Rare Rides: The SUV Oddity Which is a 1998 Laforza

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the suv oddity which is a 1998 laforza

Which SUV looked like a 1995 Range Rover at its debut in 1984, but was less reliable and more expensive?

Why, it’s a Laforza of course.

The Laforza story began with Magnum. The Magnum was the idea of Italian coachbuilder Rayton Fissore, a brand created in 1976 as an offshoot of the Fissore coachworks that built things like the Monteverdi High Speed. One of the brothers who founded Fissore had an enterprising daughter who wanted to go her own way and create her own car firm.

Rayton Fissore’s donor platform was a spartan utility vehicle designed for military and police purposes. The chassis the Magnum used was a shortened version of a military truck eventually known as the Iveco VM 90. Rayton handed the project to automotive designer Tom Tjaarda at Pininfarina. Tom filled the Magnum to the brim with fine leather and wood, and large engines for luxury customers. In what surely was a cost-saving ploy, the front and rear differentials, suspension, and braking system for the Magnum were pulled directly from the Iveco truck. Rayton created a new construction technique for the Magnum: UNIVIS. A square tube structure was bolted to the chassis with 10 rubber mountings. Engines were various, and sourced from Lancia, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ford, General Motors, and VM Motori. Displacement ranged from two to six liters.

Displayed in Europe for summer of 1984, the Rayton Fissore Magnum began production in 1985. Slowly but surely, Magnum thrust toward the United States. By the time it arrived in 1988, it was called Laforza.

United States versions utilized reinforced cross members in the frame, and an engine familiar to domestic buyers — the 5-liter Ford 302 from an F-150. Paired to an AOD automatic transmission, selectable four-wheel drive was present on all examples. US-compliant lamps front and rear meant there was a slight restyling to the bumpers. American versions also received a different dash, and revised seating surfaces.

Changes to Laforza were slow (just like sales). In 1995 a GT version was available, with the 5-liter V8 from the Mustang GT. Some examples had a larger 5.8-liter under hood, and a supercharger was added here and there. A refresh in 1998 updated the visuals and added additional modern niceties inside, but the body remained the same. The final run of vehicles sometimes used a supercharged 6-liter GM Vortec V8, and were known as the Magnum Edition. US-bound examples were shipped from the production line in Cherasco, Italy, and finished in Brighton, Michigan.

Today’s Rare Ride is a refreshed Laforza from 1998. Featuring the supercharged GM 6-liter V8 and 52,000 miles on the odometer, it sold at Sotheby’s in Fort Lauderdale in April 2018. For $4,125.

[Images: RM Sotheby’s]

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2 of 21 comments
  • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Jun 17, 2019

    Someone suffered through 52,000 miles in that interior? They have my utmost respect and admiration.

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jun 17, 2019

    it looks like this GM motor has a supercharger because that's a Vortec aftercooler setup I remember reading the Car&Driver article on the Laforza in the mid 80s.I really liked the interior styling then and still do now. Very Maserati