If ever there was an accidental success story it’s that of the Range Rover Classic. It was introduced in 1970 for the English county set, in the belief that a robust four-wheel drive vehicle that was more comfortable than the utilitarian Land Rover would go down well with those who rode horses, shot birds, hunted, attended agricultural shows and were always surrounded by wet dogs. As such, the first Range Rovers had vinyl seats and plastic dashboards that could be hosed down after green wellies tramped mud into the car.
Early two-door Range Rovers were built to deliver real cross-country ability. They had permanent four-wheel drive with low range for off-roadwork. Rover’s V8 petrol engine was teamed with a four-speed manual gearbox. Advanced independent suspension offered coil springs all round with disc brakes front and back. To British Leyland’s credit, they soon realized their new rural transport was appealing to a wider market, meeting the dual requirement of looking good and operating well both on and off the road.
This would mark the start of enhancement and uprating that would last for decades, resulting in the creation of the ultimate luxury SUV that European manufacturers like BMW, Volkswagen and Porsche eventually felt they had to challenge with their own awesome off-roaders primarily intended for imposing road use by wealthy drivers.
During the 1970s the Range Rover saw refinements like power steering introduced, but it was not until the early 1980s that significant change happened — including a four-door body and automatic transmission option. There were further style tweaks in the 1980s, plus innovations like the availability of diesel engines. A luxurious Vogue special edition was offered from 1983, and a stretched LSE model appeared in 1992. After 25 great years, second generation cars finally superseded the Range Rover Classic in 1996.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1970 (until 1996) (First generation)
3,532 cc, 3,947 cc or 4,197 cc V8; 2,393 cc or 2,499 cc Straight Four Diesel; 2,495 cc Straight Four Turbo-Diesel
With 3.5 I engine – top speed of 96 mph (154 km/h); 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 11.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The series name was devised with the benefit of hindsight – Range Rover Classic was the tag used for first generation cars that briefly continued to be built alongside second generation cars in the 1990s, and Rover liked the name so much it retro-fitted the ‘Classic’ designation to all first generation Range Rovers.