Range Rover Mk. 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
Whoever it was at Rover that convinced the powers to be to develop a "high end" Land Rover must have had an accurate crystal ball, the resulting Range Rover proving to be a huge sales success and spawning a love affair for many with the notion of driving a large, expensive fuel guzzling monster capable of obliterating pedestrians and other road users without ever having the intention of taking the vehicle "off road".
Despite several research projects for a luxury Land Rover conducted in the late 1950's, only the 1958 "Road Rover" was to make it to prototype
stage. The limited funds assigned to the project however made the car somewhat of a hotch-potch affair, with Rover having to raid the parts bins of Rover sedans that were currently in production. Indeed the resulting prototype
was forced to use the P4 chassis, and resembled the P5 saloon car of the period. To make matters worse, its off-road abilities were limited, and the project died a natural death.
By the mid-1960s the UK military began reducing their orders for the Land Rover, and so Rover set about researching what type of vehicle the general public would like. The answer came as no suprise, identifying consumer demand for a "recreation and leisure" vehicle combining the rugedness and off road abilities of their Land Rover with the comfort and interior appointments of their passenger sedans.
And so, in 1966
, development of a luxury Land Rover re-commenced. At first an 'Interim Station Wagon' provided a stop-gap to cover the falling military sales, and Rover was sure the newly adopted 3.5 litre V8 engine (which Rover had recently purchased from GM in the US and was already being fitted to the P5 and P6) would make the car a sales success.
Before the year was out, the wagon project had grown into a five seat station wagon with P6 standards of comfort, on a 100 inch chassis that allowed unprecedented wheel travel. Designers were forced to develop a new gearbox capable of handling
the torque of the new V8, a key change being the use of a lockable central differential rather than the dog-clutch mechanism used on the Land Rover. Long travel vertical coil spring suspension
was fitted instead of the Land Rovers leaf springs to ensure a more refined ride.
The second prototype
featured a 2 door design, primarily in an attempt by Rover to reduce the cost of manufacturing the vehicle, although the resulting seat and seat belt arrangement made any such savings somewhat insignificant. Spen King and Gordon Bashford designed the body and interior, creating their own mock-up, with Rover stylist David Bache "cleaning up" the design with some very subtle surface treatments.
Prototypes 3 to 6 quickly followed, the engineers determined to ensure the final release would leave no stone unturned in their quest to develop the ultimate "town and country" car. Finally, in 1970
, some 20 cars were manufactured for the press launch. To call the launch a success would be understating it a little, with public demand for the new vehicle fat exceeding Rover's ability to manufacture the vehicle. 1972
saw the release of the 4-door model, and it quickly out-sold the original 2-door model. Other refinements included a viscous locking centre differential, the world's first off-road ABS system, electronic traction control, and electronically controlled air-adjustable suspension
. This air suspension
was another first for Range Rover, and replaced the coil suspension
at a time when competing vehicles were finally adopting coils.
Range Rover Update
Land Rover announced updated versions of its highly sought after Range-Rover. Of course there were price increases as well, but the lucky recipient of a 1980
Range Rover got tinted glass (all-round), inertia seat belts, power steering, and nylon seat trim as standard. The three-spoke steering wheel gave way to a new four-spoke wheel with thicker rim, instrument visibility was improved, larger twin door mirrors provided a better view, and halogen headlights replaced the sealed beam unit. Side repeater flashers were fitted, a heated rear window, a brake vacuum loss indicator, and improved radio suppression was built-in. Bumpers were satin black in place of the old aluminium paint, and the car decals were switched to sticky tape instead of the previously-fitted separate letters, which, said Land Rover, enabled owners to clean their cars more easily – but most saw it as a cost cutting exercise. By the time of this update, it had been eight years since the original was launched. In that time 75,000 Range Rovers had been manufactured, 75 percent going for export.
Range Rover 3.9
By 1990 the Range Rover was starting to age a little, although this was not affecting sales. But over the years the car had put on some weight, with more and more gadgetry being added to the specifications, along with plenty of additional options. Rover knew the car needed a little more rower. It wasn’t that the Rangie was ever a slow vehicle (certainly not by four-wheel-drive standards) but by 1990 standards it was not all that quick either. To remedy the problem, the engineers stretched the bore from 89mm to 94mm, while the stroke remained at 71mm, making the engine more oversquare than ever. The new 3947cc apacity gave a 20 percent increase in power with a peak of 134kW at 4750rpm up from the previous engine's 112kW. Torque also took a big hike and measured 304Nm at 3000 rpm, up from 257Nm.
Gearboxes were uprated to cope with the extra grunt and the automatic (available in the Vogue and SE) had wider faced gears and forged teeth. There was also an inhibitor to prevent over-eager kickdowns from third to fourth at highway speeds. Brakes were ventilated discs all round and you could also option anti-lock brakes
for an extra outlay of $3640. The rest of the package remained pretty much unchanged apart from some worthwhile detail changes to make life less of a struggle. The seats featured a new foam padding for better support and comfort while increased soundproofing kept the interior more civilised. New instrument graphics were a big leap forward, although the whole dashboard treatment and binnacle was, by 1990, starting to look a little dated.
Ventilation was improved with better vent placement and the central locking now operated off both front doors. New colours were added to the range of models along with new interior trim patterns and the option of Connolly leather
on the Vogue SE. The 1990 price for the Vogue was $80,130 before on-road costs, so the changes obviously did not make the car any cheaper. If you wanted the Vogue SE you needed to find another $15,000. With the 3.9-litre engine, the Range Rover was even more competent off-road, had better on road performance and would cope with towing a larger boat or caravan.
The Range Rover was a unique vehicle, combining excellent off-road abilities and refined around town manners - it quickly becoming a status-symbol of the affluent that remains to this day. Interestingly, it remains as the only vehicle to have been exhibited in the Louvre as a work of art. The original P38 style Range Rover was eventually phased out in 1996, and today is most remembered for combining the idea of a 4x4 and luxury boulevard cruiser into one. Many may lament the success of the Rangie, an ever growing groundswell of road users now seeing those that purchase this type of vehicle as adopting a "stuff you" attitude toward their fellow motorists, and the "Toorak Tractor" is fast becoming as politically incorrect as a fart in a lift.