My dalliance with the idea of owning a Range Rover started back in 2009. It would end up taking three tries on two continents over 13 years before the relationship was finally consummated. It started back when I was in the process of moving to the UK. The “Use Case” at the time was for a “family utility” car capable of transporting 5 adults, multiple suitcases, and whatever large loads needed to be lugged around for a family with multiple teenagers. As the UK was the destination, I naturally started researching Range Rovers as they are the traditional British answer to the use case outlined above. While I quite liked the idea of owning a Range Rover, all the research I did indicated that the ownership experience could be both financially ruinous and similar to one I had with a TVR Griffith (see: TVR) a few year prior. Instead, we bought a Porsche Cayenne Turbo which proved to be indestructible.
Roll forward another half dozen years and we were looking for a SUV that we could park up at our place in Montana. Montana winters make a 4WD vehicle a mandatory choice if you want to be driving through the mountains from September thru May. First stop on our SUV shopping trip was to the Dallas Land Rover dealer. As we entered the showroom, right in the middle of the floor was a Yellow Range Rover P38 Vitese Edition. It was in great shape but the dealer wanted an absurd amount of money for a 18 year old SUV with dodgy reliability record. Despite that I did think it would be a very cool thing to have up in Montana and did a bit of work of the practicalities of owning one up there. Turns out the nearest Land Rover dealership was eight hours away and there were no mechanics in the area with any experience working on P38s. Thus, ended that idea, and we ended up buying a Mercedes Benz ML550 SUV instead as there is a Mercedes specialist in the area.
One move and another half decade later, the Range Rover bug reemerged. By this time, we had moved back to New England and settled down on the coast. Range Rovers of all ages are literally a dime a dozen in the area. A friend happens to be a Range Rover fanatic and owns at least a half dozen at any given point in time. He showed up at one event with one of the coolest modified ones I’ve seen named the Beacher. The Beacher is a late Series 1 Range Rover that was saved from the scrap heap and turned into a Barchetta. The roof, rear windows, rear side glass, and upper part of the tailgate were all removed, a full roll cage bolted in, and a removable canvas roof fitted over the roll cage. As a summer beach car, it’s hard to beat and seeing it stoked my interest in possibly acquiring a Range Rover again.
With interest stoked, next step was to define the Use Case (see: Use Case Rule) as I knew this was going to be the first question Mrs. SSO would ask as soon as I floated the idea. To be honest, coming up with one was not easy. Best I could do was it’s the perfect car for taking our two Labrador Retrievers to the beach and boat. Fortunately, she bought into the idea (or more likely just generously decided to indulge me) and I had the green light to seriously start hunting for one. Only criteria is it had to be similar to the bright yellow one we saw in Dallas all those years back. A bit of research narrowed the options down to two special edition Range Rover produced during the Series 2 P38’s 7 year production run. The 1997 Vitese Edition of which 250 were produced and the final year 2002 Borrego Edition of which only 100 were built. From what I can tell the “special editions” are all cosmetic upgrades and there is no real difference in the base mechanicals.
Most 20 plus year old Range Rovers tend to change hands privately. All the cars we have purchased since we moved back to the US from Europe have come through official dealerships, so this was a bit of new territory. My Range Rover enthusiast friend suggest hunting on Facebook Market Place, Craig’s List (he assured me I would most likely not be killed but couldn’t guarantee it), and the various on-line auction sites. In short order, an intriguing candidate was identified, and I put in an offer. This particular “Borrego Edition” P38 was in excellent condition, two long term owners, and by 20 year old Range Rover standards, fairly low mileage at 80k (it is a bit ironic that a 20 year old Range Rover is considered fairly low mileage at under 100k, while a 20 year old Ferrari with that type of mileage would be considered unsaleable. It’s even a bit more daft when you consider that the build quality on a 2002 Ferrari is quite a bit better than on early 21st Century Range Rovers.). Unfortunately, at the same time I made an offer, so did someone else and theirs was the more generous of the two. As quickly as that Range Rover appeared it was gone. Several months went by and a few others came up and either they had far too many “needs” for my taste or were priced outside of the budget I had agreed with Mrs. SSO based on my rather dodgy Use Case. At this point I had basically given up hope and parked the whole Range Rover idea until next spring.
Completely unexpectedly, the original Borrego Edition Range Rover that caught my eye came back on the market. The gentleman who had purchased it back in April had decided to have an end of the season garage clean out and part with a number of his cars. The overall condition of the Range Rover was unchanged, and he had only put about 100 miles on it. We quickly agreed a deal, which turned out to be for a couple of thousand less than my original offer back in April. Arranging shipping from Texas to the northeast took a couple of weeks but the bright yellow financial timebomb finally arrived on our driveway right before Thanksgiving.
First impressions have been very positive so far, despite Mrs. SSO asking if we could get it painted another color the 1st time she saw it. The Range Rover is in terrific condition for its age. Other than a few minor paint chips, the body looks great with no signs of rust. The interior is in excellent condition and there is not a single warning light illuminated on the dashboard. I have had to replace the battery and the rear tailgate struts are a bit weak but otherwise everything works properly. The driving position takes a bit of getting used to as you are quite high off the ground, especially compared to the other cars I normally drive. The suspension is soft and the brakes aren’t exactly large ceramic but they do work…..if you give them a bit of time. It is quite comfortable though and visibility is outstanding. Most importantly though, our two English Labrador Retrievers do seem to like sitting in the back.
I will be very interested to see how long the big yellow Range Rover lasts in the garage. So far, our ownership experience has gotten off to a good start. My guess is the tenure will be a direct reflection on how reliable it turns out to or not to be. There is something uniquely charming about it, and the dogs do seem to like it. More to come…..
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