"Don’t follow me, you won’t make it." Range Rover bumper sticker.
Launched in 1970 the ‘first generation’ Land Rover Range Rover was intended to broaden the appeal of the original Landie’s somewhat utilitarian concept. The idea was to retain the ‘go anywhere, do anything’ ability of the farmers’ favourite but to move it upmarket with some creature comforts even to the point that an alternative, more car-like mode of transport would no longer be needed; a two for the price of one stroke of genius even Asda would be proud of. What distances the Rangie from other what we now refer to as luxury off-roaders is that it started with a solidly engineered, hugely capable basic machine and added luxury rather than tried to make a comfortable road vehicle work when the tarmac ran out. A separate, box section, ladder chassis just like that found under the Land Rover was specified but coil springs replaced the leafs for a more compliant ride on High Street, highway and even up on High Field back on the farm. Permanent four wheel drive with high and low ranges guaranteed off road performance was on a par with its Land Rover relatives – that is to say, head and shoulders above anything else on the market. Interior trims were considerably upgraded (i.e. there were some) but you could still hose them down, along with the obligatory labrador. Looks were very much ‘Lego meets Tonka Toy’ both inside and out; switches were gloved finger friendly chunky push buttons and form very much followed function throughout.
Land Rover perhaps gained their first inkling that they may have created something with far broader appeal than they had initially appreciated when just after the Range Rover’s launch, those chic Parisians at The Musée du Louvre exhibited one as an “exemplary work of industrial design”. It was already clear that like the Hunter welly, the Range Rover was destined to be loved by luvies despite its primary purpose and their needs being somewhat disparate. Not that Land Rover were complaining and as time went by, they embraced the new buyers the Range Rover appealed to, steadily moving it further upmarket - with the associated price hikes too of course. From Farmer to Gentleman Farmer to Gentleman the appeal evolved as did the hardware, culminating in the last of the line Vogue LSE of 1992, built on an extended 108” long wheel base. Rover’s evergreen V8 had by then grown to a stump-pulling 4.2 litres and was fuelled by injection to produce 200 bhp against the original’s 135. Connolly leather to park your posterior on had replaced vinyl, rubber mats had morphed into top quality carpeting for your brogues and there was acres of space in which to traverse your rolling acres. The split rear tailgate, while ideal for transporting a bale of hay or two proved equally suitable for dispensing something warming in the South Car Park at Twickers.
This LSE Vogue was first registered on May 23rd 1994 and as the absolute Top of the Range machine, even in standard form it sported a number of desirable features such as the sought-after Cyclone alloy wheels and Tom Walkinshaw Racing designed Factory ‘Brooklands’ body kit which, while it couldn’t be said to have ‘pimped’ the car (fortunately), certainly distanced it from the pack somewhat. Already a staggering 41% more expensive than the base model, for the ultimate personal touch the owner further added to the purchase invoice total by having Land Rover paint the car to match another vehicle of his which fortuitously happened to not only be an Aston Martin but one finished in their own particularly fabulous ‘Derwent Green’ – Farrow and Ball would have undoubtedly been proud of that one. Complimented by Sorrel Beige hide it is a wonderful colour combination, eye catching and yet so subtle one half expects to see H. M. The Queen behind the wheel.
Both paintwork and leather are in exemplary condition with barely a mark to be found inside or out. The glassware of the windows and now-halogen headlights is in similarly fine order and there are no chips or cracks to the plastic light lenses. There is a very small amount of wrinkling to the vinyl covering of the ‘C’ posts but as this is a textured surface it is not obvious. The perfect 16” alloy wheels are wrapped in fairly new Goodyear ‘Wrangler’ ‘M&S’ (as in mud and snow, not the well-known purveyor of kiwi fruit) tyres all round.
Back inside and the suitably luxurious carpeting is in virtually unmarked condition and the Range Rover comes with a set of fitted over-mats. One minor grumble is that the headlining has started to sag slightly and may ultimately require some attention. One of the very last upgrades to the First Generation vehicles was the introduction of the ‘Soft Dash’, by which these last of the line machines are now known and you have to say aesthetically it is a significant improvement on the earlier cars “Airfix” hard plastics, if slightly less hosepipe friendly. Within this sits the original Range Rover branded stereo radio cassette player (‘The Division Bell’ tape sadly not included). New rear quarter window rubbers have been fitted along with a new upper tailgate.
Structurally the known problem areas such as boot floor, inner wings and wheel arches are all in excellent shape, as are the particularly prone long wheel base-specific door extensions.
Recent mechanical fettling has seen previously less than perfect brake and power steering pipes replaced. The air suspension system functions correctly and a comprehensive service was carried out in the last 1,000 miles. Some £3,000 has been spent recently to ensure the LSE is as good as it looks and the invoices for this work are on file.
Though the Range Rover has covered some 118,000 miles, it is well worth noting that a porous engine block resulted in the original engine being rebuilt around one that had covered only a few hundred miles and that this work was carried out just 12,000 miles ago. Now nicely ‘run in’, it breathes through a ‘manifolds to tail pipe’ custom made stainless steel exhaust system and sounds frankly fantastic. For those with half an eye on future investment value (and with the way ‘Classic’ Range Rovers have been appreciating, we think that is not such a bad idea) rest assured that the original block comes with the car.
Riding on the aforementioned later cars’ air suspension the Range Rover drives very nicely indeed and while no Lotus 7, it handles twists and turns with at least a degree of aplomb. The whole thing feels up together and sorted, redolent of a machine that has been sympathetically used and maintained throughout its life.
These ‘first generation’ Range Rovers, as well as enjoying the classic original looks, were built to last and the final machines off the production line such as this one, benefit from nigh on twenty-five years of development which engineered out many of the early cars’ ‘idiosyncrasies’. As the owner so succinctly put it, “When they finally got it correct, they ceased production.”
Registration number: L607 YAC
Chassis Number: SALLHBM33MA651590
Engine number: See text