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When I purchased my $450 1989 Range Rover, the original dashboard was in rough condition and needed parts and repair. Since this vehicle was intended to by an overlander and a field research vehicle, I had decided to fabricate a new dash with exhaust tubing and MDF and fiberglass, rather than source the missing and broken parts. I had experimented with several design ideas and settled on something simple but functional. The most difficult part was engineering vents for the front window defrost that didn't look homemade. As I wrestled with that final issue for a short time, I discovered the 1995 soft dash Range Rover in one of my magazines.  As an old custom stereo installer I had worked with all dashboard types (and had done my fair share of insurance dash repair/replacements) and really appreciated the ergonomics and quality of the nineties Honda and Toyota designs. The Range Rover soft dash had many comparable design features that I valued and I thought it would make the perfect foundation for a functional custom dashboard. I was in Uganda at the time, but I started searching craigslist in the US for a decent one, not realizing how uncommon they were, particularly in the States. Surprisingly, it was only a matter of weeks before I found one about 120 miles from my home in Washington State. A complete 1995 Range Rover, totaled from an engine bay fire, with no engine or transmission. Everything else but the hood, fuel pump, center console, and upper/lower tailgate were still there and in extraordinary condition (I did not know this at the time). During a layover in Nairobi on my way back home, I negotiated a deal at a restaurant bar at the Jomo Kenyatta airport. I picked up the '95 just two days later, for a cool $400. It turned out to be quite an ordeal as it was in a barn up a muddy slope and the seller had an injured arm and could not help much at all. He had me use his tractor (which I had no experience driving) to get the rover down the slope and onto my trailer. I wasn't going to be deterred. Once secured on the trailer, I towed it home in the blowing snow with my trusty P38 without any further incident.

The next day revealed a beautiful factory arctic white 1995 LWB Range Rover. Though, all of the electrical in the engine compartment was destroyed in the fire, the body panels were all straight and the paint was exceptional. Sadly, at the time, there were so many Classics that were getting junked it didn't seem worthwhile to save this one, particularly because it would have needed an entire new harness from the cowl forward. In retrospect this one was an ideal candidate for restoration and I regret not saving it, but I didn't see it at the time. I also had an '88 that should have been restored too--I couldn't give that one away. Seriously. Anyway, I stripped the '95 of everything that I could use for my '89. I harvested the 24 spline axles, spindles, swivel balls, all the brake components, body panels (nothing common to my ’89 except the rear corners and front grill), and on an on. I even tried to remove the perfect factory heated windshield (not compatible with non-soft dash) to sell. My friend correctly informed me that they were rare and therefore valuable. Unfortunately my skills were not up to the task and I cracked the glass while trying to separate it from the adhesive. Nowadays, that egregious error could be classified as a legitimate crime, as you cannot buy a new one here in the States. The next task was to remove the entire interior. I had no interest in anything apart from the dash and door panels, but I surgically removed everything for the sake of preservation. Maybe I would find someone interested in the pristine seats. I even carefully extracted all of the electronics and wiring, which I happily would later exploit to maintain factory consistency.  I knew the front glass was different than my ’89, but I was not expecting the firewall to be as well. I was shocked to find that LR had changed the sheet metal for a half production year (I think 2 in the European market), prior to the release of a complete redesign. This required more work than I had anticipated, but once again I refused to be deterred. What follows are a few photos and description of the work. Unfortunately, I lost most of my pictures in a hard-drive mishap. Fortunately I was able to rescue some low quality versions of my pictures from this project from another forum, who has since purged my threads from their system due to inactivity. I was in Uganda and Germany most of the last 10 years and had not signed in once in that time, so my account had vaporized. Anyway, I apologize for the few and poor pictures and this long intro. If I ever find a copy of my old photos from this time period I will repost. 

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This is the only picture I currently have of the '95 and sadly it is quite pixelated.

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Here the complete interior is already removed (glass still intact 😖  )

The section of the transmission tunnel was removed, as I used the location of brackets on it to align the rest of the dash because there were good reference points. The large dash support below the windshield is unique to the soft dash and Discoveries and needed to be transferred to the '89. I was quite surprised to find this  🤯      The cutouts for the pedal box, both on the left and right-hand sides also differed from the '89. Since I wanted to use the tilt steering column I decided to transfer the surrounding sheet metal too. From what I can tell in this picture, I had already started cutting the dash support. Be careful with the cutoff wheel here, as I damn near cut my thumb off!! I still have a scar from that carelessness! 

 

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Posted (edited)

Here is the '89 transmission tunnel.

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The pocket stamped in front of the transfer-case shifter is common to both vehicles and served as a great reference point from which to build.

 

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and here is the tunnel piece removed from the '95. It is difficult to see in this photo, but the very top of the depression is just below the brackets. The welded brackets are where the bottom of the center of the dashboard attach.

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Rather than transfer all of the sheet metal that I had cut out of the '95, I decided to remove the brackets and transfer them. I can see in the picture that I had changed direction on my plans, as I had already begun cutting the tunnel on the '89.

 

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Here are the brackets transferred and burned in. This was early in my welding journey and I had the electrodes wired for gas and I was using a gas nozzle. Unfortunately, I was welding outside and using flux-cored wire (gasless), so the welds were pretty rough! This photo may have been after I went back and rewelded as they look clean-ish. You can also see the repairs I had made to the aborted removal of the transmission tunnel.

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This is the outside air intake for the HVAC system in the '89. I don't think I have a better picture to show where it is located, but it is in the upper center of the firewall. This hole is not present in the '95 and needed to be removed.

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Here is a picture of the HVAC intake hole repair. I know at this point the welder was not set up correctly, which is probably why I only have pictures of the welds somewhat dressed!

 

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Another picture of the HVAC hole repair. We also see the opening for the pedal box assembly is a rectangle as opposed to the '95 in which there is a semicircle cut out added in the bottom corner to accommodate the new tilt steering column. Notice above the pedal box hole there appears to be sheet metal with relief-cuts sticking out below the windshield. This was part of the original dash support and was conveniently located for the '95 dash support. I cut off the unnecessary sections and bent it to match the contour of the new support. I drilled holes in the remainder of the old support for sheet metal screws to locate the new support prior to welding.

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Here is another picture of the modified old dash support.

 

 

Edited by RRC200Tdi
revised a detail
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52 minutes ago, Arjan said:

Good story !

The softdash was really nice....

Thank you! Yeah the two dashes are night and day, in terms of layout and simplicity. I would not enjoy replacing a heater core in a non-soft dash model!

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27 minutes ago, landroversforever said:

Always liked the soft dash Range Rovers. 

Me too--once I discovered they existed!  I wish I saved that '95, but at least the soft dash lives on in my '89

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Before I moved forward it was a good time to test fit the dash to make sure there weren't any major issues that needed addressing...

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I'm sure that was a huge day for me!

As far as I can tell in these pictures, I had not fitted the dash support on the firewall yet and I probably had not fitted any of the other mounting points yet either. Fortunately, the dash fit between the A pillars and seated well against the glass!!  😅

Although it may be starting to look like a car again, there was a long way yet to go before this dash went home for the final time (after which it still came out a few more times)

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Ahh, stop making me miss my softdash :(

10 hours ago, RRC200Tdi said:

I was shocked to find that LR had changed the sheet metal for a half production year (I think 2 in the European market), prior to the release of a complete redesign.

Most likely to keep consistency with the Discovery, whose shell was pretty much the same, and had a very similar dash after the facelift. So I'm guessing more cost saving than anything.

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40 minutes ago, elbekko said:

Ahh, stop making me miss my softdash :(

Most likely to keep consistency with the Discovery, whose shell was pretty much the same, and had a very similar dash after the facelift. So I'm guessing more cost saving than anything.

Wonder if a disco dash could be made to fit into a Classic? 

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2 hours ago, landroversforever said:

Wonder if a disco dash could be made to fit into a Classic? 

It does. There's brit down near Orgiva who does them for people, amongst other things. Loooks really good

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That is interesting.  It’s a good second best for those who can’t get a soft dash, either original or converted like in this thread.  I always though the dash let the early 90s vehicles down.

Mike at BritRest on YouTube has been working on a RRC refurbishment, and that includes taking the soft dash from a very rusty LSE.  Might be worth a watch.

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6 hours ago, landroversforever said:

Wonder if a disco dash could be made to fit into a Classic? 

Yep, I have one in mine,.. done by the previous owner, it needs re-doing and hasn't been well executed or completely finished but it does 'fit' in general quite well. I'd be  interested to see how the guy in Orgiva blends the footwell sides, the disco bits dont fit at all well there, possibly RRC original trims do but I don't have any for reference.

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This is the vehicle (in Grey), next to to a three door belonging to the author of Driving over Lemons (white)

Was a 2.5 VM, with LT77 and viscous T Box (!), in maroon

Now a 200Tdi with R380, LT230 and painted in Raptor. It's just undergone a total rebuild down to bare chassis over the last year

IMG-20210331-WA0005.jpg

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Rebuild alomst finished - I really don't like those arches, but the new wheels and tyres make it necessary.

Next job is the engineers report for the mods, so it can be MoT'd (ITV)

IMG-20210327-WA0021.jpg

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Very nice looking rig and that Dsicovery dash looks right at home! I thought I had the only exposed hinge soft dash, but I suppose I was never the first to do it so there were sure to be some out there!

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I cleaned up the noise in the photos a little, but it seems I cannot edit my previous posts at the moment. At least the photos moving forward will be slightly improved.

The next series of photos show the installation of soft dash main firewall support.

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First, the support was held in place by sheet metal screws. This accomplished two things 1) it locked the support in place for the initial test fits and welding and 2) it ensures a tight welding joint between the two pieces.

 

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a shot of the rest of the support.

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The support now welded in. This is definitely the initial welds in which I had the welder set up for shielding gas when I was using flux core wire. You can see the weld is sitting high on the joint and has poor penetration. I later cut deep into the welds and re-welded it correctly.

 

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The rest of the support. I should have used some stick-on welding paper! I eventually replaced the front windscreen as this one was already in bad shape, but the dimples caused by the welding slag didn't make any improvements.

At least the support is now permanently affixed to the firewall. Now the major work was done, it was time to tackle each one of the many little details to make the swap functional, beginning with the HVAC...

 

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 First was to cut the hole for the coolant inlet/outlet pipes for the heater core. Although it looks pretty nice, I used a holesaw to make these cuts and it was sized 1/8" too big. This ended up troubling me for years as the rubber boot kept coming unseated. I should have just transferred this bit of sheet metal from the '95. I had always intended to uses some body adhesive to seal it in place, but never did. Eventually while working on a different project I replaced this cutout with a section from my parts Discovery. I had already removed the A/C in the RRC because I incorrectly believed I didn't need one. After a couple of years in Uganda with a properly functioning A/C in our KZ-78 Land Cruiser I had seen the light and could never go back to long distance offroad travel without it. Also, my wifey indicated that she would much prefer it if my Range Rover had it. A subtle hint that she would not likely join me on my overland adventures without a cooled cockpit.  So when I replaced the sheet metal for the heater inlet/outlet opening I also transferred the opening for the A/C lines.

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This photo was taken many years later. That stud was a failed attempt at providing provisions for hanging the engine ECU loom which passed through that large hole in the firewall below the opening for the heater pipes.

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The section cut out... 

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and replaced with the sheet metal from the disco. Anway, back to the dash project.

 

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These holes were no longer functional and needed repair.

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The sheet metal for the old rectangular pedal box has now been replaced with the new opening with the cutout for the tilt steering column. I had used POR 15 for all of my base coating then top-coated it with aerosolized truck-bed liner. The brake lines are bent in all directions because I had once driven the RRC for about 125 miles without any brakes and had to make an emergency repair, temporarily installing a booster and master cylinder from a Geo Storm (IIRC these were also known as Isuzu Impulses). It was nearly a bolt-in replacement, but required a little drilling and adjustment of the brake lines. The pedal wasn't bad, but it was never good in this truck prior to the failure, so I had no basis for comparison. I eventually retrofitted the brake booster/master assembly from my donor disco years later with considerable improvement in all aspects of braking.

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Here is a picture of the right-hand side, recoated. At the time I was planning on retaining the removable panel, but I soon decided to weld in a new panel.

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Just a picture of the under-cowl area recoated. I had to make some slight modifications to the fresh air inlet the was fitted to the opening below the windshield, just some simple cuts and glueing. The last time I removed the cowl this area was dusty, but still looked freshly coated almost as you see it here. POR15 seem to hold its gloss as long is it is protected from automotive fluids and UV.

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Posted (edited)

Next, I repaired the right-side pedal-box opening.

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I then became obsessed with removing any unnecessary holes in the firewall

 

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My first target...

 

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and sorted

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I don't know how far this lunacy went as I don't have any more photos of this step in the process, but I am sure there were at least several others. As time consuming as this was, I did find it useful in terms of learning sheet metal work. It also makes for a cleaner looking firewall. Sometime down the road I would like to go back and smooth out some of the imperfections on the firewall and repair all of the unused holes in the rest of the engine compartment (there are so many in the inner wheel wells!). I am planning to pull the engine sometime to lower the mounts a tad to improve the head clearance on the firewall. I will probably make the final finishing touches on the engine bay at that time. I may also do a full size intercooler at that point as well.

 

 

Edited by RRC200Tdi
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@RRC200Tdi

don’t  kick yourself too much about scrapping range rovers , I’ve scrapped 4 including a 2 door AND a soft dash factory 300tdi ! makes me sick when ever I think back to it 🤢What was I thinking 😬

stupid stupid stupid .............

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1261916682_Picture088.jpg.fa9726d3f0b140745d5d584a61d9b935.jpg

Here is the last picture of the firewall. You can see the heater inlet/outlet pipes passing through.

 

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Here is a photo of the steering column test fit. The main mounting bracket attaches to the dash support thereby locating the rest of the bracketry. You can see the shiny bits on the lower left of the column bracket. Those are the mounting studs (with nuts) I welded to the sheet metal which form the lower mounts for the entire dashboard structure--the dash mounts to the steering column bracket which then mounts to the inner body structure and dash support. As long as the dash support is properly located, everything else should be in alignment.

 

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The HVAC fitted. With the steering and HVAC installed the project really appears to be coming together. I know all of this came back out a few more times for wiring and paint. Although I used the lower HVAC welded-mounting brackets to locate everything else, the top of the HVAC box was about 1/4" too low from where it meets the dash vent housing. It wasn't so bad that some additional adhesive foam couldn't seal the gap. I don't think the lower HVAC brackets were off enough to cause this, because this was not the case with any of the test fittings before the wiring was completely run. I think the wiring that runs atop the HVAC box was interfering with it from being fully seated up against the dash support. I might address this issue when I will anyway need to do some rewiring of a relay panel I had located next to the brake pedal, as I can no longer easily access the panel with the dash in place after I later added a clutch pedal.

 

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And the last photo from the time period of this project.

This was probably a test fit immediately following the previous photos and probably another exciting day. I can see the relay panel I just discussed, still needing to be installed and much of the wiring was still in need of attention. This pretty much concluded the fabrication portion of the project. Wiring was next.

I remember I spent about a day and a half wiring up the gauges. I had originally planned to build an instrument cluster with some aftermarket gauges as I was really after a race car look and I wanted to have a fully custom dash. However, when I reached this stage of the build, I thought it would even better if I could utilize the factory gauges and warning/status lights. The first challenge was to switch from a cable driven speedometer to an electronic transducer driven one. It turns out that it couldn't have been any easier as there was a transducer device already sending a signal to the ECU and cruise control. In the end I still replaced the old convoluted cable/transducer system with a strictly transducer unit from a Disco 1 just in case there was an issue with the signal type, which was a simple swap. Next, it was a matter testing for all of the signal inputs in the gauge cluster and all of the outputs from the '89 factory harness. The speedometer was the most challenging, since I had to drive down the road with no dash to measure which wire it was. The wiring of the steering column was pretty straight forward. I soldered all of the connections here. The HVAC was super easy, as the system just needed accessory power and ground, the rest was self contained. I decided to use the '95 fuse panel, so I took some time to solder all of that in. Unfortunately, I made most of my wiring pretty tight, which I regret today. I left a little slack for servicing, but it wasn't nearly enough. I will probably address this as well when I relocate the relay panel. The other major task at this time was rewiring the systems that require relays, such as the wipers, rear window defroster, lights and turn signals, etc... I really don't remember much about wiring these, so I presume it must have been relatively straightforward and completed in a day or less. At this stage I also wired in a nice comprehensive alarm with remote start and power window/sunroof control. My newly acquired underdash real estate quickly vanished!  I did not rewire the cruise control at this point as it seemed daunting. Some few months later a revisited the idea as I faced the consequences of this in the form of a speeding fine. My speed had crept up while I was driving and I exceeded the posted limit by 4 mph, which apparently was enough to warrant a fine 😡     I hesitated no longer and quickly worked out the wiring for the cruise control. Unfortunately, my Rangie in its current iteration no longer utilizes this modern marvel of human creative genius. I hope to someday take the time to re-incorporate a functional cruise control.

Not long after this picture was taken I had started a full time seasonal position as a Science Tech for the Department of Fish and Wildlife and had to pause any further work on the RRC. Fortunately, I had reached a good stopping point in which I could use the vehicle as it was and didn't need to make any major changes for awhile. Unfortunately, the work I was doing encouraged me to resume my studies and I immediately enrolled in a Masters program at the conclusion of summer (this is where the Rover factored in as my research vehicle), further delaying the completion of this project. Rather more unfortunately, as soon as I completed my Masters I immediately headed off to Uganda to assist my future wife with her PhD project, which then led directly to my own PhD project in Germany that continues to this day (though I am finishing up and stateside again).  The Range Rover was stored throughout this time. I had a brief break in my studies in 2015, which I used to undertake another project on this vehicle which involved that clutch I mentioned earlier, but I never fully completed the final custom fabrication work of this project, nor have I even settled on the direction I plan to go with it.

During the 2015 project I had also made some changes to my interior plans. My wife was not a big fan of my boy racer seats and I had a nice set of '95 power adjust seats lying around in storage. I wasn't really ready to sell them so I made a big decision to move away from 'raw functionality' and shift toward 'comfortable functionality', with a little elegance. I removed all of the carpet and sound deadening from my '96 Disco donor vehicle. I cleaned the carpet--it is a wonder how restorative a pressure washer can be to old stained carpet, it looks next to new now! Apart from a few fitment issues it fit well enough, though I am still trying to source a new cargo area carpet. I modified my modified seat brackets to fit the '95 seats and installed the corresponding rear seats as well. I restored the power seat switches to full functionality and now I couldn't be more pleased. One regret I have is that during the 'Raw Functionality' phase I dyed the front door panels black. My plan was truck bed liner on the floors and roof and a fully black interior, since my seat and dash were black. Well, when I transitioned to 'Comfortable Functionality' I now had very rare and nearly pristine 1995 door panels, no longer matching and ruined by black dye which makes me sick. Fortunately, I never got around to dyeing the rear doors so they remain almost perfect (these were not from the '95, I purchased them from some other Range Rover).

Here are some photos I took yesterday of the dash and interior as they are now.

 

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 I have not reinstalled any of the components in the center bezel. I am planning to do some custom fabrication when I have time and I have not settled on which type of head unit I am going to go with. Also the technology is moving so fast right now I think it is best to see what comes along. We have a 2005 Lexus GX470 which I installed a 10.2 inch tablet in and now find it alluring, but I am not sure if it would be appropriate in an overlander that will likely see some rough environmental conditions. 

 

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Another shot of the dash. The pictures don't really do the seats justice they look a lot nicer in real life.

 

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Seat switches are restored, but I the top panels are from the Discovery. I will eventually sort them out.

 

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I thought I might get questions from the other photos about this center console so I took a picture of it. I don't remember the impetus for building it. I guess it was intended to be some sort of command center where I had my GPS and all of my 12 volt accessory connections. I remember one reason I constructed it though, I didn't have any cup holders and as a North American I needed cup holders! I later had to make some improvised modifications with a sawzall to accommodate my later project (I guess the left two Autometer gauges and LT77 shifter arrangement reveal the nature of said later project). It looks like I might have had a bolt-on top panel at some point, but I have no memory of it.  

 

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Here is a picture of the rear seats from the '95. Again the picture does not do them justice. The rear door panel shown in this picture was pristine before the latch on the rear seat caught it once, but otherwise pretty nice.

Photo Mar 30, 4 29 35 PM.jpg

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2 hours ago, Ozzy50 said:

@RRC200Tdi

don’t  kick yourself too much about scrapping range rovers , I’ve scrapped 4 including a 2 door AND a soft dash factory 300tdi ! makes me sick when ever I think back to it 🤢What was I thinking 😬

stupid stupid stupid .............

"don’t  kick yourself too much about scrapping range rovers"

Thank you. Yeah, how could we have known that these neglected and forgotten vehicles were going to one day be valued again. I thought I was unique in my appreciation of them back then, but now I always receive compliments on my old worn Range Rover despite the mismatched panels and its general unkempt appearance.  Also, in the US, we had a program called 'cash for clunkers' which led to a glut of Classics in the salvage yards for a period of about a year. Some in very tidy shape even. That ended up leading to their extreme rarity we now find here in the States 😟

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9 hours ago, RRC200Tdi said:

"don’t  kick yourself too much about scrapping range rovers"

Thank you. Yeah, how could we have known that these neglected and forgotten vehicles were going to one day be valued again. I thought I was unique in my appreciation of them back then, but now I always receive compliments on my old worn Range Rover despite the mismatched panels and its general unkempt appearance.  Also, in the US, we had a program called 'cash for clunkers' which led to a glut of Classics in the salvage yards for a period of about a year. Some in very tidy shape even. That ended up leading to their extreme rarity we now find here in the States 😟

They did something similar in the UK and we lost loads of classic cars of all sorts to that :( 

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