Twenty-five years ago, Land Rover wanted to make a splash with the launch of the 1990 Model Year Range Rover in North America. It came up with the idea of crossing the Great Divide – the line of peaks along the Rocky Mountains that splits the country.
Fast forward to 2014 and the Range Rover has come on quite a bit. It’s a much more luxurious and refined vehicle but does it still have the off-road credentials? Land Rover believes it has so decided to re-create that original crossing of the Great Divide as closely as possible – 1,000 miles of the toughest terrain with a fleet of nine 2014 Range Rovers. The cars had no special modifications and keeping them company was a Range Rover classic, a replica of the original expedition cars.
The iconic Great Divide route is made up of some of the most challenging unpaved roads and 4×4 trails in North America, following a line of high peaks along the main range of the Rocky Mountains. Throughout the trip, drivers and passengers had to navigate narrow rocky trails with steep drop-offs and mountain passes at altitudes of over 4,000 metres.
Back in 1989, Land Rover North America hooked up with a young off-road enthusiast called Tom Collins. He planned the route for Land Rover’s Great Divide Expedition across the toughest sections of the Continental Divide in Colorado. 25 years later, Tom was back on the trail, leading Land Rover’s commemorative 25th anniversary expedition. Here, ‘T.C.’ talks about some of the highlights:
“Some of the trails I haven’t been back to since ’89, but not too much has changed. These are still some of the most challenging unpaved roads and 4×4 trails in America.
“It’s not possible to follow the original route exactly. Battle Pass in Wyoming got paved over pretty much straight after we finished in ’89, and part of the trail through Rollins Pass in Colorado used to include an old railway tunnel, which has since collapsed and has never been repaired.
“On the first day, we are going straight into the 12,800-foot Red Cone Pass that crosses the Continental Divide. It has a really tough approach – the instructors will be spotting the vehicles all the way, it’s spectacular. There’s also Mosquito Pass, at 13,188 feet, it’s the highest through-road in America and it leads you into Leadville. Add to those, Black Bear Pass heading to Telluride on the last day, which is just the most breathtaking, memorable way to end the expedition.
“For the 1989 expedition, we took nine 1990 Range Rover vehicles, specially-equipped with winches and expedition roof racks. For this 25th anniversary expedition, we’ll be driving a caravan of nine stock, straight out of the showroom 2014 Range Rover vehicles. What’s going to be fun is seeing the reaction of customers as they drive these totally stock 2014 Range Rover vehicles on some of the 12,000-foot high mountain shelf roads that are not much wider than the vehicles themselves.
“After long days on the trail, our guests will be staying at places like One Ski Place in Breckenridge, the historic Hotel Jerome in Aspen and the Hotel Madeline in Telluride. There will be one night under the stars, camping on a private 1,000-acre ranch at the foot of the Collegiate Peaks in Vista, Colorado.
Motoring journalist Jack R Nerad was on both the original Great Divide drive 25 years ago and the 2014 re-enactment. Click here for his fascinating story.
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