Top of the range

aa7a2266-960f-4233-9b0f-891ba38e3f47

By Dave Phillips

06 March 2019

Range Rover Classic front : credit: © Dave Phillips

This stunning Range Rover Classic was nearly broken for spares. Instead, it is in a class of its own, as Dave Phillips explains . . .

In recent years the term ‘timewarp’ has become a well-worn cliché, inevitable in any story about a classic vehicle in better-than-average condition. The over-use of any descriptive adjective devalues the term on that rare occasion when a genuine candidate deserving of the expression does turn up – like the stunning Range Rover featured here.

It has only covered 51,000 miles since it left Solihull in 1991. Since then it has been totally refurbished by professionals at the top of their game (1996) and owned by a succession of caring keepers who have cosseted and garaged the vehicle, taking it outside only for services, MoTs and generous applications of underseal.

The paintwork is pristine and has never lacked polish. The upper tailgate still has the original Land Rover warning sticker advising drivers not to drive with the tailgate open. Yet, astonishingly, its last owner decided to sell it to be broken for parts, because he couldn’t sort out a misfire.

That’s how LRM contributor, Tim Hammond, got to hear about it. Tim, who specialises in recycling rare parts for classic Range Rovers, was phoned out of the blue by the owner, who wondered if he would be interested in buying his Range Rover – for breaking.

“I went to see it and was gobsmacked by what I found,” says Tim. “The vehicle he was trying to sell me for spare parts was better than anything I already had on the road! I was honest and told him it was far too good for breaking, and paid him a good price for it, which he was happy with – especially when he knew that his Range Rover wouldn’t be going to the scrapyard.

“He told me he’d had it many years and loved it, but it had developed a misfire that he just couldn’t cure. He had replaced virtually everything electrical that could be replaced, but it made no difference. It was an intermittent fault, which is the worse sort to cure because you never know when it’s going to happen.”

Such an amazing vehicle deserved expert attention, so Tim turned to his old friend Rob Marsden (who became co-owner), an obsessive who creates Range Rover restorations without equal. He was also astonished to see the new arrival.

“I couldn’t believe what I was looking at,” admits Rob. “I didn’t think Range Rovers like this still existed. Here was one that had somehow escaped the brutal life and had been properly looked after for all its life. 

“With a mileage of 51,000 it could only have been used at weekends. It also had a full history file, including MoTs that backed up its low mileage, and all sorts of paperwork, including a meticulous and neatly-written logbook by its last owner that detailed everything he had done with it.

“I loved the fact that he had regularly sprayed the underside with old engine oil – at least twice a year – and had Waxoyled inside the sills and body cavities. That’s why it was virtually rust-free, apart from the boot floor, but that was easy to cut out and replace with a new one, which I welded in.

“I’m used to restoring old Range Rovers that take a year to get to the standard I’m happy with, but here was one I could genuinely have climbed into, driven off and still turn heads everywhere I went.”

Old engine oil liberally sprayed underneath to act as underseal 

The trouble was, when Rob did climb in to drive it, it didn’t drive as good as it looked, which was a shame, because under the bonnet was a 4.2-litre petrol V8, tuned by JE Engineering to produce 261 bhp and 276 lb-ft of torque. 

“It sounded brilliant with its stainless steel sports exhaust – more like a TVR when I revved it – but when I put my foot down it just coughed and spluttered,” says Rob. “This was obviously the mystery misfire that had caused the previous owner to advertise it for breaking for spares. 

“He must have been very frustrated after it had defeated so many mechanics trying to trace the cause of the fault, but I don’t give up that easily.”

Brave words. Rob has worked on classic Range Rovers since the late 1980s, when he joined Land Rover franchise Mann Egerton in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, as an apprentice mechanic. Since then, the original Range Rover has been his specialised subject. If he ever appeared on Mastermind to answer questions on Spen King’s creation, the other contestants wouldn’t stand a chance. He thought he knew everything that could go wrong with the model, but this time he was stumped.

When Rob last appeared in LRM a few years back, he had a full head of hair. Today it’s receding. I can only guess that he tore it out in handfuls as he tried to rectify that annoying fault. But eventually he discovered – and fixed – the fault. It was a poor earth connection on a cable located under the driver’s seat. All it needed was tightening with a screwdriver.

That simple fix transformed a vehicle that had once been destined for the scrapyard. Thankfully it never came to that, because this Range Rover was unique. It started life as a 1991 silver Range Rover Vogue with a standard V8 and automatic transmission, until it was refurbished by Warwick 4x4 in 1996 to a spec that included a metallic Verdanne Green paint job, with matching Green Eagle leather seats and trim, which included the door cards, cubby box and gear knob for the manual R380 gearbox fitted to match the new, tuned engine.

New tuned engine 

It was also treated to a Warwick Banks handling kit, including uprated roll bars, progressive springs and Bilstein shock absorbers. Other upgrades included twin Kenlowe electric cooling fans and a Momo sports steering wheel – with a matching green leather-trimmed boss, of course.

It looked so good it was featured in issue two of the newly-launched Autostyle magazine, a glossy coffee table publication that featured the exotic automotive excesses of the rich and famous. There’s no doubt that this Range Rover sat comfortably alongside the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of its day – and still does, for that matter.

Rob has gone over the Range Rover with a fine-tooth comb, but the vehicle is largely immaculate, including the spotless interior and boot. The alloy wheels looked tired, so Rob had them shotblasted, repainted in body colour and shod with new rubber. He also replaced the roll bar links and suspension bushes for good measure.

Cockpit was height of luxury back in 1991

Boot area, with matching green carpet, is immaculate

The result is a Range Rover better than the day it left the factory. Tim and Rob would dearly love to keep it for themselves, but to avoid squabbling over ownership, they have decided to sell it. The asking price is £24,995 – an absolute bargain for a timewarp – sorry, timeless – classic.

 

Rob's Classic Range Rovers 
Rob Marsden, 44, runs Range Rover Classics – a Norfolk-based company that specialises in restoring Range Rovers to a level of quality better than they left the factory. He achieves this by stripping them to bare metal and rebuilding them with modern rust-proofing techniques, as used in the bulletproof Mercedes G Wagens.

“You can’t completely eliminate rust, but you can prevent more than 90 per cent of it,” says Rob, who paints all panels inside and out with modern epoxy-based primers and uses rubber-insulated washes and seam sealer to prevent bi-metallic corrosion.

His refurbished Range Rovers are sold with a no-quibble ten-year structural guarantee.

Rob currently has about 60 Range Rovers in storage, awaiting restoration. As each one can take him up to a year to complete, Rob has literally a lifetime’s work ahead of him.

Go to classicrangerover.co.uk.