The first Range Rover is now considered a classic icon and prices of original examples are rising
At its launch back in 1970 the very first Range Rover was a revolution in motoring terms. Here was a large, prestige road car that could romp across fields and open ground at relatively high speed and comfort, riding on coil spring suspension and powered by a twin-carburettor 3.5-litre petrol V8. There had been nothing like it before, and the vehicle has continued to evolve and shrug off the copy-cat competition, and today’s incarnation is still the best in its class, by far. The early Range Rover was adopted by a comparatively wealthy new customer base, underpinning its upmarket position and helping establish it as a prestige vehicle. These first vehicles now appear spartan inside, dated outside, and the V8s are fuel thirsty.
They are, of course, fifty years behind in fashion and technology, and that caused them to be abandoned after the P38 model reached the secondhand market, many being run down to the end of their natural life or converted into dedicated off-roaders. Values tumbled, and are still low, but any Range Rover Classic that has survived in good condition, or been restored, is now showing an increase in value. Early, and now rare, two-door models have been a favourite for some years, but all models are considered to be classic cars, and the higher the specification, the better. The highest spec model was the long wheelbase LSE with its 4.2-litre Rover V8 injection engine. It’s the car that introduced electronically controlled air suspension (EAS) on Land Rovers in 1992, and it set the ultra-high standard associated with the Range Rover brand.
To maximise their classic status and value, Range Rovers need to be original. Many have been converted from petrol V8 power to diesel, and this is not desirable even if a Tdi diesel has been transplanted. Any with non-Land Rover diesels (except the original VMs) really need a correct engine to be
fitted. Similarly, many air suspension models have been converted back to coil, which spoils their originality.
Running issues with the carburated V8 engines are usually easy to deal with, but EFi engines need a level of diagnostic knowledge and equipment. Top end noises on a V8 suggest camshaft and valvetrain wear, a regular problem where oil changes or oil quality has been poor. Avoid any with evidence of coolant problems. On the larger capacity V8s, cylinder liners can move out of position and cracks can occur in the cylinder block coolant space, which are difficult to diagnose and expensive to fix.
Look at the stance of air suspension vehicles. If they seem low at the wheel arches, or not level after standing for a few hours, there is probably a leak on one or more of the air springs, or problems with the solenoid valves, and that may have overworked the compressor. With the engine running, use the driver’s switches to check the suspension rises and lowers within a few seconds.
Most of the external panels are aluminium, but the steel inner body frame needs very close inspection. Open the doors and look underneath to check, even remove some interior trim if possible. Inner wheel arches, inner wings, sills, A-posts and B-posts and rear outboard seat belt mounts all need to
be checked. Examine the bulkhead from in
the engine bay and inside behind the trim
if possible. At the rear, look for corrosion in the steel tailgate top and to a lesser extent the steel bottom, inner wings and the loadspace floor. Ensure the interior trim is complete and that both the seat material and seat facings
are in serviceable condition.
The rear crossmember is replaceable, as are outriggers, but the chassis needs a thorough check in all areas.
Some petrol V8 engines have been converted to run on LPG, which makes fuel costs comparable with the diesel models while retaining the V8’s performance, and lower noise and vibration levels. The downside is the space taken up by the additional LPG fuel tank, which sometimes sits in the spare wheel position, leaving the wheel to be stowed elsewhere. You need to see paperwork confirming the LPG system has been correctly installed and regularly serviced.
WHICH ONE FOR YOU?|||||||||||
Many dedicated off-road vehicles were bobtailed – shortening the rear body by cutting material out and fixing the rear end back on. The resulting distinctive looks are nowa curiosity as wella s improving the off-road departure angle.SERVICING AND REPLACEMENT PARTS
Mechanical AND service parts are in good supply and specialists exist for the V8 and VM engines. Tdi parts and expertise are in abundance. Air suspension components not expensive. Interior trim is becoming difficult to find, and leather seat trimming is inevitably expensive. Body parts and repair sections are plentiful. Chassis is repairable.
The body, drivetrain and interior layout is similar among all models, but there is a broad choice of engines, two suspension options and increasingly sophisticated technology such as ABS with traction control from 1992. All models are still a practical proposition for everyday use. Maintenance and repairs are relatively straightforward.
All petrol Range Rovers are V8 powered, starting with twin-carburettor engines of 3.5-litres fitted to the earliest examples. These are the simplest to maintain. For 1984, the carburettors were replaced by electronic fuel injection (EFi). In 1989 the engine capacity was upped to 3.9-litres and later the 4.2-litre version appeared in the flagship LSE model. The 4.2 engine is considered better for long-distance cruising, and can return a reasonable 17 mpg which is about par for all the V8s. Whether the V8 is affordable to run depends on the type and amount of use the vehicle will be given but, the V8 in any form, is the best for refinement and performance.
The first diesel options were powered by the 2.4-litre Italian VM (Vancini
& Martelli). This is an interesting engine, having a separate cylinder head for each cylinder. The VM was replaced by the well-proven Tdi four-cylinder engines. Diesels provide adequate performance and, although often described as lethargic, this is only in comparison to the sprightly V8 models.
Coil spring suspension was fitted from the outset, with early vehicles having geometrically opposed dampers on the rear axle. The Dunlop electronic air suspension system was introduced on the LSE model in 1992. It’s a reliable system than only needs good servicing and maintenance. Most of the problems associated with air are due to poor repair and neglect. Air gives a better ride, but tends to give a harsh ride and wild handling when oversize wheels and lower profile tyres are fitted.
• 1971-1983: 3.5-litre V8, 125 bhp, 185 lb-ft torque
• 1986-on 3.5 EFi: 165 bhp, 206 lb-ft
• 1989-1996: 3.9 EFi V8, 185 bhp, 235 lb-ft or 4.2, 200 bhp
• 1986-1992: 2.4 VM turbo diesel, 112 bhp, 183 lb-ft, later 2.5 Tdi diesel, 119 bhp
Range Rover Register,
Project: £1000 – £3100
Average: £3100 – £5200
Good: £5200 – £7500
Excellent: £7500 – £100,000+