He always dreamed of having his restored Range Rover featured in LRM. Here's how his dream came true...
You might think the world is a big place, but you'd be wrong. Actually, it is remarkably small - especially when you're talking about the wonderful world of Land Rovers. I received a call from JE Engineering recently, about a project they had on the go for a client in the Middle East. It sounded great, so I immediately got in touch with editor Dave to fill him in on it. Bizarrely, not only did Dave already know about the vehicle, but he also knew the owner's name, and everything else about the project. You see, the owner – a well-known former customer of JE Engineering and hard core Land Rover enthusiast – also happens to be a huge fan of LRM. Having given the go-ahead for his dream rebuild, he simply couldn't miss the chance of achieving another of his dreams: to have his own vehicle featured in the pages of his favourite magazine.
Unbeknown to JE Engineering, our man in the Middle East couldn't resist getting in touch with our editor to ask the question. Here then, was someone on one side of the world, commissioning a rebuild of a car on the other side of the world, and two people on his favourite magazine both knew about his story, and his vehicle. The world of Land Rovers is indeed small. Our story starts when the owner decides he wants someone to build his dream vehicle, a classic Range Rover. He chose JE Engineering as they had restored another vehicle for a family member. JE are a Coventry-based company that, to many, are the only remaining Land Rover tuning company with real heritage. Their work with V8 engines is almost a legend in itself, creating their 4.5 litre 'Dakar' conversion, and latterly the 4.2 version of the Rover V8, used in 1992 by Land Rover in the Range Rover LSE. They have also built some superb restorations and modified vehicles, restoring Prince Charles' two-door, not to mention their 'Zulu' 500bhp Supercharged V8 Defender – the bona fide world's fastest Land Rover.
They were the perfect choice to handle the project, but due to a new hook-up, weren't the only people involved in the build. Restoring Range Rovers is no easy task these days. Parts availability is a real headache, and there's only a handful of companies who have the bits, know the cars and can do a proper job. One rising star in recent years is the Oxfordshire-based Kingsley Cars, who have produced some wonderful vehicles that we've previously featured in LRM. JE have shied away from restoration in very recent years, purely because of the parts problems, but are very proud to announce they're now linking up with Kingsley Cars for restoration work.
Now, you can get a vehicle that had been restored by Kingsley – who sort the body, chassis and interior – but is engineered by JE Engineering, who will be responsible for the engine, drivetrain and suspension, plus any modernisation of the vehicle. This is the first vehicle produced under the pairing. Fully briefed then, a suitable spec base vehicle was sourced by JE. In itself, this wasn't your normal donor car, with lacy bodywork and mice-eaten trim. No, they found a 1982 In Vogue, with just 21,350 miles on the clock, and it was everything the low mileage suggests. We all know the story of the In Vogue: Land Rover produced a one-off special with customisers Wood and Pickett in 1980, which was a test of the luxury market. Vogue magazine then borrowed the prototype for a photo shoot for Jaeger in Biarritz, and surprisingly for Solihull, response from the public was huge. A run of 1000 was produced in 1981, in the original prototype blue (a Metro colour). A second run chased that of automatic models in August 1982, in Nevada Gold or Derwent Blue, and a final run of 325 in 1983, in Derwent Blue. Many people would have bought such a rare model and kept it just as it was. But not our man, who had other plans. He wanted it to be the best possible, and so work began. Such was the excellent condition, the body didn't need to be separated from the chassis, nor did anything serious have to be welded. The chassis was stripped, cleaned and treated with Dinitrol corrosion protection, and all the body panels were removed for respraying. Inside, the body was fully soundproofed with Dynamat.
The original brief was just to repaint it, add air conditioning and possibly some suspension upgrades, but after educating the owner of the possibilities, things moved on. "Because of where the car was going to be used, we thought the original engine might feel a little lacking" says David O'Connor from JE. "We ended up taking it up to 4.5 litres." After cleaning, the original 21,000-mile block was bored and stroked to 4.5, getting Top Hat liners along the way. A JE 101 cam and JE Sports heads – using bigger valves – went on, and everything was fully balanced, as are all JE Engines. Twin SUs went on the top to supply the fuel. Due to the hot climate, a 4.2 radiator went at the front, and a hot climate fan. The gearboxes were next on the list. The second In Vogue used a Chrysler three-speed automatic gearbox – the first factory auto option. Renowned for being bulletproof, but having the largest ratio jump in the world from 1st to 2nd, there was clearly room for improvement. That came in the shape of the ZF four-speed, and an LT230 transfer box, similar to the set-up in later early Efi Range Rovers.
"In keeping with the initial idea of looking standard, we kept the Chrysler shift lever, altering it to work with four forward gears" says David. Axles were rebuilt, and a bespoke stainless steel exhaust was manufactured, made to fit around the original gearbox crossmember, and to keep the original tailpipe design. The brake system was renewed, with new servo, copper pipes and vented discs. Suspension called on JE's past knowledge, using Koni dampers, Police spec EFI springs, with factory bushes for a compliant ride on the 235/70/16 tyres. Meanwhile, Kingsley Cars had done their magic on the chassis and body frame, the bodywork was repainted, and the final assembly took place. A bespoke air conditioning system was then fitted, which JE made to fit the original (non-air con) dash, again, on the customer's 'original looks' brief. Clever bits in the passenger footwell mean the eyeball and dash vents are fed with cool air, without needing to alter the depth of the shallow glovebox. The end result is, as you can see, fabulous. Straight panels, with a mile-deep gloss that looks like the paint is actually wet, and fluffy, luxurious carpeting – the original interior from the donor car – would delight any Concours judge. On the move, the project really shows its forte.
The ticking of the fuel pump pre-empts the engine firing, settling into a rounded, deep burble that is neither loud, nor boy racer. The note is pure purposeful Rover V8, and acceleration is smooth, effortless and always on tap. The car's ride is remarkable too; those factory bushes keeping the famous 'Magic Carpet' ride intrinsic to the model, but the old school-style springs mean roll is amply tamed. This is a car you could drive in total comfort, all day long, and feel very special while you are at the pedals. Without a doubt, Kingsley and JE Engineering each are masters of their respective fields, and if this car is anything to go by, the possibilities are very exciting, indeed. They've taken the best bits of a great car, and given them a subtle, knowledgeable twist to make go as well as it looks. As a postscript, just as I type this, the vehicle is about to be loaded and shipped out to it's very lucky owner. He has already had a brief drive of it, on a visit to the UK, and as absolutely delighted with the realisation of the project. So much so, he's just ordered a brand new L405 Range Rover - through the newly formed Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division of Land Rover - specified in Navara Gold paint to match his dream Classic. If you're sharp, you may have realised another coincidence there: SVO are at Ryton, Coventry, which is about half a mile from JE Engineering in Siskin Drive. What was I saying about it being a small world?
CONTACT:JE Engineering 02476 305018 www.jeeingineering.co.uk