We should have seen it coming. All those rivet-popping Defenders from the likes of Twisted, JE Motorworks and Kahn Design, made over then force-fed horsepower like corn-gorged Barbary ducks destined for the fois gras tin.
Classy overhaul of the Range Rover
Meet the Chieftain, from Banbury-based JIA: a 1993 Range Rover transposed onto a Discovery 3 chassis, restyled inside and out, and endowed with General Motors’ 6.2-litre LSA supercharged V8. That’s 556bhp, 551lb ft and 0-60mph in around 4.5sec, which is more power, more torque and more get-up-and-go than any current Range Rover, all housed in a body that’s largely as Charles Spencer King intended with his 1970 original.
Of course, that’s a huge simplification. Jensen International Automotive, to give the company its full name, has spent the past few years restoring, re-engineering and modernising 28 (and counting) Interceptors and FFs such as the Interceptor R Supercharged we sampled.
This time, it took a 2004 Discovery 3 chassis and shortened its wheelbase by 345mm to accommodate a four-door Range Rover Classic’s body frame and panels, which are affixed via custom adaptors.
GRP bumpers and side skirts embolden the exterior styling, as do chunky wheel arches to swallow the Discovery’s wider tracks, and there are bespoke, period-style 20in alloys, too. A deeply gentrified cabin – drafted by a designer of luxury yacht interiors – adds mod cons, improved ergonomics and the hides of 22 cattle. Endless wiring has been fused to integrate systems from both the donor vehicles, the engine and the six-speed GM torque converter.
Upon meeting the Chieftain, you realise how imposing it is – especially when seen parked alongside an untouched contemporary. And while it’s much smaller than a current Range Rover, the Chieftain absolutely drips with attitude.
Inside, only the rear-view mirror and column stalks are of factory spec. The original seats, passenger grab-handle and distinctive steering wheel have been upholstered in fresh, soft Bridge of Weir leather and there’s Wilton carpet underfoot, Alcantara headlining and a completely redesigned dashboard that’s also sealed with rarefied cow.
An Apple CarPlay-enabled Alpine touchscreen has been tidily integrated, while there are billet aluminium and carbonfibre panels and lovely satchel-style leather pockets dotted about, too. Lest we forget how spartan early Range Rovers were, these are all momentous upgrades. The mix of materials and shades is quite eclectic, but buyers can customise at will.