Illustration for article titled Driving ... Off-Road In A Range Rover Classic

For a true car enthusiast, few things can top the allure of an old British car. The style. The uniqueness. The allure of wind-in-your-hair motoring, even if you don’t have a convertible.

Of course, most car enthusiasts stay far away from British cars, unless “car enthusiast” is the weekend hobby and “firefighter” is the day job. That’s because old British cars tend to catch on fire, assuming you can get them started in the first place. Or, at least, that’s their reputation. I didn’t really buy it, which led me to purchase possibly the ultimate old British car: a 1995 Range Rover Classic.

Now, 1995 may sound new compared to, say, a ’66 MGB, which allows the same amount of rainwater to reach the cabin whether the top is up or down. But it’s important to remember that the Range Rover Classic was developed in the 1970s, when most problems at Solihull were addressed with: “Let’s sort it out at the pub!” This is far different from today, when it’s more like: “Let’s sort it out over a beer from the vending machine!”

Unfortunately, my Range Rover Classic held true to its reputation, as I’ve documented elsewhere. But for one glorious afternoon, I was able to enjoy it precisely where it was born to drive. No, I’m not talking about the Hamptons. I mean a series of challenging off-road trails located very close to a skilled mechanic.

It was a Saturday morning when I took the Range Rover off-roading with my friends Andrew and Sam. Our preferred trails are found in a rather dangerous, gritty neighborhood near Atlanta, the exact location of which I will keep secret for fear of discovery by the police, or worse: hipsters.

Our journey began with a steep drop into a valley comprised of 20 percent trees, 20 percent dirt, and 60 percent discarded trash. The terrain would be no problem in a modern Range Rover equipped with a fancy console-mounted switch for hill descent control, which functions primarily to absorb Starbucks spills from suburban housewives. But old ones don’t have that fancy crap: they have brakes. And not very good ones.

As a result, a firm push on the brakes meant the Rover descended the hill at approximately the speed you might go on a rural interstate in the middle of the night. Andrew and Sam were terrified by this and got out the moment we reached the bottom, continuing a tried-and-true off-roader tradition: first drive over something, then look at it. (Grunting in admiration of your accomplishment is optional, but suggested.)

We inspected the land, which primarily involved looking into the distance and trying to avoid stepping on empty beer bottles. Fortunately, we could tell the hipsters still hadn’t discovered the area, since it wasn’t craft beer.

We got back in the Range Rover and drove towards a section full of dirt ruts that were several feet high. Since my Rover had been converted from its factory air suspension to more reliable springs, we couldn’t raise its ground clearance to go over them. Instead, we just crossed our fingers and slowly took on rut after rut. Although no words were exchanged, we were all silently praying that nothing scraped the underbody, which - in the infinite wisdom of the 1970s Brits - probably contained most of the Rover’s essential components.

But we cleared the ruts unscathed, arriving next at another steep hill. This time, the hill’s angle looked too severe to attempt directly. Instead, we decided to take an alternate route which involved driving over a medium-sized tree. For the environmentalists reading this, a quick aside: during my entire time owning the vehicle, I averaged about 11 miles per gallon. The tree should be the least of your concerns.

And it was the least of ours, as the Range Rover ambled over it with ease, then (quickly) down the hill. At the bottom, we once again got out to survey the manly thing we had just accomplished. Happily, the tree had already sprung right back into its normal place among the trash. We grunted with approval.

After the hill came a wide open, flat section covered with brush, which the Range Rover again tackled with ease. While that may sound obvious, remember: we’re still talking about a British car. I had visited these same trails months earlier in an old Toyota Land Cruiser, which inspired tremendous confidence. With the Range Rover, the thinking was more along the lines of: This is really cool, and I can’t wait until it’s over.

Next up was a small pond surrounded by trees, which provided a very picturesque setting provided you could get over the smell. Fortunately, this wasn’t the smell of a British car on fire, but rather standing water that was probably infested with snakes who ate the people responsible for the beer bottles. After taking the necessary photos to remember our trip - this involved plugging our noses - we left the area and quickly found ourselves mired in a forest.

While this event is probably starting to sound like a Lord of the Rings saga, the forest eventually gave way to a clearing that led us back to paved roads. The Range Rover had survived its off-road excursion. We breathed a collective sigh of relief until we remembered: it still had to get us home. And none of us had brought a fire extinguisher.

Doug DeMuro operates and writes for The Truth About Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once used a pontoon boat to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.

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