IN THE LAP OF LUXURY
WELCOME TO THE SECOND INSTALMENT OF OUR LATEST
NZ4WD FEATURE, ‘LOCALS ONLY,’ IN WHICH WE CHECK OUT THE SORT OF COOL
KIWI 4X4S WHICH SEE US SWIVELLING OUR HEADS
AND THINKING ‘DAMN, THAT’S NICE.’ THIS MONTH OUR SPOTLIGHT FALLS
ON A ‘ TOUGH-AS’ 2000 MODEL YEAR RANGE ROVER VOGUE 4.6 V8 OWNED BY WHANGAREI MAN
The Range Rover has always been an underestimated but very capable off-road vehicle, after all, it started the 4WD wagon trend back in the 1970s.
Those early models, now referred to as ‘Classics’ have proved their pedigree many times, being a prolific winner of many overseas competitions including the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge, the Olympics of off-road competition and endurance.
Whangarei’s John Rapana, a painter and decorator by trade, has always been a Land Rover man owning several different models over the years. He has even bought back a Series Land Rover several years after selling it – he liked it so much. Maybe the fact it was somewhat cheaper than what he sold it for might have also played a part.
John’s a very likeable character who always has a smile on his face and a classic giggle laugh to go with it that reminds me of the late Billy T. James.
Vehicle of choice!
For the last decade his vehicle of choice was a black 1973 Range Rover with its 3.5 V8. However with it getting on in age and with prices rising he got an offer he couldn’t refuse and sold it intending to get a Land Rover Discovery. He had seen one for sale, but it was in Invercargill, and the cost to transport it the length of the country was going to cost almost as much again, so he kept looking and chanced upon a 2000 Range Rover Vogue 4.6 in Palmerston North. It only had 185,000kms
on the clock, the price was right, so he took a chance, purchasing it sight unseen, and had it transported to Whangarei.
The second generation Range Rover (or P38 to many) was the first sophisticated luxury 4WD full of electronics and air suspension and while it was certainly capable off-road, it was an expensive vehicle to take into the bush. Many would say the electronics would fail leaving you stranded. But John “had read so much about the positives of them in international Land Rover magazines such as LRO from England,” that he decided that, on balance, the positives outweighed the negatives.
John’s Range Rover is one of the later models before the next model came along. A few changes were made for these Vogues however the big one was the redevelopment of the V8 engine under the code name of “Thor” which introduced new distinctive curved inlet manifold tracts and a Bosch Motronic engine management system.
Also introduced was the “electronic fast throttle” system which used a potentiometer between the accelerator pedal and the engine allowing less travel of the pedal when high ratios were selected,
When low ratio was selected in the transfer case the traditional
‘long travel’ feel of the pedal was restored to provide the necessary delicacy of control in off-road manoeuvring.
These changes resulted in a slightly less powerful engine although torque was increased giving a better mid-range performance although John admits that he does at time drive it “like I stole it.” You can’t blame him either as purr of that V8 is music to the ears, especially when working off-road.
Springs ‘n things
When John got the Range Rover three years ago, the suspension had already been changed from air to coils all round but with no lift. It is now fitted with custom 75mm lifted springs from Cobra Performance Springs in Christchurch matched to Rancho 5000 shock absorbers. Tyres are 33x10.5x16 Silverstone MT-117 Extremes fitted to the standard alloy rims that have been painted black. No trimming has been necessary to fit the larger tyres into the wheel arches, although they occasionally can touch slightly at full articulation.
When it comes to body protection the options within New Zealand are very limited and what’s available in the UK can be expensive so John enlisted the services of Bruce Littin from Roswell’s Panel Beaters in Ruakaka. John praises their work advising “Bruce has worked on all my vehicles including my work vehicles over the years as he is just a top panel beater.”
The end result is a custom wrap around front bull bar incorporating a Novawinch 12500lb winch with synthetic rope. Underneath is a heavy duty steering guard which comes up to bolt under the bumper. The rear bumper also wraps around the sides and is fitted with a pintle recovery point in the middle. On the right hand side the exhaust as been relocated to exit through the side of the rear bumper.
The lap of luxury
Inside the interior is standard Range Rover luxury with leather seats and carpet with the addition of a mount for John’s video camera which records his off-road ventures. The only major change made inside in fact was the removal of the boot floor lid.
With the larger tyres the spare no longer fits into the wheel well so John has it standing upright at the back and secured with additional tie down points bolted to the floor. In the left rear corner he has mounted a Thunder compressor with a 6.0L air tank for tyre inflation. Also in the boot is fire extinguisher, tools and recovery gear.
In the hands of John, the Range Rover doesn’t get as easy a life as it is used (and abused) off-road with the Whangarei 4WD Club which John has been a member of for 16 years. Off-road John stated, “For its size, it is so nimble and so comfortable, it’s like sitting in your lounge La-Z-Boy. It is so capable off-road with traction control working on all four wheels at low speeds despite the larger tyres. It has no problems climbing up and down slopes.”
As to the negatives of owning such a vehicle for off-road? John reckons, “he hasn’t found any yet but I will no doubt find out in the future. If there are any, being a LR/ RR fan, I’d probably just moan as all LR owners do and fix it. So far, so good.”
John even purchased an earlier model P38 as a ‘spares’ vehicle from a mate that was supposedly a non-runner. However it didn’t take John long to sort out the problem and subsequently a WoF and registration and it is now his “runabout hack.”
Light year’s ahead!
Mechanically the Range Rover is as it left the factory but another advantage of this later model is that it has a heavy duty rear differential as standard. John recently managed to break a front axle and CV but these were easily replaced.
While the Classic Range Rover was very capable and a competition proven vehicle, John stated, “Compared to the Classic? Well it’s just light years ahead.” While we won’t be seeing the Range Rover competing in the likes of the RFC anytime soon, it has spent some time at Northland’s notorious ‘Possum Palace’ 4WD property which in the wet is akin to the Malaysian rainforest in the monsoon season!