By all measurable factors, the Range Rover Classic is one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven. If I was conducting a normal review for your average consumer, that first sentence would be all that’s needed to steer them away from this old British armchair and into something different. A combination of poor build quality, inconsistent panel gaps and driving dynamics that have more in common with something that you sail rather than drive, don’t exactly provide the recipe for a great car. But here at Killer Bee Cars, we don’t care what your average consumer wants. We don’t care about on paper statistics or what the neighbours think. It’s quite often the intangibles that have us falling head over heels for something that is, for all intents and purposes, shit.
That expletive might be a little harsh for this particular Range Rover though, no other than Kingsley engineering has put their touch on it. Gone is the notoriously fragile airbag suspension and in come a set of conventional springs and dampers with a fast road setup. The standard engine has also been swapped for a 4.5 litre unit that’s putting out around 240bhp and sounds absolutely glorious with its high flow stainless steel exhaust. While these mods haven’t turned the big old girl (that’s actually smaller than you expect) into a modern, flat cornering, high revving, super SUV, they’ve made such a difference I probably wouldn’t consider buying a Range Rover classic without them. It’s also completely rust free, which for an old British car, is like going to the dentist and being told your gnashers are tip top.
After being thrown the keys however, things didn’t get off to the best start. Chief reason for this was because I didn’t fit. Being honest, this wasn’t the first time this has happened, I was disappointed to find I was too tall to fit in a Mk3 Toyota MR2 that I was considering as a new track car and a Lotus Exige would have to be scribbled off my lottery win list as my head protruded above the windscreen. Those were tiny sports cars though, not full size off roaders. No matter how much I seemed to fiddle with the god awful buttons for the electric seat adjustment, I couldn’t get my thunder thighs away from the steering wheel or my head from skimming the headlining. The lack of adjustment in the wheel seemed to be the biggest cause of this and owner Jake, tells me that a smaller wheel is on the “to do list” to make things a bit more comfortable. Even with the height issue addressed, there’s still the typical Land Rover trademark of having no room for the entire right hand side of your body but having driven Defenders in the Army, I know that’s something I can forgive. Forgiveness of what most people class as major design faults is a theme with this car and many other classics to be fair.
Having kind of got myself into a relatively safe driving position, I made myself familiar with the laughable interior quality and the flimsy controls. There’s a cheap brittleness about the interior and the sense that it’s been screwed together using nuts and bolts made of Jacobs Cream Crackers. I’ll leave that to you to decide wether that’s character or just plain rubbish. In contrast to the plastics and switchgear however is some decent quality leather on the seats that have a high commanding position, nice looking wood veneer trim on the dash/door cards and a car phone that adds to the fantastically retro feel. It’s with this retro feel that the cars charm offensive begins.
Any eagle eyed film buffs or British gangster aficionados amongst you, will notice this Range Rover is finished in the same Plymouth blue paint and colour coded wheel centres as the car used in “Rise of the foot soldier” a film about the true story of three Essex villains shot dead in a car exactly like this one. As if those murky links weren’t enough, this actual car was purchased new, by current West Ham United manager David Moyes’s brother and then repossessed after he was declared bankrupt (who knows what happened there). The registration “K3 MOY” being on it from new and etched into the Triplex toughened glass windows. There’s just something about a car with a story isn’t there, if only they could talk.
In some respects this Rangie can talk. Cranking that new 4.5 litre V8 into life is like Barry White humming away in the background. Even at idle it sounds the business, the note from the stainless steel exhaust system is so well judged, not too loud but gives off a nice rasp when you put your foot down on the long travel throttle pedal. The gear selector for the automatic box is hilariously flimsy, akin to something you’d find on a Fisher-Price child’s toy rather than a luxury car but once rolling, all quality concerns go out the window. Granted, I drove it on a bright sunny day around some nice sweeping back roads but I was completely suckered in by the old Rangies charms and it’s flaws. Flaws of which, as discussed earlier, would have your average punter running for the hills but just because Cindy Crawford has a mole on her face, you’re not exactly going to kick her out of bed now are you?
Odd thing to say for a big, classic Range Rover but getting carried away with the loud pedal is a real thing. Yes, it sounds fantastic and it’s actually pretty spritley but as you close in on the next corner, despite its upgraded suspension, you really don’t want to be slowing it down in a hurry! There’s a fair amount of top heavy mass and you feel the momentum pushing you forward like a rickety freight train. Worse than the brakes, way worse, is the steering. Even to say the wheel “steers” the car is a stretch, it feels like it’s disconnected from the front axle. Sailing a Viking longship would probably offer a sharper response and more feedback. Once again though, just like the interior build quality, you just don’t care, I’m not sure I ever had so much fun going so far under the speed limit before. The best way to enjoy this car is to drop the windows, tickle the V8 down the straights and embrace the waft round the bends. Jake told me he’d fitted a decent sound system but truth be told I didn’t bother with it, I was happy in my own little bubble of V8 bliss.
Don’t get me wrong, if you were using the Rangie as your only car, that bubble of bliss would burst faster than your bowels after popping one too many laxatives but then there’s not many cars from 1993 that are as good as modern machinery for the daily grind. Fuel costs could become an issue, that’s despite the new Kingsley engine as near as makes no difference, doubling the MPG figure. The boat like handling has the potential to be infuriating if you’re late for an appointment on a cold Tuesday morning or when you’re just not in the mood for the cars chilled out demeanour. For those who are aren’t put off by its drawbacks and are still interested in buying a Range Rover classic, I urge you to seek out Kingsley Engineering and the mods Jake has done to this car, they really do give it so much character. It’s a car for sunny days, weekend adventures, and trips out to the pub with your mates. For that it’s brilliant. It gets so much positive attention too. At the end of the day I was happy I was making the motorway journey home in my Civic but with a day off work and the sun shining I’ll be thinking about this car for a long time to come.