A 1980s Toyota Land Cruiser, in perfect condition, will currently cost you about $40,000. A mint Jeep Grand Wagoneer from the same era? $50,000 plus. This 1978 Range Rover? Around $170,000, or $85,000 more than a new one. What the heck is going on?
The first thing you have to understand is that this is far more than just a used SUV. This Bahama Gold example is the first Range Rover restored under parent company Land Rover’s new Reborn program, which first revived a Series 1 last year. In the program, a vehicle isn’t just fixed up—it’s returned to factory-new condition by the factory that made it in the first place, using original (but new) parts. And Reborn is using the rarest, most sought-after version of the truck: the three-door model that was sold only from the Range Rover’s release in 1970 until 1981. The result is the nicest, most collectible, rarest SUV in the world.
“Range Rover Reborn is another showcase of our dedicated in-house engineering expertise,” says Tim Hanning of Jaguar Land Rover. “It underscores our commitment to nurturing the rich heritage of Land Rover and is a rare opportunity for customers to own a valuable and genuinely collectible automotive icon. It is a wonderful way to preserve the much sought-after three-door original Range Rover from the 1970s, from period-correct colorways to interior trim and accessories.”
Why the interest in old trucks? Part of their boom in popularity can be attributed to the declining off-road capability of their modern counterparts. Any old Land Rover, Toyota 4x4, or Jeep you find on Craigslist can comfortably and capably get you, your family, and your dog down pretty much any off-road trail in the world. Their modern counterparts? Not so much. Genuine, robust mechanical capability like true four-wheel drive and locking differentials have been replaced with complicated, fragile computers. The ground clearance necessary to clear off-road obstacles has had to make way for pedestrian crash safety standards and sleek aerodynamics designed to maximize fuel economy.
Then there’s the ease of maintenance and repairs. When your old truck breaks down on the trail? Anyone with half a tool set can fix it. Your modern truck? Pop the hood, and all you’ll see is plastic. Just diagnosing which onboard computer has what problem will require hooking the car up to another computer, and that typically has to be done at a dealership.
Of course, the biggest factor is that these old trucks are cool. Something about the simple, timeless honesty of square corners and upright windshields just speaks to people in a way round plastic crossovers never will. Fashion is the primary reason old trucks have gotten so expensive.
While it’s gotten nearly impossible to find a decent Defender, Land Cruiser, or Wagoneer at anything approaching a sensible price, first-generation Range Rovers (produced from 1970 to 1996) can still be had for less than $10,000 in excellent condition. Project vehicles are sometimes less than $1,000.
For that money, you don’t just get an SUV that will comfortably carry your family anywhere in the world. You also get one that will do it in style. Get ’em while they’re cheap.