1989 Santana Series IV 2.5 diesel from Belgium


"Feel happy" car


- The vacuum pump died on the road (216000 km), making for some very hard braking.

- The gearbox (3rd and 5th gear) is dying (220000 km) and will be replaced rather than repaired, together with the clutch.

- Heater core was plugged and needed a good cleaning.

General Comments:

The Spanish-built Santana is an interesting combination of Series 3 and Defender elements, both body-wise and mechanical. It more or less looks like a Defender, but underneath it has leaf springs et.al.

Santana improved on the UK original: overall build quality is better (electrical equipment, rustproofing, heavier rear door hinges, improved water tightness and soundproofing,...), it comes with a fiberglass roof with ventilation outlet flaps, full carpeting, decent semi-bucket seats, power steering etc. An import from Spain, it has not a speck of rust anywhere. I was told - but haven't been able to verify yet - that the chassis is zinc-plated.

I picked up the car cheaply, to be used mainly as a 3rd car for running errands close to my country house. It was suffering severely from neglected maintenance, so I immediately replaced the timing belt, water pump, radiator cap, thermostat, all fluids and filters and the tyres, and set the valve play. Spares are very affordable and often (not always though) Land Rover or aftermarket parts can be used.

The 2.5D n/a (12J) engine has just 65 HP, hence is SLOW and requires lots of downshifting. After 220000 kilometres it still ticks like a clock though (admittedly, a very loud and rough one...) without any oil consumption (!), and goes everywhere, as long as I take my time and don't force it.

The road behaviour is harsh (leaf springs, SWB), braking is slow, steering is vague, the noise in the cabin is deafening, the gearshift is vague (slow shifting highly recommended), the seating position is back-breaking for my 1,92 metres, the headlights must have candles in them rather than bulbs, maximum cruising speed at which the engine is comfortable is around 85 kph on the level, and the heater still can't cope with temperatures below 5C...

The car always starts, takes any load and pulls like a tractor, gets me everywhere. It has few leaks, doesn't require a weekly wash & wax, the few dents and scrapes I put on it only make it look better, and it's amazing how other vehicles avoid me when I go to town... It's my "feel happy" car: no matter whether I take it for a 10-minute trip to the forest or a 3-hour expedition to get building supplies, as soon as I get behind the wheel I can't keep from smiling.

I just love it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 7th March, 2017