RE: Range Rover Suffix A: PH Heroes

RE: Range Rover Suffix A: PH Heroes

Saturday 4th May

Range Rover Suffix A: PH Heroes

The original leisure 4x4 is now more significant than it's ever been - time to get reacquainted



Looking back on it, the Range Rover premise is so remarkably simple it almost beggars belief. Charles Spencer King once described the idea as "to combine the comfort and on-road ability of a Rover saloon with the off-road ability of a Land Rover", which, somehow, nobody on this side of the Atlantic was doing when the idea was first mooted. When the first Range Rover was made in 1970 - yes, it really is 50 years old next year - nobody could have known quite what a revolution it would ultimately spark.

Today the market is fit to bursting with cars that ostensibly combine that on-road ability with off-road prowess, or certainly purport to in their appearance. Nearly all of them owe something to the Range Rover in terms of design or execution, which is why it deserves to be celebrated. The exceptions? Jeep, of course, the first Wagoneer having arrived in 1962 and providing a template for the Range to riff off. Don't worry, Jeep fans, we would never dream of forgetting...


In the year of England's World Cup victory, the first SR-71 Blackbird going into service and the final Flintstones episode, work began on what was then known as the '100-inch station wagon'. Names including 'Panther' and 'Leopard' were suggested, before stylist Tony Poole came up with the Range Rover name that worked so well. Thank goodness.

Just 10 prototypes were built before production commenced in 1970, and yet the original's staying power was extraordinary: the addition of a four-door model, an automatic transmission and a diesel alternative broadened the appeal, and new technology kept it relevant, the end result being a production run, as you'll probably know, of more than a quarter of a century - the last Classic was made in 1996. Its P38 successor was in production for just seven years. Arguably nothing else shows just how innovative and ground-breaking the Range Rover was, nor how well it suited so many different requirements, than that titanic production run. Like the Mini and the E-Type, the Range Rover was an icon within its own lifetime. And so production continued. And continued...


So yes, the Range Rover is an enormously significant car - in case it had never been made clear. Similarly to those fellow Brits mentioned above and cars like the early Porsche 911, the Range Rover's importance to automotive history hasn't been lost on the market. This is not a Hero to bring deserved attention onto an underrated classic - you had your chance at Shed money, people! - instead it's one to celebrate an icon and remember why its hallowed status is more than justified.

This 1972 Suffix A, resplendent in Sahara Dust, is currently for sale at DM Historics. Subject to a two-year restoration from 2013 to 2015, it's mechanically and cosmetically tip top - far fresher, of course, than a totally original car, though feeling sufficiently bedded in that driving it wouldn't harm the appeal. Furthermore, given Spen King once said "we only spent about 0.001 per cent of our time on the appearance", the Range looks superb - basic and rugged, yes, yet imbued with an inimitably purposeful, distinctive style inside and out that's never been matched, despite the best efforts of its maker and its rivals. Once more, like the Mini, E-Type and 911, the heritage and cult created by the original is fantastic for the brand, though it does make succeeding them darned difficult. Just look at that P38.


While the interior feels a world away from modern luxury - there's a choke, actual levers for the four-wheel drive and a pretty utilitarian vibe - bits of the Suffix A still feel authentically Range Rover. Or rather, the later models have stayed true to the template laid out in this car. Chiefly that's thanks to sitting high, with a commanding view out through acres of glass and across an enormous square bonnet. There's a sense of vulnerability from the slender pillars and actually quite compact dimensions, but still a feeling of imperiousness being sat up there with such good visibility. Shouldn't really be any surprise that it caught on...

Even as a static object, the Range Rover isn't far off captivating: the leather smells rich, the details are intriguing, the whole stance is perfect despite the passage of so many years and nearly as many fashions. You wouldn't change a thing: sand paint with tan leather shouldn't work, wheels this small shouldn't work, arguably three doors shouldn't work, and yet it all does. Perfectly.


Notable technology for this original Range Rover included disc brakes all round and aluminium panels; the all-alloy V8 remained a talking point as well, despite having been first launched in 1967. It's a memorable cast member to this day, rumbling and gurgling at idle and with a chunky vat of torque to pull each of the four gears. Credit should go to that manual transmission, too, for being far more precise and far less recalcitrant than expected.

Don't ever expect to be travelling especially briskly, though, the big V8 far better suited to just-about-sustaining speed than doggedly accruing it. That said, speed limits are the same as they were in 1972 - its paucity of pace shouldn't actually be taken as a bad thing. Instead the Range lopes along languidly and suavely with the pace of the traffic, or at least looks that way from the outside; inside there's a fair, but not unreasonable, amount of concentration required to gee the car along - aren't we always crying out for cars that demand something from their driver?


Once up to speed, this car is a joy: not simply because it's a Range Rover, and not simply because it looks superb, but because of how good it feels to drive with the window down and the breeze rushing in. The car doesn't squeak, rattle or overheat, as happy to be subjected to photo shoot requirements, or indulge your dreams of landed gentry glamour, as something far newer. Moreover, the Range is very much not an SUV, despite the fondness for labelling all such cars that way - its main concession to sport must be the big boot for hunting rifles. As such, the slightly ponderous road manners matter not a jot, because that's not what the Range Rover is for. Truth told this Suffix A will brake and corner better than might reasonably be expected, but it's in that distinguished cruising gait where it feels most at home. The smile and the sense of satisfaction that come as a result are impossible to repress.

The charm (if you'll forgive a clichΓ©) and appeal (there goes another) of the Range Rover is that the driving experience is like no other - unique, fascinating and immensely enjoyable. That it's wrapped up in a car of almost modest (yet considerable) style, enormous significance and reverential cool only makes it even more desirable. The Range Rover always deserved recognition for the sector it established, the brand created in its wake and the feats it achieved - that it remains such a memorable drive, and such a covetable object, only makes it all the more so. It might be one of the slowest Heroes ever initiated into the hallowed PH hall of fame, but the Range Rover is just as deserving as any other - the 50th birthday party can't come soon enough.




Thanks to DM Historics for the Range Rover loan - it's for sale here.

















Images: Dafydd Wood

Author
Discussion

mrpenks

Original Poster:

221 posts

102 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
Lovely but £50k is a lot of money

Bencolem

488 posts

186 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
What does the dial “in Hg” display?

Harry Flashman

13,427 posts

189 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
My grandfather's old one of these is still sitting in an air conditioned garage in Sri Lanka, in almost perfect original condition except for aftermarket aircon. Unrecoverable due to that country's ban on exporting classic vehicles. It was left to my Dad, who left it to me.

It is lovingly maintained, and used sparingly by my cousin on and around the family tea estate, and I use it every time I am over there as my daily driver.

Edited by Harry Flashman on Saturday 4th May 08:02

powerstroke

8,642 posts

107 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
Bencolem said:
What does the dial “in Hg” display?
Manifold vacuum , helps you drive more economically and indicates engine operating conditions ...

Tyre Smoke

12,375 posts

208 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
That's an aftermarket gauge isn't it?

Quite a common period mod though.

milesr3

240 posts

158 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
That's lovely. One of very few things I would trade my Series II for.

donkmeister

1,823 posts

47 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
I love the plaque containing an essay on diff-locks.

The succinct version would just say "Caution - diff-locks are only to be used on loose surfaces", but the plaque actually explains the whys and wherefores!

J4CKO

28,471 posts

147 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
Can just all the matte black 2006 RR Sport owners thinking, look at that poor sod in his ropey old Range Rover, bet he wishes he could have a mighty beast like this.

Cold

7,709 posts

37 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
J4CKO said:
Can just all the matte black 2006 RR Sport owners thinking, look at that poor sod in his ropey old Range Rover, bet he wishes he could have a mighty beast like this.
That's a lovely sentiment but from a position of owning both (albeit not a black RRS) the early car really is a vehicle for nostalgia and is a clunky wobbly leaky rusty old thing compared with the newer car.
Lovely Classic, but it really is a classic car and ownership experience will reflect that.

Harry Flashman

13,427 posts

189 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
I've been running an L405 Range Rover Vogue for the last few months. Trust me, the later car is better. Unsurprising, that. It is crushingly competent and, apart from its size, as easy to drive as a family hatchback. In foot deep snow in the Alps this winter, on snow tyres, it was no more taxing to drive than a Golf in London in midsummer.

But (and its a big but) the Suffix A is cooler, easier to fix (and trust me, electronics on current RRs are a worry - they will not go the distance, I feel: so many bugs, so much of the time), and will definitely depreciate less!

Tyre Smoke

12,375 posts

208 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
Cold said:
J4CKO said:
Can just all the matte black 2006 RR Sport owners thinking, look at that poor sod in his ropey old Range Rover, bet he wishes he could have a mighty beast like this.
That's a lovely sentiment but from a position of owning both (albeit not a black RRS) the early car really is a vehicle for nostalgia and is a clunky wobbly leaky rusty old thing compared with the newer car.
Lovely Classic, but it really is a classic car and ownership experience will reflect that.
Exactly this.

I'm quite comfortable in my ownership of my silver Sport S/c. The top of my hatch opens just the same! biggrin

J4CKO

28,471 posts

147 months

Saturday 4th May
quotequote all
Cold said:
J4CKO said:
Can just all the matte black 2006 RR Sport owners thinking, look at that poor sod in his ropey old Range Rover, bet he wishes he could have a mighty beast like this.
That's a lovely sentiment but from a position of owning both (albeit not a black RRS) the early car really is a vehicle for nostalgia and is a clunky wobbly leaky rusty old thing compared with the newer car.
Lovely Classic, but it really is a classic car and ownership experience will reflect that.
Point was that many modern, non enthusiast RR owners will realise how valuable the old ones are nowadays and probably think its a cheap old banger.

FerrousOxide

104 posts

92 months

Sunday 5th May
quotequote all
That's wonderful - I have a real soft spot for these.

My dad had a Suffix B (early '73) which he bought in 1977. I can still remember the exact moment the first time he was reversing it out of the garage when it struck me - that thing sounds lovely! It was the first time the sound of a car had even entered my consciousness, and the start of my love of cars.

I loved that car for all the reasons above - the sense of occasion, the windowline being at hip-height, the sound (though ours had vinyl seats which were about as yielding as a concrete bench), and I was gutted when he sold it. But then, I wasn't paying to fuel it for 20,000 miles a year, which ended out too much for Dad's wallet, even at petrol prices then. I also remember it being less than 100% reliable!

Definitely top of my lottery-list.

RRH

445 posts

194 months

Monday 6th May
quotequote all
Dad bought one in 1977.

They were in very short supply at the times, he ordered 11 with the intention of taking the first that came through, a lovely Lincoln green example, TLG 807R. Three others came through in the next few weeks, he regretted missing the opportunity of buying them all until the day he died.

I learnt to drive in it (at 7 years old, under strict supervision of course!) - up the beach from our village to the nearest town - through the sea, more often than not.

Surprisingly, it lasted until 1984 although there was rather a lot of rust...

I think we sold it for £2.5k, which I think was about half what we paid.

Not bad depreciation for a car that had regularly been driven through the sea...

LimaDelta

4,051 posts

165 months

Monday 6th May
quotequote all
The car I regret selling more than any other frown

oldtimer2

675 posts

80 months

Monday 6th May
quotequote all
I got to know Spend King quite well a few years after the launch and had the opportunity to discuss aspects of its origins with him. On appearance it had everything to do with getting the overall proportions right as defined by the classical golden ratio...or 3:5:8 to keep it simple.

GTI16V

527 posts

21 months

Monday 6th May
quotequote all
I think this film nicely encapsulates the unique awesomess of the Range Roverscopbowdriving
https://youtu.be/qvw9DNQWymo