One of a pair of Range Rover Classics currently owned by the Retropower staff, Nat’s build has stepped up a gear in recent weeks with the addition of its new engine, a Mercedes OM606 diesel. Now, for the uninitiated this might seem like a slightly strange choice, particularly when you consider the merits of more conventional engine swaps, or even Rover’s own, stolid, Buick sourced V8. But then we’ve never been about convention here at Retropower, all the more so when you consider the worth of the big Stuttgart six-pot. 

“I’d wanted a decent 4×4 a few years before I started this project, though I was initially drawn towards Japanese offerings because of their reliability. Trouble was, anything I could comfortably afford was tired and deathly slow, neither of which exactly appealed! I wound up buying a Mk1 Land Rover Discovery, but it was rusty. Really rusty.”

It didn’t take long for Nat to come to the conclusion that if he was destined to spend untold hours welding up acres of British four-wheel drive it might as well be the model he actually wanted, the first gen Range Rover. The example he eventually settled upon was rotten, albeit not as rotten as the Discovery, and he therefore set about stripping to down to its component parts.

Nat was then free to give the shell his full attention. Rot had run rampant through pretty much every area of the Classic, so much so that pretty much all metal from the middle of the doors downwards eventually had to be replaced. It was a long-winded process, one not helped by the poor fit and quality of some of the repair sections purchased, almost all of which had to be extensively modified before fitment. 

The shell and chassis, the latter actually from a ’98 Disco, were then blasted and, in a further nod towards enhanced anti-corrosion, zinc metal sprayed.

The decision to plump for an OM606, complete with Holset HX35 turbo, obviously dictated the choice of transmission, Nat opting to go for the proven AMG ML55 autobox. This in itself had a bearing on other aspects of the drive train, namely the transfer box (actually an LT230) and LSD centre differential. This is connected to the Mercedes gearbox by means of an adaptor plate from Red Winches. 

The OM606 has only just been craned into position, and already Nat is pondering its replacement.

“I’m considering swapping it for the OM613, the common rail Mercedes diesel, if and when the suitable ECU ‘hack’ becomes available…and if I just don’t get along with diesel power, then I’ll rip it out and got for an LS motor of some kind.”

Sending upwards of 300bhp through the axles of a late ‘70s Range Rover will clearly ask some rather difficult questions of its standard, BL era axles. If Nat does opt to go down the LS route, then said axles really will be all out of ideas and will be replaced, most likely those from a ‘Snatch’ Land Rover. 

As for the colour the Classic now sports, well, that’s actually the same shade of Opalescent Gunmetal – the very same shade as used on the Jaguar XJC ‘430’ project! 

“I’m planning on keeping it very simple in terms of exterior styling, in fact the only real changes will be OEM in nature; I’ll be ‘backdating’ the front end, fabricating some steel bumpers and fitting the steel slat style grille from the series one Range Rover. I’ll also eventually delete all the exterior body mouldings to give a cleaner overall appearance.”

While still some way off being required, Nat’s already decided on the wheels he’ll ultimately run – 8x18in ‘Boost’ alloys, optional extras on up-spec Land Rover Defenders. You know the kind, the ones commonly seen in central London and never likely to cross a muddy field, much less a hill. 

We’ll keep you posted as to Nat’s progress as the build takes shape. 


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