By on August 19, 2019

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]

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29 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Very Expensive Luxury SUVs From 1990...”

  • avatar

    Burn Laforza. Exotic to no end: not very good looking, packing a plain jane small block Ford. Who cares?

    Buy: LR. I feel competent enough mechanically to keep one of these going, and from what I can tell they’re actually not bad to drive in modern traffic once things are sorted. Awesome beach cruiser for the Outer Banks.

    Drive: Jeep Very cool cars, again, the perfect rig to take out onto the beach with family, dogs in the back. But I think just too old fashioned to want to drive every day.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Buy: the Grand Wagoneer. Proof that North America (and AMC) could build vehicles as good as those anywhere. Is it time to re-introduce the Grand Wagoneer badge? Does FCA have a vehicle that deserves that name?
    Drive: The Range Rover: Ever since watching Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan) drive her Range Rover over to Lovejoy’s (Ian McShane) antique shop, I have associated the Range Rover with classy beauty.
    Burn: The Laforza. No reason except it is the one leftover.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Buy: Jeep, for whatever reason they are classy and have aged very well. I would rock one today with no qualms other than the unabashed thirst for fuel the 360 CID under the hood has. My in-laws had one, and wow, 9 MPG was all it would do.

    Drive: Range Rover, though if stereotypes are valid, you won’t be driving it long or just straight to your favorite indie LR/Jag facility.

    Burn: LaForza, never seen one in real life. All I see is pending ‘yard-art’.

    • 0 avatar

      If is any indication, the Grand Wagoneer still brings the money in good condition. I think it still looks good. I agree with Arthur Dailey, surprised FCA hasn’t rolled this out again.

  • avatar

    Buy: Jeep. Not only does it have brand recognition but it is truly capable.
    Drive: Laforza. Granted that it has a Ford engine but it as true military chops under that body.
    Burn: Rover. It’s reliability is infamous despite its predecessors’ military history as a re-bodied American Jeep. They took a great idea and improved on it but then chose some of the worst engines available.

  • avatar

    I could flip flop between the Jeep and Laforza for buy/drive, but the Rover will burn itself for you.

    • 0 avatar

      I admire the Rover for its early implementation of Voice Controls. Of course, since it was an early system, the commands were limited, but it performed the “Sit”, “Stay” and “Play Dead!” functions very well!

  • avatar

    One of my favorite vehicles of all time, and one of my least. The Grand Wagoneer is so buy-worthy that two different companies (that I know of) are currently reconditioning them and selling them for $75k+. If I had a five-car garage, a Grand Wagoneer from Wagonmasters would fill the “exotic” spot. My best memories as a kid involved taking ours to some sandy beach on the Cape. Sigh.

    Range Rover is still drive-worthy, if only because it can get you over some serious terrain in style before it explodes. I drove ours up a 30-degree mud incline off a riverbank in Vermont one year after rescuing our dog from the river, and it didn’t even blink. Of course, the radiator overheated as soon as I left the animal hospital.

    If you hadn’t told me that the Laforza wasn’t an Isuzu Trooper I wouldn’t have known.

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Buy: Grand Wagoneer. I like these, but I would buy one for the sole purpose of flipping it. A buddy just bought one for $8k, and while he plans to keep it, he could put a little money and TLC in it and sell it for anywhere from 3-10x what he paid. These things have a dedicated cult following, particularly among the seriously wealthy (as in “we don’t talk about money” type of wealthy)

    Drive: Laforza. Just for the weirdness. I’ve never heard of these before.

    Burn: Range Rover. Any RR actually. Couldn’t give me one of these wallet vampires.

  • avatar

    Burn the Laforza: It looks like an “anonymous” car from advertising stock. Just nothing to see here.

    Buy: Range Rover. I have an irrational love of these awful things that stems from a brief encounter with a 2000 Discovery 2. I will have an LR or RR one day, I just don’t know when that will be.

    Drive: Jeep Really, I can go either way with drive/buy between this and the Rover. I never loved these when they were out there new, but there’s definitely a nostalgia aspect for it now. Jeep is stupid simple compared with the Rover and could be driven forever. The Wagonmasters redo always intrigued me. Put a new 5.7 V8 from FCA in it or even a damn Pentastar and drive on. Anywhere.

  • avatar

    Can’t add much to what’s already been said.

    Buy: Jeep. It would retain its value better than any of the other three. Also the cheapest and easiest to fix if something goes wrong. I think!

    Drive: Range Rover – because Range Rover and my weakness for British vehicles; even ones boasting Lucas Fuel Injection.

    Burn: Laforza. It looks like an inflated Yugo.

  • avatar

    Burn, crush, and melt everything that is not a Jeep. Keep the Jeep because it is a real Jeep product and will get you there and back even on a rainy day. The Range Rover likes its feet dry and the other one? Who cares.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Jeep- You know what your getting since it’s been around since 1963 as a Kaiser Jeep with periodic updates. They were always the king of horse country for years until the Range Rover came back to the states. We did get the Land Rover Series II at BL dealers until the mid 70’s.

    Drive: Range Rover-Sure it’s reliability is an issue but the Buick/Oldsmobile 215 is a nice motor.

    Burn: Laforza.-You can’t go wrong with the Ford 5.0 but the rest of it seems like sketchy coach building. Fun fact: Kevin Bacon and his wife owned one.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    You know, I’m gonna drive the Laforza. If it’s based off an IVECO chassis the running gear should be stout enough to let me seriously build the Ford Small Block and have an interesting sleeper. Coach built interior = easy to do a full custom interior to update it.

    Buy the Jeep. Duh, it will nbever go down in value.

    Burn the Range Rover. If you don’t, it’s just gonna burn you in the wallet.

  • avatar

    Wow, this one is easy:

    Buy the Wagoneer – ancient or not still desirable today

    Drive the Range Rover – stand out at the country club and someone else can deal with the quality nightmare that it is/was

    Burn the Laforza with the purifying flames of fire because it is a bastard stepchild of a vehicle with Italian quality

  • avatar

    Buy the Jeep. We had a really nice ’78 throughout most of my childhood, and I had a lot of fun learning to drive with a beater ’80.

    Drive the Land Rover.

    Burn the weird one with the Plymouth Voyager front clip.

  • avatar

    The result will be that they’ll all burn, anyway, so you might as well speed up the process.

    Drive the LaForza and it will burn in traffic like any other Italian car.
    Buy the RR, because it seems like a cool bit of aristocratic history, but then burn it in a rage after it breaks again for the eighth time in three months.
    Burn the Jeep to start because the world already has no shortage of asthmatic smoke-belching carbureted 360s and chintzy fake wood trim.

  • avatar

    Buy Grand Wagoneer and sell it for what you paid for it 30 years later (as long as you had it oil coated). Stately old girls.

    Drive LaForza because of the cheap Ford bones and potential to upgrade/hot rod it if everything goes to heck.

    Burn the RR because it will be cheaper in the long run than than trying to keep it on the road.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      Some of the original full-time Quadra-Trac versions in the 70’s had a 4LO Open setting that did not lock the center LSD, thus allowing it to be driven on dry pavement. I believe our ’78 had five modes: 4WD Hi Locked, 4WD Hi Open, Neutral, 4WD Low Open, and 4WD Low Locked.

      Our ’80 was just a basic part-time 4WD system. The ’90 probably was too.

    • 0 avatar

      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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