A lot can happen in 50 years. Communist global superpowers can wither into dissolution, music can morph from a pizza-size record to an entirely digital medium, and a car maker spun out of British Leyland can watch its most significant contribution to the industry trade mud ruts and farm life for Bond Street and affluent living. The Range Rover turns 50 this year, and Land Rover has announced a special edition model to commemorate the classic 4×4’s Golden Jubilee. Called the Range Rover Fifty, just 1970 examples will be made.
When the original Range Rover first broke cover on June 17, 1970, it was the brainchild of Rover Car Company’s engineering chief of new vehicle projects, Charles Spencer King, nephew of Land Rover’s founders. He was searching for a middle ground offering between the on-road behaviour of the Rover sedan and the off-road aptitude of the utilitarian Land Rover SUV.
Hailed as the original luxury 4×4, the Range Rover has chalked up some significant firsts for the car industry. In its debut 1970 model year, the Ranger Rover offered the first full-time four-wheel drive system fitted to an SUV – although the Sport Utility Vehicle was still an idea to be dreamed up by marketing executives of the time, and permanent four-wheel drive was not new in itself. The following year, Range Rover would lead one of the boldest PR stunts ever by successfully traversing the Darién Gap.
The 1989 model was the first 4×4 to feature anti-lock brakes, while the 1992 Range Rover brought about the first 4×4 with electronic traction control, as well as automatic electronic air suspension.
More than that, the 1970 Range Rover set the visual precedent that the brand still adheres to, half a century later. The clamshell bonnet, floating roof, and split tailgate are all staples of the Range Rover aesthetic. That original shape was so desirable that the Range Rover became the first vehicle to be featured in the Louvre art museum in Paris, France, in 1971.
Today, early Range Rovers are highly sought after, so much so that Hagerty US gave it a spot in the 2020 Bull Market List, which identifies classic cars that are becoming increasingly sought-after.
Half a century after the original broke cover, the Range Rover Fifty arrives. It’s based on the ultra-luxurious Autobiography trim-level, and will be offered as either the regular- or long-wheelbase variants. Plebeian onlookers, ideally from the driver’s seat of a standard Range Rover, will know you are one of the 1970 elite owners thanks to one of four exterior colours – each Fifty will wear either Carpathian Grey, Rosello Red, Aruba, or Santorini Black exterior paint.
In true luxury fashion, there’s a level of exclusivity above the standard four-colour palette. Buyers of the Range Rover Fifty can have Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) team paint it in 1 of 3 heritage exterior solid paints reproduced from the original Range Rover Palette: Tuscan Blue, Bahama Gold, and Davos White.
The Tuscan Blue finish, shown in the photos, is particularly popular in the Hagerty office. One of our team members owns a Range Rover Classic. You can read all about it in this story which saw it undertake a fuel economy challenge, of all things…
Additional exterior trimmings include two unique 22-inch wheel choices, and exterior contrast trim in what Range Rover calls “Auric Atlas.”
Inside, a bevy of “Fifty” badges adorn every surface you can think of, including the centre console, the headrests, the dashboard, and the tread plates in the door sills. Each badge reminds passengers that the vehicle is “1 of 1970” around the world.
Land Rover is yet to confirm the pricing and engine range for the Fifty, but says petrol, diesel and hybrid versions will be available. For reference, the Range Rover Autobiography – upon which the Range Rover Fifty is based – starts from almost £106,000.
Whether those models ever become as sought-after as the original, pioneering Range Rover is only something that will become clear in another 50 years.