RE: Rickman Ranger: Spotted

RE: Rickman Ranger: Spotted

Saturday 12th January

Rickman Ranger: Spotted

Think cars that look like they can off road but most certainly can't is a new fad? Say hello to the Rickman...



What does the name Rickman mean to you? For many it'll be the late, great actor, whose performances in everything from Galaxy Quest, to Harry Potter, to Die Hard, endeared him to the nation. Perhaps you're a Hertfordshire resident or Metropolitan Line commuter, and it's Rickmansworth which springs to mind. You may even be a keen amateur footballer, and have found yourself playing for or against Rickman Rovers, a Sunday League team which, according to its now seemingly defunct Twitter account, once found itself between Honey Monsters FC and Tekkerslovakia in the Birmingham Festival Football League. Perhaps even less likely than that, though, is that it's today's Spotted you think of, the Rickman Ranger.

Between 1960 and 1975, brothers Derek and Don Rickman built custom-framed motorcycles, using engines sourced from mainstream manufacturers including Triumph, Royal Enfield and Honda. Their creations were highly regarded, with technical innovations including the first use of front and rear disc brakes, nickel-plated frames and exceptional fibreglass bodywork. When a Rickman Triumph finished second at the 1969 Isle of Man TT the world took note; by the mid-1970s Rickman employed 130 people and produced 4,000 bikes a year.


These were mainly intended for the US market, where the company found particular success. Its bikes were considered some of the most desirable of the era thanks to their race-bred handling, stunning looks and exclusive cachet. Hollywood icon Steve McQueen became so enamoured with them that he travelled to the factory in New Milton to see their production for himself. In 2016 the first ever Rickman road bike sold at auction for over £16,000.

By the mid-80s the increasing quality and quantity of Japanese imports was eating up the Rickman brothers' share of the market. The company transitioned first into parts and accessories before diversifying further still, into four-wheeled territory. They did this with a similar formula to the one which had proven so successful in the motorcycle industry: take a proven engine and running gear (in most cases a Mk2 Escort platform, with a 2.0-litre Pinto engine and the five-speed gearbox from a Sierra), create a new fibreglass body to put on top, and Bob's your uncle. Rather than going to the trouble of assembling it themselves, though, it was simply sold as a kit car.

The example we have here is a standard hard top Ranger - although it is apparently fitted with a 1.3-litre Ford motor rather than the more common Pinto unit. A convertible Ranger, campervan Rancher and extended-wheelbase Space Ranger were all also available, with total production estimated to be in the region of 1,000 cars, including those built by Russian company Avtokam following the Rickman Brothers' retirement. It looks to be in fantastic condition, as it should, given its recent total rebuild, and despite its lowly underpinnings and Jimny-based styling, is certainly recognisable as something out of the ordinary.


Alongside the Ranger, Rickman also produced a Sierra-based sports car, dubbed the Metisse in honour of its early bikes. Following the end of the brothers' tenure, a South Walian venture named Metisse Cars took up the mantle and continued production, creating about 20 examples between 1995 and 2007. You can find a frankly fantastic piece on the car and company by Men & Motors embedded below. What a time to be alive that must have been.

Despite Rickman's seemingly fascinating history, however, there isn't exactly a great deal of information available online regarding these curio off-roaders or their coupe counterparts. So we'd best hand things over to the wealth of obscure knowledge that is the PH forums. Have you driven a Ranger? Do you currently own a Metisse? What's your favourite Alan Rickman film? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Author
Discussion

mersontheperson

Original Poster:

96 posts

102 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
Cool, like it

samoht

808 posts

83 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all

I love learning about cars and companies I never knew existed, thanks for this! The Metisse coupe looks a lot like the contemporary RX-7 to me; it also looks as if it would be a lot more attractive given wheels with a couple of inches lower offset, to fill those flared arches.

CS Garth

1,759 posts

42 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
Rickman Matisse is one of the coolest motorcycles ever built.

This looks like a Suzuki jeep early prototype

Equus

4,965 posts

38 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
the headline said:
The best 4x4 by the people you've never heard of?
The best 4 x 4 with two wheel drive, possibly? wink

MarJay

2,008 posts

112 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
The first car I remember my dad having was a 1980 Mk2 Escort estate. My parents had this from my birth in 1980 until about 1988 or so. At the end of it's life it had pretty nasty rust setting in, and my Dad was buying all these kit car mags and was planning on building a Rickman Ranger with the Escort as a base. I think my mother glared at him on too many occasions as it never happened, and eventually he had a Renault 18 Turbo (imported from France, left hand drive) and sold the Escort.
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Matt Bird

1,033 posts

142 months

PH Reportery Lad

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
Equus said:
The best 4 x 4 with two wheel drive, possibly? wink
Yep, apologies, that’s my clanger in uploading. Deceived by the aesthetic! Should be sorted to make more sense now.

Cheers!


Matt

Essel

214 posts

83 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
Well, I nearly built one, but as we needed something more carlike, I built a Magenta Tarragon instead. Used an MOT failed 1300E Mk1 Escort as the donor. Should have kept the escort in hindsight looking at the values.rolleyes


deltashad

6,611 posts

134 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
That's a blast from the past.

Darryl247W

284 posts

60 months

Saturday 12th January
quotequote all
The Ranger kitcars were a superbly engineered bit of kit. Launched in the '80s, they were head and shoulders above most of the rest of the kitcar scene in terms of quality of the product and the comprehensive nature of the kit. I had friends who used them as their daily driver for many years. I borrowed one for several months and it was great fun.

I built a Metisse from an unfinished project and it too was superbly engineered. That textured fibreglass shelf in the video review, along with similar interior trims panels were a cut above the kitcar market too, though a modern review would be horrified at the 'feel' of the interior materials.

True about the wheel offset. I fitted Peugout fitment wheels (15mm additional dish over the default Ford wheels) and they still didn't come close to doing the arches justice.
A nicely styled car, like a 2+2 Esprit, but kitcar buyers were already more interested in toys than daily-drivers at that stage.

A friend was very good friends with Derek and Don. I met them once and found them 2 genuine gentlemen.

Hub

4,030 posts

135 months

Sunday 13th January
quotequote all
I do remember these, but I don't remember them being remotely desirable. Someone has done a very good job of making that example look pretty cool. The black paint job helps to hide the Postman Pat van looks!

patchb

627 posts

51 months

Sunday 13th January
quotequote all
My dad worked for Rickman for quite a few years, and had several of their bikes (the workers just used to build their own up) and a car that wore both a ranger body and a Metisse body for a while.
I’ll see if he’s got any photos from back in the day.

cmoose

43,322 posts

166 months

Sunday 13th January
quotequote all
Surprisingly competent, the styling of that coupe thing.

gt40steve

7 posts

41 months

Monday 14th January
quotequote all
Think cars that look like they can off road but most certainly can't is a new fad?

No! I remember the Matra Simca Rancho, unfortunately.

PistonBroker

1,582 posts

163 months

Monday 14th January
quotequote all
Hub said:
I do remember these, but I don't remember them being remotely desirable. Someone has done a very good job of making that example look pretty cool. The black paint job helps to hide the Postman Pat van looks!
Agreed on all points. I'm astounded that I'm looking at one quite so fondly!

Fury1630

391 posts

164 months

Monday 14th January
quotequote all
I had a soft top as a daily driver for ten years - I say "daily" - it was often off the road for upgrades. Started with what was clamed to be a 1300 Crossflow but turned out to be a 711 block 1600, I swapped a 2.0 Pinto into it so I could use the Crossflow in the Fury I was building, then the Pinto got an injected head & fuel system, finally it got an 1800 GTi (the 130BHP edition) Zetec. I put power steering in it too.

Folk may scoff at a 2WD off-roader & I would never have taken it green-laneing, but for everyday driving muddy tracks, a foot of flood water or 14" deep snow the generous ride height & mud & snow tyres were more that good enough. A couple of them have been used for classic trialling, so they do have some off-road credentials.

With the Zetec it was "lively", managed 45mpg cruising on a motorway, had fantastic quality GRP bodywork, was only slightly more complex than a bicycle, had a soft top, had neutral (if not flat" handling & did everything I asked of it including pulling the caravan. I look it up every now & then & it has still never failed an MoT, not bad for an "L" reg (1993 I think) car.

I only sold it (for £1000) as Mrs Fury wanted a soft top so I had her four door & the "Flying Fridge" (it was white) went to a new home in Yorkshire.

Edited by Fury1630 on Monday 14th January 12:38

Equus

4,965 posts

38 months

Monday 14th January
quotequote all
gt40steve said:
No! I remember the Matra Simca Rancho, unfortunately.
I quite liked the Matra, back in the day. boxedin

400SE Dave

1,201 posts

108 months

Monday 14th January
quotequote all
It wasn’t desirable then and for me it is not now. Looks like very little effort was made to make it anything but cheap. How hard would it have been to make recesses for the sidelight/indicators for example?

The seats in this one are the only thing worth saving

Oldandslow

1,983 posts

143 months

Monday 14th January
quotequote all
My dad had one of these. Started out with a Ford 1300 (pinto I think), which was woefully slow. He swapped that engine for a 1600 version of the same. After a while that wasn't fast enough either. He then home brewed a conversion with a 2 litre Toyota van engine from a batch of engines brought in from Japan by a local breaker. Made his own adapter plate to fit the Ford gearbox and modified the inlet manifold for a Weber. Took a while but ended up as a usable daily with plenty of grunt. Daihatsu wheels seemed to fill the arches well.

Whoever built the kit wasn't much good at wiring. It let the smoke out on a couple of occasions and had a fun habit of keeping running after you'd taken the key out, only finally stopping when you turned the lights off. Did a lot of miles when it was working though. Ended up neglected and off to a scrapyard after 10 years. Fun in a robust, agricultural way. May have influenced my eventual Vitara purchase in an odd way.

Just to add, Dad's was a half soft top with a sort of exo cage roof rack arrangement that gave it a sort of safari/expedition look despite being hairdresser white.

Edited by Oldandslow on Monday 14th January 15:01

GIYess

885 posts

38 months

Tuesday
quotequote all
Ha great to see these getting a feature! I got one for £20 a few years ago. It had a 1.6 NA Diesel out of a 1980s fiesta in it with the escort 4 speed box. I have never experienced something so dead in all my life! Even with the light body. I originally wanted to fit Jimny 4x4 parts to it but changed my mind when i tried to drive it over a pile of gravel my dad had on the drive at the time. It of course got stuck and the frame twisted so much I could barely open the door. The wiring had been bodged so much I eventually gave up on it and sold it for 150 on gumtree.