The Original: 1973 Range Rover S1 SB
We spend time with a car that represents the apogee of the SUV experience
The early Range Rovers are high point of the SUV format.
This is a world where more SUV formatted cars are produced than any single other layout. This is despite the high running costs and increased emissions that have always been associated with ‘4×4’s ‘Jeeps’ , ‘Chelsea Tractors’ – or whatever derogatory you have chosen to use.
Spending time up close and personal with one of the originals makes you realise the root of our collective hankering for a big, practical wagon.
They just make sense. On so many levels.
At the heart of the logic is of course the truth that most people could really do with one car that can do everything and go anywhere. Wether you live in the city the suburbs or the sticks – and wether or not your profession calls for the ability to traverse a dry river bed or collect dead sheep from a snow bound fell. The original Range Rover certainly provides all this – and with a rugged sort of savour faire that is heart rending.
Even the basic shape of the thing is a rarely repeated feat of simple design nous.
There’s an acreage of glass. The low end grunt of the V8. The refined command position. The air of regal bohemianism. The gearbox clunks into engagement, particularly into reverse. The interior, utilitarian enough to avoid fuss but shot through with enough early seventies style to please, is perfect. The seats are upholstered in tough cotton with leather trim – and there’s a lack of plasticky bits and pieces of trim that you find in contemporary motors.
This means that not only do you not spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the bits and pieces of family paraphernalia that you inevitably lose down the cracks in between seats and underneath seats and in deep door compartments – at the end of a busy week you can just hose the floor down and wipe the seats.
Even the mechanicity of the rear hatches reminds you that this is a machine, rather than an appliance. Steering is exact and precise – but floaty enough to accept even the lightest input wilfully. And the ride of course makes light work of the rough roads of the winter Downs.
While we were having our love-in with Tim’s Bahama Gold beauty, all three of us mentioned Royalty- and it’s not just that we’d all recently finished binge-viewing the Most Expensive TV Show Ever Commissioned on Netflix.
The Early Range, you see sought to bridge a gap that was appearing between the still agricultural Land Rover and luxe sedans and saloons like those being sold in their hundreds of thousands by Jaguar. This genesis of a revolution was a cut above the Land Rover Series 3 in terms of refinement – and was just the right amount of urbane – far beyond rump wagoneers like The Ford Bronco and the Jeep Cherokee.
The Original Range Rover, in other words – is an important car not only for the slow and steel burning SUV revolution it presaged – but because you could use it day in day out for almost anything, nearly fifty years on from the time of its immaculate conception.
We wonder if your Evoque will still be rolling and useful in 2070.
We think not.
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