MOTOR MOUTH: Magnificently flawed

MOTOR MOUTH: Magnificently flawed - Since it appeared in 1970, the Range-Rover has been, as it were, in a field of its own. Along with the Mini, Model T, Volkswagen, Espace, it is one of the cars that defines a type, changes history, raises the bar, alter

by STEPHEN BAYLEY, an author and design consultant

Since it appeared in 1970, the Range-Rover has been, as it were, in a field of its own. Along with the Mini, Model T, Volkswagen, Espace, it is one of the cars that defines a type, changes history, raises the bar, alters consumer behaviour, inspires cupidity and, while often imitated, has never been bettered. It is, in other words, an undisputed design classic.

True, Americans were already manufacturing big four-wheel-drives with comfortable accommodation, but they were redneck specials, intended for stump-pulling in West Virginia or ferrying Coors-chugging lynch mobs through suburban Alabama. The Range-Rover had the grunt of, say, a 1962 Jeep Wagoneer, but it had polite British poise and, indeed, proclivities. So instead of being used for incestuous trysts in the Ozarks, Range-Rovers were used for point-to-points in Gloucestershire and by estate agents in Parson's Green.

Architect of the first Range-Rover was the late David Bache, an unacknowledged genius of car design who had earlier helped draw the cute Austin A35 and then the impressive Rovers P5, 2000 and eventually the SD1. For the Range-Rover, Bache achieved a masterful synthesis. Details were rational and intelligent, proportions perfect, aspect nicely balanced between assertive and gentlemanly. It also had superb off-road performance, but since only zero point diddly squat of customers took them to work axle-deep in pig poo, this was relevant only in that rumours of off-road authority added to the enlarging mystique of the car.

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