What’s the story?
Can you imagine the conversation? It's 1979 and Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham is kicking back with the band's manager Peter Grant. 'You need to get one of these, man... waaay cool.' 'One of these' is a Schuler-modified Range Rover Classic; Bonham is a fan, the owner of a 6x4 version.
Peter Grant had previously managed the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, The Animals and others, and rumours have it that he indulged in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle as much as the bands he managed. So it's hardly surprising money was no object when he visited Duncan Hamilton's dealership to spec-up his Schuler. He managed to double the price of the base Range Rover.
The Schuler doesn't look all that special from a 2015 perspective but we need to look at it as if it were still 1980.
Firstly, it's an auto, at a time when standard Range Rovers were four-speed manual. The Schuler auto conversion (using a Torqueflite 727) was a major engineering job that initially required the skills of perhaps the only UK company that could provide an autobox linked to a four-wheel-drive system.
The FF (Ferguson Four) conversion that Schuler supplied was more or less the same set-up that had been used in the Jensen FF. The drawback was the cost - £2379 is another 25 per cent added on to the base cost of the vehicle to start with! It was a great conversion though; so good that Range Rover gave Schuler 25 new vehicles to be converted, which were then sent to selected dealers to gauge public reaction to the concept of a factory auto option.
This Schuler Range Rover also shares the Jensen FF's anti-lock brakes. Because everything has ABS today, it doesn't seem remarkable, but at the time it was an incredibly exotic conversion - even Rolls-Royce didn't start putting ABS on its vehicles until 1987.
As far as a sound system goes, a standard-issue Leyland radio-cassette was never going to cut it. It was ousted in favour of a CD player that wouldn't have looked out of place in a high-end hi-fi shop of the time.
The suspension wasn't left alone either - the springs were upgraded to heavy-duty versions with matching high-quality dampers, which worked a treat according to Dave Northover, who used to work for Led Zep. He used to drive Peter Grant's son, Warren, in the Schuler and claimed he used to go flat-out on the road, and follow the most direct route by careering off-road to take banks at road speed on the school run!
As far as bespoke interiors go, the treatment of the Range Rover was less extravagant, the most noticeable addition being an extra five gauges set into the passenger side of the dashboard and a Moto-Lita steering wheel. The floors were originally covered with leather-bound lambswool carpet, though, and air-conditioning is present, as was a radio-telephone - the height of late-1970s chic.
Our favourite bit?
The finishing touch was the registration number. Grant bought and transferred the plate LZ1 on to the Schuler. How cool is that?
And the verdict from LRO writer Jerry Thurston?
Current owner Kieron Maughan has two passions: rock music and cars. Naturally, when he stumbled across what he realised was LZ1 for sale a year or so ago, he had to have it. The restoration under Keiron's ownership has been a considered one. Keen to retain as much of the originality as possible, he has limited replacements to a set of new carpets and made sure the rest of the vehicle is safe, with a thorough inspection and careful re-commissioning of the engine, suspension and transmission systems.
Engine: 3.5HE upgrade, full-flow manifold, Janspeed stainless-steel exhaust, twin Kenlowe fans
Gearbox: Schuler FF transfer box with three-speed auto gearbox
Suspension: Uprated heavy-duty springs and dampers
Brakes: Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock system
Wheels: 16in Wolfrace alloys