How times have changed. Builders’ tow trucks, comp safari bobtails, untaxed and unroadworthy farm runabouts, dog kennels – older V8 Range Rovers were un-cool for years. And right at the bottom of the pile lurked the two-doors – simply because it’s harder to get into the back.
If there was ever a car just waiting to make a comeback, it’s the two-door Range Rover. If you’re looking for a simple, classic design that’s aged tastefully – a two-door is beautiful.
Enthusiastic rumour mills would have us believe all two-doors cost megabucks. Not true: late models needing work can still be found for just hundreds of pounds. They can really hurt your wallet after purchase, though. Work on these is often expensive, and unless done to a high standard the car will depreciate.
Everyday use ★★★★☆
Off-road ability ★★★★★
Kit & accessories ★★★★☆
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Here are our top tips on things to consider when buying a Range Rover Classic. Discuss prospective buys on our message boards, too.
For the definitive view get an LRO buying guide. See below for details.
The two-door Range Rovers have the lovely ex-Buick 3.5-litre V8 and simple carburettor fuelling: injection didn’t arrive until 1985, when 2dr production for most markets, including the UK, had finished – the exception being the 1990 limited-edition CSK.
The all-aluminium V8 suits a Range Rover perfectly – because it’s not too heavy the car is nicely balanced, and power output is lovely and smooth.
They can be good for 300,000 miles if treated properly. But they do need their oil changing on time. If not, the engine gets gummed up, oil doesn’t get round properly, and cam and followers wear.
Always try to see a car with engine cold. If there’s cam wear, the valves can’t open to their full extent – then it’ll be difficult to run when cold, calling for much fiddling with the choke.
Expect good power – if not, the bores may be worn. Let the engine idle for a couple of minutes, then rev. Blue smoke is worn bores (burning oil). Black smoke is over-fuelling, white smoke means there’s water (cracked bores, head gasket split etc).
All except the very last cars have the LT95 ‘long stick’ combined gearbox/transfer box. It’s good and strong, if slightly agricultural.
Selection should feel precise and there shouldn’t be any jumping out of gear.
Don’t forget the central diff. Drive a tight circle. If it’s easy, good. But if the front wheels are skipping, that’s transmission wind-up – the centre diff is failing.
If engaging gears is difficult, the clutch may be coming to the end of its life. That’s a big DIY job.
The sturdy three-speed Chrysler autobox was introduced in 1982 but was replaced by the five-speed LT77 gearbox plus LT230 transfer box in 1983. Watch out for noise and jumping out of gear on high-mileage cars, and avoid tow vehicles.
SUSPENSION, WHEELS & TYRES
Live beam axles with long-travel coil springs and telescopic dampers give a wonderful ride although the car leans over when cornering and standard springs can go soft fairly quickly, which doesn’t help.
Rear-end ‘clonk’ noises are worn A-frame bushes and ball joint, and generally woolly handling means worn bushes.
Wheels were always 5.5x16in silver-painted steel – hard to find now in nice condition. Three-spoke alloys appeared in 1980, but for In Vogue four-doors only.
The all-round discs should pull the car up very smartly. You’ll find some vehicles fitted with cheap components and suffering from nasty work by previous owners. Luckily anything can be fixed and parts are available.
Pay attention to pedal feel, if the pedal is pulsating you’ve got warped discs.
Calipers areoften stuck and discs corroded but the days of paying a fortune for good-quality calipersare long gone, so just replace them.
Power steering didn’t become an option until 1973 and wasn’t standard until 1980 (except cheaper ‘Fleetline’ models). Look out for leaks and check pipework for perishing.
Check the steering on the test drive. Steering should feel light and accurate, unless unsuitable tyres are fitted. If steering needs constant correction that could be down to a worn steering box, worn steering ball or just general wear and tear. Problems aren’t usually difficult to fix, but a front axle rebuild can get expensive.
You’ll be able to do any diagnosis with a simple multimeter – in many cases, just a test lamp.
New headlights will make a big difference to many cars, but if the rear sidelight/indicator units have a black line top and bottom, they may be hard to find.
Compared to a modern car, electrics are simple. Wiring is often damaged or botched, in which case replacement is the best option.
EXTERIOR, BODYWORK & TRIM
Plenty of potential for rot! Check the chassis thoroughly, especially the rear.
Rear body-to-chassis mounts corrode away: sometimes there’s little holding the body to the chassis. The body can be lifted off for repairs, but it’s a lot of work.
Rust caused by wheelarch spray continues into adjacent steelwork. Sills rot and rust spreads into the floor.
Lift the boot carpet to reveal the extent of any rear floor disintegration.
Bodyshells may be structurally weakened: lift the door and see if there’s any play in the hinges or movement in the A-pillar. Not all outer panels are available and the supply of scrap cars has just about dried up.
All UK 2drs (except CSK) should have a metal vertical-slatted grille but watch out, some were ‘modernised’ with plastic horizontal-slatted grilles later in life.
If the car you’re viewing needs external bodywork repairs, you’ll need to factor in the cost of paintwork.
INTERNAL STRUCTURE AND INTERIOR
The first of the upmarket In Vogue models in 1981 were two-doors. General interior improvements and leather on production cars began in 1984 – the year the two-door was discontinued in most markets.
Trim can be sorted out on an DIY basis, but some original interior items are hard to find – and missing bits can spoil an otherwise good car.
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