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by James Taylor and Nick Dimbleby.

Crowood Press, 1995, 208 pages, $34.95

Land Rover has increasingly developed a bad habit of retrospectively renaming its vehicles. In the beginning there was simply the Land Rover. When the Series II appeared, the original became retroactively the Series I. (Well, we had to call it something.) Then came the Range Rover, and the Discovery, which eventually led to all of the original familiar boxy shapes being called Defenders. (That was stretching things a bit.) And along came the second generation Range Rover in the fall of 1994, whereupon they called the original the Classic.

Whatever you call the original Range Rover, this book is truly its complete history from 1970 to 1995. Almost. At press time, the new Range Rovers were rolling off the assembly line, and the original was in reduced production badged as the Classic. Lacking is one final chapter on the closing ceremonies for that remarkable vehicle which ceased production in February 1996. Apart from that footnote, this book contains just about anything a person could want to know about the Classic.

As noted before in this column, James Taylor knows his stuff. He has been writing about automotive history since the late 1970s and now has over two dozen books to his credit, including several about Land Rover products. Nick Dimbleby is an automotive photojournalist, and regular correspondent for Land Rover Owner International. He specializes in covering off-road events, and is expected to cover the 1996 U.S. National Rally for LRO. Both Taylor and Dimbleby drive Range Rovers, which says a lot about their priorities.

To the undiscerning eye, all Land Rovers look alike. To many Series owners even, all Range Rovers look alike. This amply illustrated (including 21 in color) book will set everybody straight. Every last detail of distinctions in model years, including foreign market variations, are spelled out in easily referenced tables. The general history is related in four engaging chronological chapters, followed by three chapters on versions for military specifications, emergency services, and custom-built models such as royal review Rovers and Popemobiles. Another chapter chronicles the Range Rovers distinguished history in long range rallies, off-road races, and other expeditions, including three appearances in the Camel Trophy, and the 1971-72 British Trans Americas Expedition which was designed to prove to the uninformed public that this luxury vehicle was every bit as rugged as the Land Rover. Something about the cars sleek style never completely overcame suspicions that it was unfit for rock hopping. Most Range Rovers never go off- road (but then that is true of the whole American 4x4 culture.) And for the latecomer to the Range Rover scene (or the incorrigible collector), there is a helpful final chapter of hints for the second-hand buyer. Although over a quarter million were made, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the Classics are almost certainly bound to grow in demand. Originals in excellent condition from the early 1970s already command high prices.

The Range Rover was first conceived in 1965 to include the best qualities of a Rover luxury sedan along with the best 4x4 capabilities of the Land Rover. A research trip to the United States proved that there was a market for such a vehicle even though it would inevitably cost more than the Land Rover. After much study of the competition and borrowing some of their best features, the first prototype was built in 1967. Several prototypes later, the first Range Rover reached the public in 1970. Although designed specifically for the US market, the vehicle ironically did not reach America until 1987 due to demand outstripping supply and difficulties in keeping up with American safety regulations.

The Range Rover was remarkable in many respects. It carved out a unique niche for itself, defining the genre from the moment of its appearance. Its basic body design remained in fashion for a quarter century, and its desirability only increased as it grew older. Perhaps most remarkably, the Range Rover conquered the tough US market when its basic design was already seventeen years old.

Review by T.F. Mills

Reprinted from the Solihull Society Newsletter, July/Aug 1996
Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2011. Last modified March 15, 2005.
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