"We are not now that strength which in old days moved Earth and heaven. That which we are, we are."
Above and beyond. A term which has become synonymous with the idea of going the extra mile whilst producing a product or an idea. It has also become synonymous with one of the world's most beloved manufacturers, a company that proves time and time again what it means to build an off-roader truly a class above the rest.
Land Rover has long been a household name. What was once the vehicle that mobilized a huge percentage of the world for the first time has now become the vehicle of choice for parents everywhere just trying to get their kids to school in time. But underneath the 22" wheels and acres of leather and wood still lies the original philosophy: to be the best off-road. A philosophy which started with the original Land Rover and Defender nearly eighty years ago and was later perfected for public use in one of the world's first true sport-utility vehicles, the Range Rover.
The Range Rover idea first came to parent company Rover's mind in the early 1950s, with the idea of creating a larger model than the standard Land Rover series, aimed towards a family environment. They had noted that many Land Rover buyers had often found themselves using the cars for more than work around the farm. The original idea was to create something called a "Road Rover," which featured elements of the Land Rover but with creature comforts from Rover's car lines. After two prototypes proved unsatisfactory, the idea was shelved from 1958-1966.
Starting in 1966, concepts began being flung around Rover for the "Road Rover," now dubbed the "Range Rover," which culminated in the first functioning prototype in 1967. The idea was to keep the basic ideals of the old Land Rover, but with a larger greenhouse for families, luggage, and other amenities. The project was greenlit and the first production Range Rover found its way to the road two years later in 1969.
The styling of the classic Range Rover would soon become legendary, featuring a quite angular, upright look, constructed mostly of lightweight aluminum. This body style would go mostly unchanged from 1969 through 1996, when the classic Range Rover was discontinued. It was such a remarkable design, that the Louvre museum in Paris chose to display one shortly after its introduction, calling the car a "feat of mechanical engineering.
Rover decided the best fit for powering the Range Rover was the classic Buick-derived 3.5L Rover V8, de-tuned to 135 bhp. The engine was carbureted for most of its life, before the dark lord Lucas eventually bestowed an electronic fuel injection system in the 1980s, increasing power output and fuel economy (at the behest of reliability, unfortunately). Original models could only be had with a four-speed manual option, with automatics becoming available as early as 1982.
Every Range Rover since its inception has had some form of all-wheel propulsion, and the classic was no different, taking the option of full-time four-wheel drive instead of the standard Range Rover's selectable system. The Range Rover also used coil springs, a departure from the Land Rover's leaf spring system, providing a smoother ride on the road than its tougher, more traditional older brother.
Inside the cockpit of the Range Rover, creature comforts were very few. The dashboard used a fixed pod aesthetic, made of low-quality plastics and options like air conditioning and radios were not available until later on in the run. However, the spacious interior led to it becoming one of the hottest vehicles on the market in the 1970s. Larger 5-door versions would soon follow, with even more space and advanced ease-of-entry for rear passengers.
The spartan interior was certainly a far cry from the opulent Range Rovers we find 50 years later, but as the classic lived on through its 27 year lifespan, luxuries became more and more common on the car. The dashboard would be redesigned in the 1990s with a soft-dash design, with leather and wood trimmings becoming more and more popular as the years went on and Range Rover customers became more and more upmarket.
When I look back at the classic Range Rover, it astonishes me how much things have changed from that humble off-roader of yore to the Beverly Hills machines we have now, but I do notice that the basic idea has never changed. The new Range Rovers are still the best in their class, and although vehicles from Toyota, General Motors, and Nissan have come dangerously close to eclipsing the Range Rover in terms of reliability and quality, none have yet to outdo the old gal where it counts: in the dirt.
When I sat down to write this review, I thought hard to pick what song, movie quote, or whatever I could use to title it with. For some reason, my mind went back to the poem Ulysses by Lord Tennyson, a classically British poet whose work can so easily be attached to the Empire's greatest achievements. Ulysses is my favorite poem of all time, mostly due to its final few lines, which read as follows:
"We are not now that strength which in old days moved Earth and heaven, that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
I feel like that last stanza perfectly describes the faults and perfections of the Range Rover. No matter how many vehicles can claim they do it better, the Range Rover remains an undefeated class act, a definer of what it truly means to be an off-roader.
I'd like to thank Almost Real for producing this immaculate 1/18 scale model of the original Range Rover, and my good friend Camilo for selling me his example. Regardless of the high price, this model is simply one of the best I've ever seen, featuring absolutely insane levels of detail and quality that could make an AutoArt shake in inferiority. The Range Rover is one of my favorite vehicles of all time, so this will definitely come off as biased to some, but it comes from the heart. The British and the Americans may often disagree on many things, but I tip my hat to our friends across the Atlantic every time I drive a Range Rover of any type at work; your craftsmanship simply never ceases to amaze me. 🧐