Two-Doors to Freedom
5 Classic Off-Roaders More Affordable Than the New Range Rover
The new 2018 Range Rover SV Coupe and the original 1970 two-door Range Rover couldn’t be more different (well, aside from the number of doors). In 1970, the Range Rover came with a plastic dash, vinyl seats, while ‘luxury’ appointments like power steering, carpeted floors and air conditioning were noticeably absent. Which made hosing down the interior after a weekend of off-roading much easier. Now imagine hosing down the soft leather and open-pore walnut and sycamore veneers in the new $295,000 two-door.
While the new Range Rover SV Coupe is most assuredly luxurious and an undoubtedly pleasant space to spend a few hours driving, it’s nice to have a four-wheeler you don’t mind scratching up a bit. So, in light of the new two-door Range Rover’s eye-watering price tag and don’t-you-dare-scratch-it paint options and interiors, we found a few classic two-door off-roaders that’d be happy to play in the dirt.
1981 Land Rover Range Rover
What we like: This ’81 Range Rover doesn’t have the sumptuous interior of the new SV Coupe, but it’s not exactly as spartan and utilitarian as the original 1970 model. Velour upholstery, A/C and power steering put this comfy off-roader right in the Goldilocks spot.
What to look out for: Rust will always be a problem to look out for, but with this generation Range Rover, it’s imperative to check and look over the engine block. The blocks are known to crack, which can be a repair that costs more than the car itself. If you do get a perfect specimen, V8 models are incredibly needy when it comes to oil maintenance — don’t use the cheap stuff and always perform oil changes on time.
Expert opinion: “Before leaving for Michigan, we got a chance to play with our Range Rover at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. There we found that a lot of the Bigfoot-in-a-tux hyperbole that one hears about this vehicle is well deserved. We crawled up dunes, forded the Colorado River, bumped over boulders the size of large doghouses, and blasted down miles of gravel roads, and the Range Rover never once bogged down, got tippy or rattled our teeth loose. Even at 70 mph over unpaved roads, it had a remarkably smooth ride, more like a Cadillac than a dirt donk.” — Tony Assenza, Car and Driver, 1987
1976 Ford Bronco
Mileage: 1,450 (TMU)
Location: Oakland, California
What we like: This Bronco is a complete rebuild by Gas Monkey Garage of Discovery Channel fame. And while the owner and host of the show Fast n’ Loud is an acquired taste, this four-wheeler is inarguablly tastefully appointed. It’s hard to go wrong with dark green.
From the seller: “This 1976 Ford Bronco was featured by Gas Monkey Garage two years ago, at which time it underwent a body-off resto-mod. The truck was sold on the television show in season one, and was later won by the current owner in a raffle. The 302ci Ford crate V8 and C6 automatic transmission were installed at the time of the restoration. Custom paint and body work, a new interior and suspension upgrades are equipped.”
What to look out for: It’s a complete rebuild, so this Bronco is practically new with 1,450 miles on the clock, but it is a custom job. It doesn’t have doors or a top and won’t pass emissions tests in the state of California.
1990 Mercedes-Benz Wolf 250GD
Mileage: 26,200 (TMU)
Location: Saint Louis, Missouri
What we like: This 250GD is as bare-bones as you get. It saw military service so there’s nothing in the interior that isn’t essential. If you want an off-roader that’s easy to hose down, the metal floor, plastic dash and vinyl seats of the is diesel G-Wagen is what you want.
From the seller: “This 1990 Mercedes-Benz Wolf 250GD was used as a military vehicle in the European Union before it was retired and imported to the United States last year. The truck is a soft top model with a green interior and finished in green, brown and black camouflage. Power comes from a 2.5L diesel inline-five engine backed by a 4-speed manual transmission.”
What to look out for: This was a military service vehicle in Europe, so you have to assume it was beaten to hell and back. That said, it looks like it’s in decent condition, but there are noted problems with the wiring and heat blower.
Expert opinion: “I should mention at this point that the G-Wagen I drove had a dash-mounted, airplane-style artificial horizon gauge; the kind of gauge that tells you whether you’re level, or descending, or ascending, or about to crash into Lake Erie. Initially, I had no idea why this gauge would be fitted to an automobile, but then I realized that when you’re driving this G-Wagen, every corner feels like the banked turns at Bristol Motor Speedway.” — Doug Demuro, Jalopnik
1979 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43
Mileage: 22,300 (TMU)
Location: Miami, Florida
What we like: Usually a near four-decade-old land Cruiser would raise some eyebrows in a condition and reliability discussion. However, this fire-red Landy received a full body-off repaint and a rebuilt 4.2L inline-six, transmission and transfer case. It’s not exactly as good as new, but it’s pretty damn close.
From the seller: “Work under the seller’s ownership has included a body-off repaint in red and white, reupholstering the interior, rebuilding the 4.2L inline-six, and more. Features include manually-engaged front hubs, rear troopie-style seating, a folding windscreen and grey painted steel wheels.”
What to look out for: This is a restored example so it should be mechanically sound. Historically, though, the front axle seals are prone to leaking.
Expert opinion: “Compared to the only modern 4×4 that can be even remotely described as “basic”, the Jeep Wrangler, the FJ40 is a mini-tank. Strip away all the modern amenities found in a new Wrangler and you’re still left with a vehicle that feels incredibly bloated compared to the FJ40. The simplicity of the FJ40 allows you to quickly bond with it and I can only hope that I’ll get a chance to do some true bushwhacking in one at some point.” — Andrew Maness, Jalopnik
1990 Land Rover 90 200TDi
Location: Carrollton, Texas
What we like: It’s easy to get lured in by this Defender’s beautiful blue paint job, but the interior shows its true age. That shouldn’t be too much of a concern if the going price doesn’t get astronomically high. After all, this is an overlander — it’s meant to go off-road and get dirty. But if you’re shelling out large sums of cash, you’ll be less inclined to have fun. Hopefully, the bidding stays humble.
From the seller: “A $12k engine rebuild was conducted before export and included new pistons, rings, bearings, seals, gaskets, cam belts and more as detailed below. The braking system features a new slave cylinder and pads, while the suspension was fitted with new turrets, mounting rings, and shock absorbers.”
What to look out for: The fuel system on the 200TDi tends to be an issue, but this particular Defender has a rebuilt engine and fuel system. Another thing to keep an eye out for on old off-roaders like this wear on the suspension.
Expert opinion: “Each new engine brought improvements in performance and refinement, but even the current Defenders can be considered noisy, uncomfortable and unresponsive by the standards of a modern SUV. The short wheelbase 90 model has a choppy ride; the long-wheelbase 110 feels like a bus. Steering response, braking performance and vehicle stability all require a certain adjustment in driving style.” — James Mills, The Sunday Times