the old British Leyland parts bin', made up of components from five different Austin models, a Rover 800's indicator stalks, and a Morris Marina's interior door handles.

LDV, while virtually unknown on the continent, was the backbone of Britain, rolling out Royal Mail vans, ambulances, police riot vans and minibuses across the nation. LDVs have received equal amounts of love and abuse from all sides, being called "hopelessly out of date", "ugly", a "box on wheels", "geriatric", a "throwback to a bygone era", "a remnant from the 1970s" and even that they drove "like demented ducks". Even LDV's parent company DAF opts to use Ford Transits, VW Crafters and Citroen Berlingos for its deliveries these days rather than their good old LDV.

But as you drive your LDV kicking and quite literally screaming up a hill in town, it will turns heads wherever you go. Every foreign garage and border crossing will puzzle in confusion as they spell out the letters "L... D... V?" and ask you repeatedly if it's a Ford or an Iveco. Pedestrians in Europe crossing the street in front of you will stop in their tracks and stare as if you've brought a UFO to their village; some will walk past and turn back as they scratch their heads and repeatedly read the words LDV Convoy embellished onto the back of your van (it's great fun to watch when you have a reversing camera, seriously).

Our mighty van has had her fair share of breakdowns, but she has never let us down. She may have failed to stop when our brakes went time and time again, but she has never failed to start. Her battery can power a 1200W party for 6 hours and still start in the morning. She's taken us up the steepest, most brutal mountain roads where Ford Transits have failed and rolled backwards (sorry to our friends and their '97 Ford Tranny), across mud, sand, ice & snow, over landslides, through rivers and over Balkan roads, and she has never once got stuck. Sure she bumps and clunks and whines and whistles, she wobbles about and screams her head off and coughs black smoke, her horn turns the stereo off and her window winder locks the door, but she's done us good and she's done us proud. She's succeeded where other vans and cars have failed. 

Our LDV sits proudly after conquering a mountain.

All things considered, we wouldn't recommend against buying an LDV if you know what you're in for. They're a great budget option and you get a decent engine for half the price of a Ford Transit. Many people swear by them and in all honesty we love our LDV to bits. She's done us good over the years and we've probably driven her further than any school minibus was ever meant to go. If you're prepared to put the work in, and do some hunting around for a good one, there's really no reason you shouldn't buy an LDV, especially if you're on a tight budget like us.

LDVs: Love them or hate them? Tell us your opinion in the comments!

The (true?) backbone of Britain standing tall in the Central Balkan mountains.