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Range Rover

Range Rover Published: 21st Dec 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Range Rover
Range Rover
Range Rover
Range Rover
Range Rover
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Stuart’s experiences with Range Rovers included using one to drive the full length of M6 before much of it was opened to traffic

One of the workmen on the Midlands Link being built to join M6 to M1, bypassing Birmingham and Coventry, shouted, waved, and came running across. Here comes trouble, I thought; he’s going to tell us we shouldn’t be there, and he would be quite right. We were making an unofficial inspection of progress on the new motorway, months before it was due to be opened, and we had chosen a Range Rover as the ideal vehicle for the job. But I needn’t have worried as it turned out that he was more interested in the vehicle than the matter of why we were there.

“Do they do that in diesel?” he asked. “No, I’m sorry,” I replied. “It’s petrol only, but a good engine. A V8 3½-litre. Why, do you want to buy one?”

“Not if it’s petrol only,” he replied. “On these jobs diesel flows like water, a diesel one wouldn’t cost anything to run, but petrol’s no good.” With that he walked away and we were left to continue our unofficial recce of the Midlands Link. It was October 1970, and it was remarkable that Land Rover were able to lend us an example of the Range Rover, only five months after the model’s introduction. It proved absolutely ideal for the purpose because the plan was to drive the full length of M6, 230 miles from the junction with M1 at Catthorpe to its temporary terminus north of Carlisle.

For much of the way we were running on carriageways nearly finished, like the one through the Lune Gorge, but parts of the Midlands Link would have been impossible for a vehicle without the ground clearance and amazing off-road capability of the Range Rover. Completion of the Midlands Link was promised for the end of 1971, only just over a year away. The last section of the Link from Castle Bromwich proved impassable with many of the bridges and complex flyovers in the north Birmingham area still under construction, but eventually we rejoined finished parts of M6 and were able to cruise along in the Range Rover up to Lancaster and get back on to mud, ruts and the usual off-road sections of an unfinished motorway from Lancaster to Penrith.

It was a most fascinating journey, and a convincing demonstration of the capability of the Range Rover’s ability to combine remarkable off-road motoring with cruising in the 80s.

DIESEL DO NICELY

That energetic road-building workman who had run across to ask about a diesel version would probably have long since retired by the time the first official diesel Range Rover appeared, 16 years later. It had a four-cylinder 2.4-litre engine manufactured by VM and imported from Italy and developing 112 bhp, which gave the Range Rover a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 18 seconds. It was made clear that production of the Turbo D as it was called was intended mainly for overseas markets, with only 10 per cent of total sales expected to go to UK buyers at a tax-paid price of £18,109. There had been earlier diesel Range Rovers but these were mainly conversions such as the Janspeed turbodiesel in January 1983, and a version with a Peugeot diesel in March 1982.

After I left Autocar and went freelance in September 1981, one of my first commissions was to write a book on Range Rover, and for thorough background information I had a long- term loan example through the winter of 1981- 82. In January, I was asked to cover the Brussels Show for Autocar and went out in the Range Rover with photographer Peter Cramer.

The choice of car for the trip could not have been better as a tremendous blanket of snow came down in Belgium. We found the Ostend- Brussels autoroute completely blocked by stationary traffic, so took to the wide verge and motored along through the snow hoping that there were no deep ditches or hidden kilometre posts buried in the snow. I think for the hundreds of drivers seeing our progress while they were marooned it must have been an impressive promotion for the Range Rover.

Later I was given a day’s coaching in off-road driving techniques under instruction by Land Rover’s very capable engineer Roger Crathorne in the woods at Eastnor Castle. When we had finished our day of ploughing through Eastnor’s muddy tracks, the Range Rover was driven into a stream and a pump connected to the power take-off was used to hose down the vehicle.

My book, called Range Rover Companion, was finished on schedule but very nearly failed to get published. All the material had been sent out to the printers in Hong Kong, which then went bust, but fortunately the industrious publisher William Kimberley went out to Hong Kong and retrieved everything. I had copies of the words, of course, but many of the pictures would have been lost for good including early development pictures.

I was able to cover the development of the car in its first 12 years of production, one of the major changes being the introduction of the four-door model in April 1981.

 

FOUR TO THE FORE

The ingenious young Swiss engineer Peter Monteverdi had demonstrated to Land Rover how a four-door conversion could be produced quite easily and without the great expense which had previously been thought necessary, and achieved approval to offer a luxury four-door version as an interim model until the factory’s four-door went on sale in July 1981. Many other specialist conversions became available, and I went over to the London coachbuilding firm Wood and Pickett to see and photograph their limited series edition to be produced in conjunction with Vogue magazine.

Through the difficult years of union disruption at the end of the 1970s there was little funding available for development work, so for 10 years Range Rovers carried on much as before until air conditioning became available in 1979, and in 1981 fuel injection for the petrol engine and ZF four-speed automatic transmission were offered.

In subsequent years Range Rovers embraced the luxury market, with ever more extravagant and plush interior fittings, larger engines, and prices moved up accordingly. When it was finally replaced by the new and very different-looking model, the Range Rover had progressed a long way from the utilitarian rubber-mat version that first appeared in 1970.



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