By on April 18, 2010

True confession: I finally got stumped. It went by in front of me at the intersection, and I wasn’t really paying attention. A big bland boxy SUV; my subconscious identifying mechanism probably categorized it as a gen 2 Trooper. But then it rejected that, and sent a message back saying that impression didn’t fit with the memory banks, and I should wake up and notice what just drove by. Upon doing that, my only response was “that doesn’t belong here”. Well, it does, but it didn’t just then, in the momentary blank spot I was drawing. How about you?

Well, That wasn’t going to do, so I whipped across the empty right lane, turned and followed it. And when the Laforza name popped into view, I still couldn’t properly explain it to Stephanie. I knew it was an Italo-American project, conceived in the height of the SUV fever, and the 5 Liter badge meant that Windsor’s finest was under the hood. But did they really sell this thing here? Stephanie gave me that look reserved for senior moments. This is not the walking encyclopedia she’s used to. Time to put me out to pasture.

Well, the Laforza wasn’t exactly mainstream. It started life as the Rayton Fissore Magnum 4×4 shown in Turin in 1985.  Designed by Tom Tjaarda, who penned that more famous Italo-American project, the Pantera, and based on an IVECO 4×4 military truck chassis, the Laforza combined hard core underpinnings with a handsome and plush body to compete against the Range Rover. Remarkably, it was federalized and sold on and off in small numbers for a number of years here, from 1989 through 2003, or whenever they finally got rid of the last of them.

Later versions had the 185 hp Ford replaced with various high-powered Ford and Chevy supercharged engines, in an effort to justify the $60k and up prices being asked. Apparently it has a very nice hand-stitched Italian interior. If I ever see it again, I will verify that. And know instantly what it is.

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23 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: The Force Is Not With Me...”

  • avatar

    Looks like a Gen 1 Explorer made love to a Gen 1.5 Caravan.

    Their progeny makes this Catholic rethink the Pro-Choice arguments.

  • avatar

    To me it looks like an early VW Golf that got raised up.

    See the resemblance:

  • avatar

    Reminds of the first-generation Mazda MPV.

    Which was, by the way, a bad car.

    • 0 avatar

      There are surprising and large numbers of first generation MPV’s around Vancouver, so they must have been good enough to keep running.

      This is off-topic, but I appreciated the original MPV’s 4wd version, with skid plates, raised suspension and a locking low range. A few of them even had manual transmissions. But they never caught on as suv competitors, and weren’t as minvanish as the other minivans.

  • avatar

    There are a few of them on the streets here in Denver.


  • avatar

    I see these occasionally on eBay. My only thought is, “Hmmmmmmmmmm, yes the mechanical parts are plentiful but you’d really have to love these suckers to want to keep one going.” You know trim pieces and if you had to redo the seats and the like. This ain’t like an old Northstar Caddy where the junk yards and internet is full of parts.

  • avatar

    Thought something sounded familiar: Ed mentioned the Laforza in a piece he wrote last fall.

  • avatar

    “…based on an IVECO.”

    Chap in Concord, CA. bought the Iveco straight truck with a 20-foot or so box in back for hauling (medium-duty truck) cheap due to the diesel engine with a thrown rod.

    Yanking the engine and tranny and replacing both with a 305 GMC V-8 and auto tranny, fabricating brackets and using a driveshaft shop to alter a drive shaft to hook up the tranny to the Iveco rear-end the cobbled together affair functioned in a mighty fine manner!!!!

    I was impressed.

    Heck, I have trouble finding a nut to fit a bolt at the hardware store.

    Oh the power of the arc welder.

    Of course, the inevitable occurred.

    Finely functioning vehicle loaned to a friend moving household goods during a residence move.

    Friend’s wife driving from point A to B, observed the red warning dash light so sped up to get there sooner.

    Oil leak led to massive internal friction and a ruined engine.

    Iveco parked awaiting future transplant.

    Female still insists she is the equal in all ways, if not superior, to males.

    I remain single and devoid of the many headaches possessed by males burdened by broads.

    There’s a moral in here somewhere.


  • avatar

    I’m just impressed that, when you saw something you couldn’t immediately identify, you decided to follow it, photograph it and wound up gathering that much information. That and it seems that Stephanie is far cooler and more patient than nearly all of the women I’ve been out with.

  • avatar

    To me it looks like what the touraeg would have been if they designed and built it in the early 90’s. Especially those tailights.

  • avatar

    There are a few of these in the DC area, and I still see one from time to time. The Forza is not just a nice looking SUV, it is an interesting size. It looks like a 3/4 scale Land Rover. I chatted with an owner once (yeah, I followed him into a parking lot and asked him about it), and he said the 5.0 was a good engine for that vehicle. He also said that the sunroof was constantly breaking down and getting stuck open–apparently this is a known Achilles heel of the Forza.

  • avatar

    There is one of these in my area. The interior appears to be a “wiring job in progress” but the car moves a lot.

    Never saw a second one.

  • avatar

    It looks too much like the child of a Chevy Blazer and 1st generation Kia Sportage to be considered exotic to me. If he told me that this was an early Toyota RAV4 prototype, I would have believed him.

  • avatar

    These people were simply ahead of their time. In 1985 the U.S. market wasn’t quite ready for the idea of an unreliable European truck mated with an old American engine, hidden under beautiful leather, offered for an outrageous price. But just a couple of years later, greed was good and Range Rover found all the suckers Laforza missed.

    • 0 avatar

      I was living in the Bay Area when these dropped. There were a couple parked on the Apple lot every day. As well as Range Rovers.

      ‘Natch Jobs was parking his Benz right up front, in the handicapped spot.

  • avatar

    the back looks like a large Yugo.

    To insult me, one of my nephews once called me a Yugo

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Wow, never heard of that one before.

    If you really gotta have one, there seems to be a nice example on eBay right now:

  • avatar

    Interesting, never knew it was a Tjaarda design. But it makes sense. It has a sort of timeless Italian elegance to it, at the same time it looks slighty anodyne, generic and watered out. It looks decicedly Italian, but witouth the masters touch. I always thought it was Giugiaro derived, but perhaps something farmed out on the cheap to the IDEA institute.

  • avatar

    I saw one of these in the parking lot of a McDonalds in Lincoln, NH and I was like what? A bloated yugo?

  • avatar

    Rayton Fissore, who made the car originally under the name of Rayton Fissore Magnum, is also one of Italys many and numerous coachbuilders. In the same time, late 80’s, they made the conversion of the Alfa Romeo 75 sedan into a station wagon, called 75 Sportwagon. And I was always impressed with the clean looks and steallar craftsmanship. It doesn’t look like a coachbuilt aftermarket conversion, it looks ike it was designed as such from start. It was good enough to be presented as an official Alfa Romeo, but I don’t know how many that was built, if any. I guess the market really wasn’t ready then for a premium lifestyl vehicle.

  • avatar

    I’ve only seen one in real life but they do seem to show up on eBay quite regularly. I suppose its for the person who wants something that will drain their wallet and a Range Rover is just too common.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen 1 or 2 of these in person. They resemble SUVs from video games like Grand Theft Auto.

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