Launched in 1970, Land Rover’s Range Rover SUV was designed with an ambitious goal in mind: to be as functional on-road as it was off-road. Early advertising referred to it as “a car for all reasons,” and buyers agreed, making the Range Rover a sales success that remains in production nearly five decades later. Early examples are now sought-after collectibles, which is why Land Rover Classic will debut the limited-run Range Rover Reborn series at Salon Retromobile, taking place from February 8-12 in Paris, France.
As with last year’s Land Rover Series I Reborn models, each Range Rover Reborn example will be rebuilt to customer specifications by Land Rover Classic, starting with donor vehicles sourced by the craftsmen in Solihull. The production run of Land Rover Series I Reborn models was limited to 25 units, but the Range Rover Reborn program is more exclusive, capping the quantity at just 10 examples.
The Range Rover was created in response to the growing popularity of SUVs in North America, particularly models like the International Harvester Scout and the Jeep Wagoneer. Though both were capable off-road, they could be driven with a degree of comfort on-road as well, something that really couldn’t be said about the all-business Land Rover. Sensing an opportunity, Land Rover developed the first Range Rover prototypes in 1967.
From the onset, the “100-inch Station Wagon” program that birthed the Range Rover called for coil springs instead of leaf springs in the suspension and permanent four-wheel drive. Body panels (excluding the steel tailgate) would be crafted of aluminum for corrosion resistance and weight-reduction, but would be mounted on a steel framework (perched atop a ladder frame chassis) for added strength. Power would come from the well-proven Buick-Rover 3.5-liter V-8, mounted to a four-speed manual transmission, and to ensure it was as capable as a Land Rover off-road, the transfer case would have both high and low ranges and the center differential would be lockable.
The Range Rover’s styling was set by 1969, but Land Rover was not yet through with its real-world testing. To disguise its origin, Land Rover assembled 26 pre-production examples with “Velar” badging, from “velare,” the Italian word for veil. On June 17, 1970, the finished product, identified for the first time as a Range Rover, was revealed to the automotive press and a waiting public.
For the first 11-years of production, the Range Rover was available only as a two-door with a clamshell rear hatch. In 1981, a four-door body was added (though aftermarket companies had offered such conversions for years), and for 1983, a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic became an option for buyers wanting a further degree of civility. In 1986, electronic fuel injection became available in most markets, but American buyers still had no choice but the gray market to purchase a Range Rover.
That changed in March of 1987, when Range Rovers were officially offered in the United States for the first time. Engine displacement grew to 3.9-liters in 1990 and to 4.2-liters in 1992, and in 1994 the second generation of Range Rovers debuted alongside the original, which soldiered on (in four-door form only) as the Range Rover Classic until 1996.
The Range Rover Reborn to be shown at Salon Retromobile is finished in Bahama Gold, and its 3.5-liter aluminum V-8 is rated at 132 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Inside, seats are finished in velour instead of vinyl (leather wouldn’t become an option until 1984), and while four-wheel disc brakes and a self-leveling system were standard for 1970, power steering was not an available option.
As with the Land Rover Series I Reborn models, the final price is dependent upon trim and options selected, but Range Rover Reborn models will start at £135,000 (roughly $169,000 at current exchange rates). It’s likely these examples will carry the same 12-month, 12,000-mile limited warranty as the Land Rover Series I Reborn models, and we suspect that customers will later be able to contract with Land Rover Classic for restoration of existing early Range Rovers, but are awaiting confirmation from Land Rover Classic on both points.