Rickman Ranger: Spotted

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 Β£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.

See the full ad here.



P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (19) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mersontheperson 12 Jan 2019

    Cool, like it

  • samoht 12 Jan 2019

    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 12 Jan 2019

    Rickman Matisse is one of the coolest motorcycles ever built.

    This looks like a Suzuki jeep early prototype

  • Equus 12 Jan 2019

    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 12 Jan 2019

    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.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment