What is it?
It’s the latest addition to the ever increasing ranks of restomod machines, but in this case, it’s one with an off-roading twist. Designed and developed by Jensen International Automotive (JIA), the small Oxfordshire firm better known for its exquisite updates of the Interceptor and FF, this is the classic Range Rover-based Chieftain.
In truth, this isn’t the company’s first crack at a reimagined Range Rover. A few years ago, it created the original Chieftain, which was essentially a classic body grafted onto a Land Rover Discovery 3 chassis. While it looked the part and went well, the whole transformation proved too complicated and eye-wateringly expensive (think £250,000 before you’ve started to get carried away with extras) to make it viable.
So after a bit of head scratching, JIA came up with an all-new version. Essentially, it retains the same raw ingredients - a classic Rangie donor car, the adoption of a muscular General Motors V8 (in this case, a 430bhp 6.2-litre LS3 mated to six-speed auto and the existing all-wheel drive complete with dual-range transfer case and limited-slip diffs) and some subtle enhancements inside and out that aim to make it as easy to live with and reliable as a modern.
Unlike before, the latest car retains the ladder-frame chassis (albeit a new one), but now with its own fully independent, double-wishbone suspension that gives a fractionally wider track. This has been achieved by cutting the ends off the original live axles, but retaining the differentials, to which are attached new driveshafts, while the coil-sprung suspension (with adjustable Spax dampers) then hangs off bespoke and beautifully fabricated pick-ups that are mounted to the existing chassis.
Currently, JIA is basing its conversions on the later, early-1990s ‘Soft Dash’ cars, as these deliver the best mix of modernity and retro appeal, plus they tend to come with all the ‘latest’ luxuries and safety aids, such as air conditioning and airbags. As with any restomod, the sky can be the limit when it comes to specification and our long-wheelbase LSE-based example is testament to that, featuring unique GRP front and rear bumpers, LED headlights and Compomotive wheels that give it a more menacing look than the original.
Climb aboard and the interior is a nicely balanced mix of old and new, that soft-touch dashboard delivering ergonomics that aren’t anywhere near as much of a disaster as the earlier cars, while the driving position benefits from the inclusion of a rake-adjustable column on this later car - although the sunroof eats into head room. Fresh hand-stitched leather covers the seats and steering wheel, there are new thick pile carpets and a refreshed headlining, and the wood trim is revived. There’s also plenty of space to lounge around in this LSE, while the trademark split tailgate opens to reveal a sizable boot. This is a practical indulgence.