SentiMETAL Episode 15: Range Rover Series 1

The combination of a spectacular car, a perfect stretch of tarmac and a beautiful landscape easily impress us petrolheads. We prefer to snake along a road with little to no traffic and a cozy coffee stop along the way. 

However, just as alluring is the combination of a classic 4x4 and the rawness of mother nature. There are a number of 4x4s that have become collectible in recent years or at least favourites among enthusiasts. Close to the top of the list, and in Nekkies Smit’s case at the very top, is the Range Rover Series 1, or now more lovingly called the Range Rover Classic.

Today it is easy to be impressed by these vehicles. After all, it was one of the original 4x4s that put down the foundation of what would become the popular luxury 4x4 segment, or in modern lingo, the SUV. These cars were originally used by farmers in rural Britain, but at the same time by the British Royalty. 

Released in 1969, these 4x4s were manufactured in Solihull, a town synonymous with Land Rover, as well as Enfield in Australia and even here in Cape Town. The base shape of the Range Rover stayed in production for no less than 25 years until 1994.

The history of the Range Rover is littered with interesting facts and anecdotes. An early feat was the success it achieved by taking first place in the four-wheel-drive class of the first Paris-Dakar Rally in 1979 as well as in 1981.

Nekkies’s love affair with all things Land and Range Rover started more than two decades ago. Growing up in a farming community the off-road culture clearly grew on him. “In 2000 when I was still at school I found and bought my first Land Rover, a Series 2. It was in a terrible state because I couldn’t afford a better example. I restored it with limited funds and from there the bug just bit me.”

Soon his passion turned into a business. Today he services, maintains, customises and restores these cars for clients. Over the years Nekkies has gained a wealth of knowledge on these 4x4s, through his business as well as his passion. Today he has an impressive collection of Land Rovers which include collectible and unique models. 

“My first Range Rover I bought was in 2010. It was a TDV8 Sport. I didn’t have it for long because the space wasn’t enough and it was too fancy. However, I bought my first Range Rover Classic 3-door in 2012.”

It was only recently with the enthusiasm of a client that wanted to restore his Range Rover Classic that Nekkies was convinced to restore both his and the client’s (as seen in this video) examples together. The fact that Range Rover is turning 50 this year was also an important factor, Nekkies admits. 

Sourcing parts is no easy job. According to Nekkies it is the biggest challenge with a full restoration. “It took me two trips to the UK to visit the correct specialists, suppliers as well as Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works. They have been restoring these cars for a number of years. Most of the cosmetic parts we got from the UK. Fortunately the mechanical parts in these Range Rovers are in most cases the same as found in the company’s other products.” Fast forward several months later and this red Series 1 stands out in its beautiful Winelands surroundings in South Africa’s Western Cape. 

The interior is cozy with newly-upholstered seats and carpets, while the tall windows offer a glasshouse effect like few other 4x4s. As Nekkies starts the engine the soft thumping soundtrack from the 3.5-litre V8 engine is immediately evident, a perfect companion not only for the open road but also for when you want to climb over obstacles after engaging the low-range transfer case.

Having done a number of overland trips, including Cape Town to London, with Land Rovers, he seems ever ready for his next adventure… as long as it is in a Land or Range Rover!

Car: Range Rover Series 1 3-dr (1970)

Engine: 3 532 cc, V8, petrol

Power: 97 kW @ 5 000 rpm

Torque: 251 N.m @ 2 500 rpm

Top speed: 154 km/h

Gearbox: 4-speed manual

Wheelbase: 2 540 mm (100 inches)

Weight: 1 724 kg

0-100kph: 17.5 sec (tested by CAR magazine)

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