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BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Retro

Restomod of the week: Chieftain's 700bhp Range Rover Extreme

Sacrilege, or a super-cool piece of engineering?

  • What is it?

    Instant polariser, is what it is. The Chieftain Extreme is a two-door Range Rover Classic in running spikes: lowered, side-piped and completely unapologetic. Even in two-tone retro Bahama Beige. There’s more than just a failed air suspension under here though: Chieftain build some of the nicest restomod Range Rover Classics out there, so the Extreme is a kind of logical, 700bhp demonstration of what can be achieved if you really want to annoy owner’s clubs. It’s basically an SVR wearing grandad’s plus-fours and cloth cap.

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  • Who builds it?

    A company called Jensen International Automotive (JIA), which - unsurprisingly - tends to more commonly specialise in the re-birthing of classic Jensens. The team branched out with a sideline in Range Rover Classics which has become the Chieftain brand. Remarkably pragmatic in their approach, the team at JIA have pretty realistic expectations: “We recognise that some of the greatest classics fail to fulfil their promises in the context of modern life, so our core aim is to exceed those expectations and deliver something really remarkable for those clients fortunate enough to be able to realise their dreams.”

    Which translated basically means: ‘We realise cool old things can actually be a bit rubbish, so we can sort them if you have the spare cash.'

  • What’s been done to it?

    What’s not been done to it is probably more relevant. Take it as read that there’s been a full body restoration, surgical interior re-trim and general bone-deep fettle. But the Extreme sits on a completely new re-worked chassis (as do all Chieftain RRCs, to be fair), features brand new fully-independent suspension instead of the wobbly live axles, AP Racing braking system and other fairly hardcore bits. Including, first and foremost, a GM 6.2-litre supercharged LS3 V8, 8-speed ‘box and the all-important all-wheel drive. There’s some 700bhp lurking under that bonnet, so this is kind of like a Bowler without the ‘cage and tendency to point towards Dakar.

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  • How many are being built?

    As many as are ordered. But one would assume this is a fairly niche market.

  • Is it fast?

    Yes. Both in terms of physics and especially in the context of 1970s Range Rovers. There don’t appear to be official figures for the Extreme, but Chieftain publishes numbers for the ‘standard’ uncharged LS3 with 430bhp. They run to 5.2 seconds 0-60mph and 130+mph top end. The Extreme would probably hit the low 4s, with 150mph possible, though with the aerodynamics of an oil rig, you’d probably be best not to play fast and loose with the autobahn speed games.

  • How much does it cost?

    Again, no official figures, and as with any of these restomods, the cost is relevant to the relationship between your wallet and imagination. If you want a ballpark, you can play on chieftainrangerover.com where the configurator will tell you that a basic Chieftain borne from a ‘90s LSE (like the one pictured) would start at £147,500 (+VAT). Imagine upwards from that. Now imagine some more. Keep going.

  • Why should I care about it?

    Because this is one of those cars that seems to completely polarise those that see it. Is it super cool or utterly bereft of sense? We quite like it simply because it’s a pot-stirrer. Hard to be unmoved though.

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  • Can you tell me one interesting fact about it?

    The people at JIA/Chieftain are proper gearheads. If you trawl the website and have a look at www.jensen-sales.com/special-projects, there’s a render of what a Jensen shooting brake could look like, if you had the money and inclination. This, somehow, bodes well for whatever it is they get involved in…

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