A friend and colleague of mine recently passed-away. He was an old-school Brit who had been in journalism, public relations, and public affairs for longer than most of us have been alive – combined. He had a story for every occasion, having been a WW2 kid in London, a Korean War vet, and even a reporter sharing office space with the likes of Andy Rooney at CBS. He also looked and sounded a little like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, but I digress. He was also a car guy, although you’d never have guessed it. A couple of years ago I visited John at his horse farm in rural Virginia, and parked in a corner, without license plates and looking a little forlorn, was a Range Rover Classic. It had seen better days, but he was attached to it. As it happened, John had done some PR work for Range Rover when they finally came to the US in 1987, and his was one of the early trucks to our shores. It was also the truck his daughter grew-up with. He wanted to get the car fixed up one day, but never got the chance. Besides, that one may have been a losing battle.
Most Range Rover Classics we see these days are in a similar state. That’s why this clean example
in Vernon, Connecticut stands out. It may seem a little pricey at $6,000, but considering what a durable, rust free, true off-roader goes for these days, some might think it a bargain. Interestingly, a rusty Mercedes Gelandewagen (G-class) of approximately the same age sells for about $15,000. Now the Rover may require a little more frequent attention, it also has a lot more luxury at less than half the price, and it carries just about as much cachet – more in some venues.
The Range Rover Classic arguably started the luxury SUV craze that invaded the American car market and all but eliminated the classic station wagon from the map. They combined carrying and tow capacity with the ability to sit up high above your neighbors in their Audis and S-classes, while enjoying many of the same luxuries such as power heated leather seats, air conditioning, power locks, windows, and sunroof, and on later cars CD changers. They also had the ability to go just about anywhere even when the snow crept up to your knees. If they had a downside, it was cost, which is why they were most popular in places like Westport, CT and Malibu, CA.
You sit up in any Range Rover – even the newest ones – but in the Classic with its tall greenhouse you can feel almost as if you’re sitting on the truck as opposed to sitting init. Still, it is a commanding perch by any standard. We like the older Range Rovers like this for their relative simplicity. Looking at the numerous pictures in the ad, I am immediately struck (in a good way) at the sight of regular old coil springs instead of Rover’s common and problem-riddled air suspension. Most of those have been converted to conventional systems at this point, and if they haven’t yet, they should be. This one is already there. It also has a shiny new green driveshaft as well, which can only be a good thing.
The 3.9 liter V8 motor in this car is actually a Rover motor that was originally a Buick motor from the early 1960s. In Range Rover guise displacement ranged from 3.5 liters to 4.2 liters over the 26 years the same basic model was produced, this version delivering 182hp. You won’t win a whole lot of drag races in a Range Rover, but it can easily get out of its own way and can pull more than the modest horsepower rating would suggest. In Europe, many of these have been converted to LPG (CNG) and run very clean and efficiently. It’s a shame that the US market hasn’t been more receptive to that technology, as the retrofit kit is downright easy to install.
This is the second SUV I’ve written about in as many weeks. Understand, I am a dyed-in-the-wool car guy, but I do appreciate an interesting truck – and frankly there just aren’t that many of them out there for my money. This one stands out, though. Rust free is not a term generally associated with Range Rovers of this vintage, and the fact that the headliner is not collapsed on top of the seats is a further indicator of a vehicle that has been cared for. Perhaps more telling is the owner’s claim of having every service receipt. Clearly this truck was loved. If John was here now, I’d have sent it to him and implored him to replace versus restore. In his absence, someone else will have the (pain and) pleasure.