SPOTTING magnificent machines at the Goodwood motor circuit isn’t unusual – even a procession of priceless Porsches wouldn’t be likely to raise eyebrows among regular visitors heading for the car park at the West Sussex venue.
But this year’s Goodwood Speedweek – substituting for the cancelled Festival of Speed and Revival extravaganzas – played host to a sight so unusual that even the most hardened enthusiast would have been beaming – online only, of course.
Fifty classic or gleaming new Range Rovers – from the original 1970 model to rally-conquering specials featuring battle scars and victory stickers, lovingly restored collectors’ cars and emergency services workhorses – were herded together to form the number 50 when viewed from a drone overhead.
The display marked the 50th anniversary of the Range Rover, Land Rover’s enduring benchmark of versatility, practicality and luxury; a car as at home cruising down the drive at Windsor Castle as hopping over a dune or sauntering through a bog.
Range Rovers as emergency service vehicles
Among those at Goodwood was Richard Beddall, a trustee of the Dunsfold Collection of 147 vehicles, including 40 Range Rovers, and an early admirer of the car.
“I got my first Range Rover in 1970,” he said. “I had one within two months [of release] and I’ve always had one since. I was one of the founders of the Dunsfold Collection in the late Sixties and we have one of the biggest collections of Land Rovers and Range Rovers in the world – I have a few in my own collection, and two or three here today, including one of the ambulances and a police car, which I bought from a lunatic in Italy.
“I had never been to Verona and he said he had ‘probably too many’ Range Rovers, so I went to see them. They were kept in a chicken shed, and one of them was this Metropolitan police car.
“It’s a lovely original 1988 manual gearbox example that wasn’t crashed by the police; it’s had quite a sensible life.”
Another guest at the parade with a police car was former officer Geoff Taylor. His example, from the force in Manchester, is, like him, retired and still thriving.
“Greater Manchester Police used to have 30 Range Rovers dedicated to the motorway,” he said. “In 1981 this was one of 10 new model sat at the workshops waiting to be kitted out for the motorway.
“However, the radio branch was looking for new command vehicle so they pinched it. It didn’t carry all the traffic kit in the back of the car – it was full of 1980s state-of-the-art radio gear. It used to tow a 40ft hydraulic mast; if you’d got a missing kiddie the car would appear, the mast would be put up, personal radios would be handed out and this would be your command point.
“With a motorway car they would keep it for three years – 250,000 miles – strip it and sell it, but this car used to sit at headquarters and wait for a job. It was still at headquarters when it was 10 years old, with 47,000 miles on the clock.
“In 1991, they didn’t need it as a communications car anymore but kept it on fleet because of the low mileage, so it went back to the workshops, had all the radio gear stripped out and was refurbished with bits of three-year-old motorway car. Then it was given back to the radio branch as a runabout.”
Taylor said that in 1991 he was with the police motorway unit and responsible for a road safety roadshow that he could take to police stations, open days, classic car events and “anywhere we could get to talk to people about driving on the motorway”.
He commandeered the under-used Range Rover and fitted it out as a classic 1970s motorway patrol car. It was so successful as an icebreaker that Taylor asked the fleet manager whether it could it be permanently transferred to the motorway unit.
“His answer was no. He said, ‘It’s 12 years old and I’ve got to service it. I’m going to get rid of it.’ We had a battle and I won, which didn’t sit well with him, but the car was officially transferred, kept at a police station and valeted every time it came out.”
Taylor’s battle for the police Range Rover didn’t end there. “When I retired from the police in 1997, I knew the fleet manager would take his revenge and scrap the car, so because it was such a nice example, with 55,000 miles on the clock, I put it in the police museum in Manchester and then I told him where it was. Actually, he said as long as he didn’t have to service he wasn’t right bothered.”
Taylor thought the car’s future was assured but then, in 2005, he received a call.
“The museum said the car needed restoring again, but they didn’t have the funds so a decision had been made to sell it.”
The police refused to let Taylor buy it direct from the museum, telling him he’d have to go to the police auction and bid on it. But he had a cunning plan.
“Friends of mine at the museum took all the police kit off it and put it all in the basement. I went to the auctions at Preston, bought the car, restored the car, took it back down the museum and put everything back in it again. I’ve owned it for 15 years now.”
An addiction to Range Rovers
Dick Malone understands Taylor’s passion: he has owned 28 Land Rovers since falling in love with the brand as a child in the 1970s, and his only regret is selling some of them.
“It’s an addiction,” he said. “This is No 27 and I bought No 28 last week. At the moment, I have five Range Rovers, one Range Rover kit car, a Defender and an old Land Rover truck.”
Malone’s obsession started with a Dinky toy. He bought his first real Range Rover in 1985 and has had at least one ever since, if not two or three.
“The first one was a 1977 classic two-door, the same as my Dinky toy but a different colour. I’ve got a five-litre supercharged SVR at home, one of the newer ones. The one I bought last week was another two-door classic. And there’s the Suffix A, one of the first models.”
Malone does a lot of the restoration work himself, including stripping the recently purchased two-door and dipping its frame in acid. He plans to put it all back together, but will rebuild it from left-hand drive to right-hand drive, and convert it from diesel to petrol. But he doesn’t touch the bodywork: “I hate doing bodywork!”
He owns eight cars and keeps them on his generously sized driveway, and is in the process of buying two acres of land to build himself a big workshop.
His favourite Range Rover is one that got away: the CSK special edition, a two-door in original style but with the later specification, created in 1991 as a tribute to (and named after) Charles Spencer King, the man who designed the original. Malone owned one but sold it 20 years ago.
“I’ve stopped selling them on now, because I wish I’d kept it,” he said. “I’ve got the space now so I can keep them – and when I get more space, I’ll probably end up with more cars.
“My family’s got used to it.”
Range Rovers as the ultimate adventure car
Annamarie Moody has a few Jaguar Land Rover marques on her drive: a Defender, an Evoque and a beloved 2002 Range Rover whose role as the family runabout got off to a spectacular start at a rally through southern Africa last year.
“Our Range Rover P38 is called Lilibet. She’s named after a very well-known monarch,” Moody said – a reference to the Queen, who also has a penchant for Range Rovers.
“My usual car is an Evoque – that’s my girly car. I love that car, although there’s not really enough room in there now we have a baby seat and buggy, so at the moment it’s this one we drive around the lanes of Cornwall. Everyone knows us. They recognise the car and wave.”
Last year, Moody and her husband Ian took Lilibet on an adventure. “We shipped her down to Africa, for our third Put Foot Rally, which starts in Cape Town and goes through Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. It was the first time we’d shipped the car down.
“The day before we set off, we found out I was pregnant. I was fine for about the first week and then I started to feel really, really ropey. It was certainly an experience because you’re covering such long distances. Some days would be 11, 12 hours’ driving and I was so pleased we had this car because I just lay in the back, feeling terrible.”
Ian called the rally the “Range Rover release project”, because Lilibet had been sitting in a field in Cornwall for years before they bought it, then released into the wilds of Africa.
“We camp in the roof tent. It’s so easy, you just clamber up there. It was heaven when I was feeling bad – I’d go up there and hide. Which is such a shame as there are so many parties going on.”
Such is their affection for the car and rally that had Moody given birth to a boy he would have been named Spencer, after Spencer King. That wasn’t to be, though: Ian and Annamarie welcomed daughter Amara last year. And she’ll be joining her parents on the Put Foot Rally when it returns (pandemic-permitting) in 2021.
The rock-star Range Rover owner by Queen’s Roger Taylor
While Lilibet is named after the monarch, David Barker’s 1981 two-door convertible is connected to a different Queen – the British rock band.
“The original owner was drummer Roger Taylor,” said Barker. “It was converted from new to a convertible. I don’t know if he saw it in a showroom or specified how he wanted it to be – no roof, electric windows, wood trim, leather. He owned it for about two years then sold it to Queen’s manager, Jim Beach, and Queen’s management company.”
Barker has a photograph of Taylor sitting in the car, and the documents show the musician was the first owner. But there’s a slim chance it could have been driven by an even bigger star: lead singer Freddie Mercury.
“There are rumours that this was Freddie’s car,” Barker said. But he’s not so sure. “Freddie didn’t drive. I think he sat in the back of a Rolls-Royce, mostly.”
Barker has wanted a Range Rover since he was a child, and remembers the exact moment his passion was kindled.
“I had a friend at school when I was 17 or 18, and we were both into cars. He bought himself a Renault R8 Gordini and I spent some time towing it around a field in his dad’s brand new two-door Range Rover. We never did get the Renault going but I remember thinking, ‘One day, I’m going to work hard, save up and get a Range Rover.’”
The mortgage and children’s education came first, Barker said, but having got through all that, his first Range Rover was “the icing on the cake”.
Barker has owned them ever since, and eventually got into a financial position to be able to afford a hobby car. He decided on a two-door Range Rover, and one caught his eye at auction.
“There was a rumour it might have had something to do with the band,” he said, “but that’s not why I bought it. I just wanted a two-door and this was a bit unusual.”
It took Barker two years to restore it, researching its original specification.
“It was a different colour when I bought it – a really nice metallic maroon. But the original documents showed that it was black. It also had different wheels, more modern bumpers, and had been upgraded to look newer.
“But actually, it was just a wreck: it didn’t drive; the roof was shredded; the leather was so dry you could poke a finger through it.”
The Range Rover that really was owned by The Queen
Richard Beddall’s daily drive has a true royal connection: its previous, careful lady owner was the Queen herself.
“I’ve got a picture of Her Majesty the Queen actually driving it at the Royal Windsor horse show,” he said. “The royal fleet generally have these cars on lease from Jaguar Land Rover for a couple of years. When I got it, this car was two years old and had done just 2,100 miles.
“It’s a marvellous car. It’s the Autobiography, which is the top of the range, but generally the royal cars don’t have wide wheels and they’re not flashy at all.
“The paint is Aintree Green; the royal fleet is generally this colour. It’s lovely in the sunshine because it’s got little speckles in it.”
Beddall said it made for an excellent towing car. “If I’m doing European events, we’ll generally put a vehicle on the trailer because we can fill up the car on the trailer with wine and fill up the Range Rover with wine, too. I’ve had 420 bottles in this for my daughter’s wedding with the seats folded – that’s just in the Range Rover. We had all the champagne and most of the wine and the Range Rover didn’t notice it.”
It’s the most comfortable car Beddall has in his collection.
“Doug Hill, who runs the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, was driving this car this morning and he said, ‘It’s a car you get into, you feel at home in and you know it’s going to do everything you want,’ – and he’s quite right.
“If I’m going somewhere and I want to do my emails, it’s got a little slot for a Sim card, I’ve got wi-fi in the car. It’s all these little things that make life simpler.
“Do you know what I like most about this car though? Something to do with age . . . the heated steering wheel. It’s my absolutely favourite thing.”