Friday, May 1, 2015

The Range Rover Experience...

Held in prestige, the Range Rover has been the vehicle choice for upper class Britain and her shrinking Commonwealth for decades. Feature rich and capable, the 1970 introduction of a permanent 4wd mid sized vehicle encouraged trans-continental overland explorers to adopt and prove the capability of the new Land Rover brand. The 1971 crossing of the Darien Gap by Range Rover, led by Colonel John Blashford-Snell, proved the Range Rover but required plenty of air support to fly in axles and other important items that needed re-engineering.
Photo Credit: Range Rover Classic Website
Roll on the 1980's and Range Rover needed a new proving ground for their vehicles.  The Camel Trophy, only a year old, introduced the Range Rover as the flagship 4x4.  Not many vehicles exist after the event as it was rumoured that Land Rover had all the participant vehicles crushed.
Although capable, this vehicle has not inspired independent overlanders to adopt it as a trusted platform, preferring the rugged Defender and even the Discovery.
The question remains: Why is the Range Rover not popular?  A fact: the Mercedes G-Wagen has more trans-Africa trips associated with it than the Range Rover!
Range Rover vs Defender 110

The Africa Overland Network only has five Range Rover trips listed, of which a few have broken links resulting in lost overland history.  The remaining websites tell a rich story about the Range Rover experience...

The Africa Overland Network: Range Rover
Here are a few snippets from various Trans-Africa overland websites...
2005: Gateway 2 Africa & BigSky Adventures
The website of Raymond and Nereide (Lilongwe Down) provides a good insight into the comforts and experiences of using a Range Rover TD6 (L322) across Africa.
Photo Credit: Lilongwe Down
The Lilongwe Down homepage describes the vehicle choice nicely:
The third, but arguably the most important member of our team! A Range Rover Td6, made in Solihull, UK but designed in Germany it is half German, and also essentially a Brummie. Just like Raymond...
Annoyed with being called a Chelsea Tractor, it’s pleased to have been selected for this mission to show what it really can do. And to kick some dust in the faces of all those tedious Toyota Landcruisers that everyone tells us we should be using instead.
The Lilongwe Down vehicle eulogy is worth reading: The Range Rover: a eulogy.

In April 2010, Darren and Bonnie headed South from the UK down the East Coast of Africa towards Cape Town driving a 1983 Range Rover Ambulance.  Unfortunately, the website no longer exists however, The Africa Overland Network has the following BIO information available:
Afritracks - Darren & Bonnie
In April 2010 we left the UK to begin a trip to Cape Town, South Africa via the middle East and the East coast of Africa - this has now been extended and we will be returning by land North along the West coast through Namibia Angola Congo Nigeria and eventually into Morocco and the final leg through Europe.
The expedition will take 12 months in total and cover over 30000 miles
Land Rovers Live recently featured Darren Lewis and his Range Rover Ambulance.  Darren provides an insightful look into this classic and how he converted it to a Range Rover overlander. (click here to jump straight to the interview)

In February 2011, Philip posted an advert on Horizons Unlimited for his 1980 Range Rover.  He describes the experience:
1980 Range Rover Photo Credit: Phil V

Some travel history on the Rangie.
I did various trips to Botswana and southern Mozambique when I first bought her. Then I did a 20 000km, 6 month trip in 2001/2002 through Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Western Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana. Apart from a torn suspension bush and a brake pad that went missing! plus the inevitable routine maintenance she ran with no major problems the whole trip.

The interior of this 1980 Range Rover V8 certainly looks dated in 2015:
Photo Credit: Phil V
In 2005, Ben and Christine headed South from the UK in their 1983 diesel Range Rover 300Tdi.  Filling up with cheap diesel fuel in Nigeria resulted in bad fuel contamination for the Range Rover. Thankfully the in-line filter did a good job keeping the sediment from reaching the engine.
Range Rover - Blocked fuel lines
The interior of the classic Range Rover is spacious with good visbility.  The five door wagon offers good access to the interior and the rear tailgate makes a good kitchen area.

After crossing the Nigeria / Cameroon border, the road conditions started to challenge the BF Goodrich AT tyres fitted to the Range Rover.  The mud clung to the tyre causing Ben to slide into a ditch - it was not an elegant recovery as witnessed in this video clip.

Read more about this notorious route...

Christine from Gateway 2 Africa provided an insight into their vehicle setup.  The video quality is not great due to fact that the video was filmed on a digital camera in 2005!.

The less popular Range Rover P38A (available in a petrol V8 or a 2.5l Straight-6 diesel engine) was not a cheap vehicle when initially launched in the UK however it was change to the aged classic Range Rover and offered unique features like side mirrors which tilted down when reverse was selected, sport mode and traction control.  It gained a reputation for being unreliable due to the advanced electronics that Range Rover integrated into the vehicle.
Range Rover 4.6l V8: My History
Daz, the driver and author of the website Cape to Kenya, opted for a Range Rover P38 for his overland travels from Cape Town to Kenya which started in June 2011. He writes on his blog:
That evening around the camp fire, the group really get a chance to have a go. ‘You should have bought a Toyota!’ – ‘ No Range Rover has ever done this trip’ – ‘ Range Rovers should always be near a Land Rover dealer’ and so on. Unabashed I explain that I am on an adventure: grannies are criss-crossing africa in their simple Defenders and boertjies use Toyota because they are not brave enough to take a Range Rover. I wanted something different!
Range Rover - Photo Credit: Daz (Cape To Kenya)
His comments about the Range Rover are entertaining:
The gate guards eye up the Range Rover and remark among themselves: I’m never sure whether they genuinely love it or they wonder what the hell I’m doing in this monster.
Photo Credit: Cape to Kenya (Daz)
Richard, the mechanic, hasn’t brought the right tools, and isn’t used to Range Rovers. You know what they say about bad workmen – they blame their tools. Richard doesn’t have that luxury, so he blames British Engineers. Fortunately my toolbox had the right allen keys,albeit not quite long enough – what were those British engineers thinking!
Photo Credit: Cape to Kenya (Daz)
A few days later...
I enter camp again, once more to stares from everyone – is it just me, or is everyone surprised to see a Range Rover so far from a dealership?


The question does remain... why don't we see more Range Rover based overland adventures?

Second hand prices in the UK for the Range Rover classic (Diesel & Manual gearbox) hover around the GBP3500 with plenty of spare parts and expedition 4x4 products available for the classic Range Rover.

In 2013, Range Rover took three diesel hybrid prototypes along the old Silk trail - this was certainly not an independent overland adventure rather a well funded media frenzy reliability trial. Certainly the cynics would say that any new vehicle could drive around the world and that the challenge is in the older classics!

With not much of a history to report on, the future of Range Rover as the preferred vehicle for overland adventures has to be limited to those few brave overlanders who want a vehicle that is unique enough and bold enough to portrait a story that not many can tell.

Go on, be the first to take a Range Rover Sport from London to Cape Town via the West Coast!

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