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Range Rover

Range Rover Published: 23rd May 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Range Rover
Range Rover
Range Rover
Range Rover
Range Rover
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Why not own a...? Range Rover

Before the Range Rover came along, off-roaders knew their place in society – and it wasn’t bumping up kerbs in West London. But, in 1970, along came Land Rover’s vision of a vehicle that was as happy taking pigs to market as it was swanning down Kings Road, with the company unwittingly kick-starting an entire new motoring market – for £2000.

Today, new ones start from way over £70,000 and, while that sounds a massive jump, so valued have classic Range Rovers become that you can easily pay that for an original these days! Happily, you don’t have to spend that much to own one and there’s not many classics that you can enjoy so much, yet will also earn its keep. If the recent winter had you thinking about a dual role classic, then few have the credentials of a classic Range Rover.

Model choice

All credit to that design because the original has stood the test of time over five decades, running right up to the mid-’90s, with very early cars cherished the most.

The car was initially three-door only (although always marketed as a two-door, strangely) powered by a detuned 135bhp, V8, and had simple hose-down plastic interior trim. These Spartan and austere examples now have the most classic appeal, even though the later models are far more civilised and usable.

As Land Rover could sell all it made, early changes during the Range Rover’s production run were surprisingly scant, such as a higherpower alternator, cloth seats and, most importantly, the very welcome option of power steering by 1975.

It was the launch of the four-door in 1981 that started Land Rover thinking it really had something to milk the market with. In 1982 a Chrysler Torqueflite three-speed auto became available, and in 1983 a much better five-speed manual (with a newly-developed transfer box) was introduced, replacing the earlier optional overdrive facility and as a result gave better spaced ratios, for improved mid-range wallop as well as a higher top gear for less fussy and more frugal cruising.

By now the car had become tailored not just for off-roading. Central locking, plus a healthy options list including air-con, alloy wheels and wooden door cappings, all turned the Range Rover from farmhand transport to a prestigious executive express.

Fuel injection signalled the Vogue model of 1985 and, finally, a staggering 16 years after that 1970 launch, a diesel was finally offered, in the form of an Italian VM 2.4-litre unit. For 1988 a new flagship hit the showrooms, the Vogue SE, coming fully kitted out with a four-speed automatic transmission, too good to damage Connolly hide upholstery, air conditioning and electric sunroof, it put a Roller to shame!

In 1990, the V8 was increased to 3.9-litres to compensate for the extra weight of all that luxury, with the diesel lifted to 2.5-litres. Anti-lock brakes became standard on the Vogue SE and optional elsewhere.

Just over 20 years since it was launched, the Range Rover was given a comprehensive suspension rethink. Anti-roll bars were fitted, reducing the rather dramatic roll of previous models to acceptable levels – the aftermarket also produced kits to achieve similar results. With the all-new, somewhat blander, P38 arriving with its Metrocab taxi looks, the original was given its P45, but not before it was revamped to become the Range Rover Classic, with the addition of dual airbags.

If you are a purist, the 1970’s car will be your thing and you’ll put up with the clunky gearbox, basic PVC trim and 2CV-like cornering roll. On the other hand, if you want a stylish, reasonably priced all-purpose vehicle which can happily cross a desert, climb a mountain or cruise quietly towing two tons of caravan, go for the latest car you can find.

Behind the wheel

Like old Land Rovers, Range Rovers are great fun if you fancy a bit of the rough stuff. It’s just as rugged as the former but much more refined and the on road difference, thankfully, is like chalk and cheese.

The downside on early examples is their crudity, such as the lorry-like gearbox which is basically an old Land Rover transmission with a transfer box tagged on. It’s very rugged but so too suffers from a heavy, lumbering agricultural change quality, lots of noise and considerable drive-line shunt. You may love it, but if other members of the family have to use your Range Rover as well they may beg to Nigh on half a century haven’t diluted the positive sides of Range Rover driving. That smooth torquey V8 is a delight and the later four-door cars still make remarkable, if thirsty, tourers, especially the longer wheel-based limoload luggers like LSEs.

As a tow-anything vehicle, nothing comes close, of course, because its V8 is loved for its lusty and still respectable performance, less so for its sub 20mpg thirst, though things improved with the fitting of fuel injection in 1985. The 3.9-litre gave the Rangie real guts, cutting the dash to 60 to 11 seconds and making this off-roader one of the first ton-up 4x4s, but to little harm of the economy.

The now hard to hard (Italian) VM diesel fairs quite well (24mpg) in return for less character and go, although the torque figure from this Italian is on par with the Rover V8.

As a second car, school dashabout or towing hack Range Rovers are ideal. Earliest examples sans power steering and saddled with a track-like transmission are hefty beasts and don’t kid yourself otherwise. If you want an easy time go for a late ’80s or, better still, the last of the line versions.

Finally, you’ve got to talk about their off-road use! Yes, they really were designed for this in mind and despite its advanced years can still teach young upstarts a thing or too. For those who live in rural areas and suffered from the recent snow, a Range Rover is almost unstoppable! What may stop you however will be their ever rising values…

Range Rover experts, Bluebird Engineering, says the 3.9 V8 is the one to go for, due to its reliability, smoothness and refinement because the 4.2 and 4.6 aren’t as robust and autos are a better bet over manuals.

What to pay

You can pick up a first-generation from less than £6000, but don’t expect miracles; to get something decent you’ll need to spend at least £10,000 while a nice two-door will set you back double this. At least.

With the first production model selling for more than £200,000 not long ago, plus now Land Rover remaking the Classic two-door at the factory (see News) at £135,000 mint two-doors command anywhere between £25,000 and £35,000, if fully restored and prices will go higher. If the ultra-rare VELAR pre-production cars do come onto the market, nothing less than £70,000 will buy one!

Kingsley Cars (01865 301190) rebuilds Classics better than new, with prices around £65,000, half of what Land Rover want for its new ‘continuations’. You can buy a rough (project) Rangie for £1500 but you’re better off buying a good one even if it means breaking the bank as restos are as hard as they are pricey.

Making one better

With fuel prices now on the rise, LPG could well pay for itself in the long run, not so much to improve on mpg, as it is worse, but rather on pump costs. However, you’re looking at £2-3000 for installation but the good news is converted cars aren’t worth appreciably more than standard ones, although Bluebird Engineering warns that many conversions aren’t done properly and a real safety issue.If you’re getting it fitted, make sure you get a certificate to prove everything’s been done competently.

Tuning parts centre on uprated damping and anti-roll bars (fitted to later variants). Most prominent is the Harvey Bailey kit. MM Land Rover of Worcs sells a kit comprising springs, dampers, anti roll bars and poly bushes for £480. DLS of Derby markets a good value Gaz kit for £200 while Richard Varrall’s kit is £600 fitted while Kingsley offers an entire rebuild with an uprated rear anti-roll bar at under £3000.

Until ’84, there was only a fourspeed manual plus overdrive. You can fit a five-speed but need to change bellhousing to suit. Land Rover sold higher ratio transfer gears for an ‘overdrive effect’ which you can track down still. Chrysler threespeed auto is okay, but later ZF fourspeeder is so much better.

Power steering was available from mid ’70s and can be fitted to earlier cars although it’s complex and expensive to do; a more pragmatic alternative is to fit aftermarket electrical kit from likes of EZ.

That long standing V8 has huge potential (witness the MGR V8 and TVR models) and up to 300bhp is fairly easy to attain. As standard, the unit came in low compression tune – upping to 3500S/SD1 is the first step. TDs have little scope other than larger intercoolers or best of all a Mazda TD although it costs £7500 from experts Bluebird Engineering.

Maintenance matters

Mechanically, they are easy to fix and with great access but arm yourself with a proper workshop manual plus an official parts book. There’s great back-up both from Land Rover and a network of specialist suppliers so few worries here. What can be an issue are repair and restore costs and, even with residuals rising, some Rangies are simply not worth saving.

Rust is a major issue and last of the line models fare the worst say experts. If a new chassis is needed you can get away with a Discovery 1 frame. Rear crossmember rots and things get serious above axle level, and fixing it properly isn’t possible without removing body. Typically, floors cost £90, inner and outer sills £50 each and front wings over £200. Upper half of the tailgate is rust-prone, and regularly remove light cluster to check the inner wings.

Diesels are weakest link; original VM units blow head gaskets and are a hassle to replace. Also timing belt replacements are critical on 200 and 300TDis. Fuel-injected V8s suffer from starting maladies. Head gaskets are prone to fail and the exhaust manifolds often fracture and lack of oil changes gums up the tappets. Join the Range Rover Register as it’s well worth less than a quid a week!

In conclusion

If you’re after a multi-tasking classic that’ll also earn its keep, then only one car can match a Range Rover… and that’s a Land Rover!

Buying tips

1. General

Although hardly high tech, these aren’t easy vehicles to vet so you may need expert help. And view (and drive) a few as they will vary enormously.

The trim isn’t that sturdy, especially the headlining which falls down and is a sod to re-fit (GRP ones better replacements). Electrics are typically BL dodgy so check all the systems fully.

2. Body and chassis

Rust and over exerted use are the two main worries. They may be tough but neglect and abuse will soon turn this vehicle into an expensive wreck, so vet well before you buy.

The chassis is extremely rust prone, especially at key areas such as bulkheads, cross-members, chassis legs, sills and even the fuel tank. You are bound to see patchwork repairs made over the years but hopefully not bodges.

The body is mainly aluminium and yes this rusts – as do the steel skeleton they are attached to. The rear tailgate is a notorious rotter and panels are expensive to purchase. Seat fixing points, especially on two-door models are MoT fail point.

3. Running gear

Transmissions are noisy and sloppy by nature but not unduly so. Arduous towing hardly helps either and you are bound to see one sporting a towbar. Like all Landies, oil leaks are a way of life.

When on a test drive, try all the ratios as their lack of use could spell trouble.

The suspensions have a tough time so look for shot springs, dampers, bushes and so on. The steering always has a degree of play but should not be excessively so.

The original self-levelling rear Boge strut is now unavailable and are known leakers., but you can remove it entirely. Best option is an uprated suspension to compensate such as heavy-duty springs and dampers; they may be worn anyway.

4. Engines

V8 is well known; generally tough and durable with parts pretty cheap and attainable but neglect usually clogs the oil feed to the hydraulic tappets while spent corrosion inhibitors in the anti freeze furs up the water ways and leads to head gasket failures. Don’t be too surprised to find turning gear fitted.

VM diesels aren’t well liked (head gaskets let go) and spares supply isn’t good. Although hardly brilliant or trustworthy, later Tdi is better choice.

Six of the best reasons to buy

  • Multi tasking marvel
  • Super value P38 replacement
  • Can be fast appreciating asset
  • Viable daily driver
  • Wide range of retro-fit upgrades
  • Great spares and specialist support


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