・Solid, honest and unusual LHD three-door
・200 TDi engine and manual ‘box
・Old enough for US export – original engine still available
・Rare Eastnor Green
When the original Range Rover first appeared over 50 years ago, little did Land Rover know that it was the birth of a future icon, and a car that would undergo a sensational metamorphosis from practical 4x4 estate car to global luxury icon.
It was a shift that started in the 1980s, after the introduction of a five-door Range Rover opened up its appeal to a broader church of buyers. That and the introduction of the ‘Vogue’ specification, intentionally named after the luxury lifestyle magazine of the same title, helped lift the Range Rover from functional to aspirational.
It soon became the car of choice for the upwardly mobile. The perfect accompaniment to a horse trailer thanks to its unparalleled towing ability and upmarket status, the equally perfect car as a shooting or hunting companion, or simply something imposing and brimming in status for exploring the inner city limits.
But while a luxury Range Rover was the perfect car for Thatcherite Britain, other markets had different demands. In Southern Europe, a more utilitarian three-door Range Rover was still a thing, and was much closer to the original classic concept.
Over the past few years, more and more three-door left-hand-drive models have been imported as they’re surprisingly popular, partly because they weren’t available in RHD in the 1990s, but more because they are coming from climates that are kind to them, meaning far less rot.
This one arrived in the UK in 2017 direct from Valencia, where it had lived for 27 years. Originally powered by a 2.4-litre VM Turbo engine, it has been retrofitted with the more popular 200 TDi.
Supplied new by Austin-Rover de España in July 1989, the Range Rover had a succession of owners based in Andalucia, with its most recent keeper in Spain based in Valencia.
It was exported from Spain to the UK in September 2017 and has had two owners here – the importer and the current keeper, who has had it for three-and-a-half years. One of the first jobs he did was replace the original Italian VM Motori engine with a Land Rover 200 TDi, though he retained the original motor as it would be needed if the Range Rover is exported to the USA – a very popular destination for solid LHD models from Southern Europe.
He is selling it as he has just acquired a new project in the form of a Toyota Land Cruiser VX, so the Range Rover has to go…
As well as a UK V5C in the name of the vendor and an MOT certificate valid until late September, the Range Rover comes with a pile of bills that relate to work carried out since its arrival in the UK, most of which are from a reputable Land Rover specialist in North-East Lincolnshire. There are bills relating to engine work and also to parts supplied for the rebuild of the front axle and suspension, plus suspension parts.
In addition, there’s a copy of the HMRC import notification as evidence that all import taxes are fully paid, along with a ‘Carfax’ report from Spain (essentially the same as an HPI report) and the original Spanish registration document and a selection of Inspecciones Técnicas paperwork (the Spanish MOT) showing it to have originally worn the Alicante registration number A-1041-BN.
Externally, the Range Rover is mostly original and is in honest, unrestored condition. It looks really smart in its rare and unusual Eastnor Green paint, while it sits on steel ‘Rostyle’ wheels, which were still available on export models in the late 1980s.
Most critically, it is remarkably solid. Aside from a very small patch in the driver’s side footwell, there’s no welding ever needed nor required and the chassis is in absolutely superb condition, as are the inner wings and battery tray. There’s surface rust on the sills but they feel pretty robust, so a coat of underseal wouldn’t go amiss. The owner says he would have done this, but didn’t want to hide anything from the new buyer.
The boot floor, which is a common Range Rover grot spot, is in solid order and the upper tailgate is in superb condition, which is highly unusual. The lower tailgate is solid, too, though there is some rust at the bottom.
The wheels are tarnished in places and would benefit from a clean-up and paint, while there are various small scuffs and marks on the body, most notably on the front bumper where the paint has worn through, and a scratch on the nearside rear three quarter. It is also missing both rear bumper corners.
There are also various small marks and dents, including some dings on the roof that were the result of an especially heavy Andalucian hailstorm a few years ago. You could repair them, but they’re actually part of the car’s history and – let’s face it – you have to be pretty tall to see the roof of a Range Rover anyway.
Overall, a very original, unspoilt and charming example with a nice patina.
With velour seats, a manual gear lever and wind-down windows, the cabin of this Range Rover has a much more utilitarian feel than the Vogue and Vogue SE models sold in the UK. ,
The inside is very much like the outside – sound, intact and presentable, but with a few areas that you may wish to improve.
The headlining, for example, has dropped in the rear (a common Range Rover fault) and the stitching has pulled away on the centre cubby box, but the seats and carpets are in good order and would respond brilliantly to a deep clean valet.
There’s also some wear to the leather-rimmed steering wheel and there is currently no radio fitted.
200 TDi conversions are very popular and quite straightforward in this era of Range Rover, so the fact that this isn’t the original engine shouldn’t put you off. It’s a far better powerplant than the VM unit originally fitted – stronger and with much more torque.
If you wanted to convert it back, you could, as the owner is happy to supply the original with the vehicle.
The vendor reports that it drives very well, with strong performance and no notable issues. It has Polybushes fitted all round and has recently had the front axle and hubs renewed.
With early Range Rover prices climbing ever higher, an Eighties or Nineties import could be the best way to enjoy an affordable three-door model, and the combination of this one’s structural solidity, enchanting unrestored patina and improved performance could well make it the perfect choice.
Of course, being a left-hooker also opens it up to a bigger market. It could very easily find its way back to Europe, or be exported with its original engine to the USA.
Wherever it ends up, it has plenty of charm.
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