Buy/Drive/Burn: Very Expensive Luxury SUVs From 1990

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Our last couple of Buy/Drive/Burn posts covered two different flavors of compact Japanese SUVs from the 1990s. Today we branch out and review larger, luxury-oriented SUVs hailing from places other than Japan.

Twelve miles per gallon? That’s plenty.

Rayton Fissore Laforza

Our most exotic competitor comes first today. As covered in Rare Rides previously, the Laforza was first available in the United States in 1988. Called Magnum elsewhere, the Laforza was based on the military-spec Iveco VM 90 truck. Manufacturer Rayton Fissore loaded the Magnum with Italian leather and wood paneling, swapping smaller European-spec engines for a familiar 5.0-liter Ford (302) for Americans. The AOD transmission sends power to a selectable four-wheel drive system. It’s expensive and exotic, and you’ll be the only one with a Laforza at the golf club. Have it serviced wherever your maid takes the Sable wagon.

Land Rover Range Rover

The Range Rover was well-developed by 1990, having started production back in 1970. British Leyland planned to introduce the Range Rover to North America at the beginning of its life, but they were too poor. However, that didn’t stop some dealers in Los Angeles from peddling Range Rovers to eager customers in Orange County and Hollywood in the early Eighties. In 1984, Aston Martin started selling them in Connecticut. The Rover Group was back in England getting their act together, and when Lucas fuel injection replaced the old carbs, the Range Rover suddenly became U.S.-compliant. It launched in the spring of 1987, and a year later some 65 Range Rover dealers served American customers. For 1990, the 3.5-liter Rover V8 increased in size to 3.9 liters. The robust Range Rover will get you to and from the horse paddock more than two of the five times you attempt the journey.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

The elder statesman and traditionalist option brings up the rear of today’s trio. Not known for excessive flash, Kaiser Jeep began production of the Wagoneer in 1963. That company folded into to American Motors in 1971, which improved and added luxury and refinement over time. AMC brought a new Grand Wagoneer to life in 1984. Chrysler took over the reins in 1988, continuing production through 1991. Unlike the other two, the Grand Wagoneer had full-time Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive — no bothering with selectors. Fit and finish increased for the final three years of production, and there was even a standard remote control for keyless entry. The venerable 360 V8 was the only engine available, and wood exterior trim was non-negotiable. The Grand Wagoneer hauls the family with just the right amount of American pretension.

Three big, thirsty luxury trucks from the dawn of the luxury truck era. Which goes home with the Buy?

[Images: seller, seller, seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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4 of 29 comments
  • Tstag Tstag on Aug 19, 2019

    Buy the classy Range Rover Use the Jeep as firewood to burn the La Forza because it looks awful and the Jeep should be designed to burn with its faux wood doors. Drive home in the Range Rover knowing that the Buick/ Rover V8 was one of the best engines ever made.

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 19, 2019

    Every Range Rover ever made is full-time 4wd, there is a selector for high-low/diff lock but no option for 2wd. And it is one of very few 4x4s that can run low range on dry pavement - can the Jeep do that too? Anyway, I agree with the consensus. Buy the Jeep, drive the Rover, kill that abomination with fire. I own the Range Rover Classics homely, cheaper, but more practical stepsister, the Discovery I. Same basic chassis, identical mechanicals to a coil-sprung Range Rover, just with a bigger, more practical, and rather more modern body bolted on top. I've had it three years and have had very few issues with it. Rare base stickshift/no sunroof truck. It is surprisingly good to drive other than laughably undersized non-vented disk brakes. I had a P38a Range Rover previously (one generation newer than this one), which also treated me pretty well but the sheer number of *possible* expensive dilemmas (that mostly never happened) on that truck gave me a nervous twitch, and when I found the holy grail stickshift Disco I sold it on.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Aug 21, 2019

      My ex-stepmother had one of the very first Euro-spec Discoveries built. Three-door, stick shift, carbureted 3.5 V8. teal on blue mouse fur interior. It was a reliability and maintenance nightmare from start to finish, and the carbureted engine was awful, but I still have some memories from that truck.

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