For two decades, Land Rover promoted the capability of its vehicles in the vaunted Camel Trophy endurance event held in some of the most remote stretches of the globe. To fill the vacuum created after the last Camel Trophy was run, Land Rover created the G4 Challenge.
The new event was in many ways a modernized version of the Camel Trophy, though this time it was largely brought in-house and there were far more challenges designed to test participants’ physical ability than before.
The inaugural contest was run in 2003, when carefully selected participants from more than a dozen countries made their way through a series of events held over the course of a month in Australia, South Africa, and finally the Canyon-lands of Southern Utah in the United States. In each country, participants faced a barrage of challenges including hiking, running, cycling, and paddling — plus plenty of off-road driving to get between events.
Along each stage of the way, Land Rover supplied Tangiers Orange-painted vehicles from the new Range Rover all the way down to the city-friendly Freelander. The SUVs were prepared for duty by Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations with features such as additional recovery gear, snorkels, and body protection.
Members of the public were not invited to participate in the G4 Challenge, so Land Rover offered special editions of its showroom models dolled up in the same orange paint and graphics as those driven hard by competitors.
The Freelander was still a fairly new model in North America when the G4 edition arrived at the 2003 New York International Auto Show, even though the smallest and most city-oriented Land Rover to date had been on sale in Europe for more than half a decade.
Though a rare find today, the small Freelander was a big seller in Europe. It didn’t exactly find the same success here in the U.S., though. Its Rover-designed V6 put out a so-so 174 horsepower, and contemporary reviewers criticized the low-buck feel of its interior even though its price could easily top $30,000. Land Rover showed a more playful side when the formerly restricted 3-door version with its Jeep Wrangler-like removable rear roof panels arrived. Still, Land Rover asked a hefty $27,000 for a Freelander SE3.
The Freelander G4 came fully kitted with a number of Land Rover’s accessories, including a roof basket, a brush guard, and taillight guards, plus seat covers. In retrospect, the Freelander was actually a pretty cool little runabout, and its rarity today means you’re not likely to see one coming or going.
Here’s the kicker, though: Land Rover didn’t do a Freelander SE3 G4. One enterprising Land Rover enthusiast created one themselves, resulting in this rather authentic-looking replica loaded with accessories and graphics.
It shows just 54,000 miles and it looks fantastic. It also has to be among the rarest Land Rover vehicles. Not only are there few Freelander SUVs left, certainly fewer yet are SE3 models painted Tangiers Orange. It’s available at a dealer in Southern California, and it looks to me like it’s begging for a trip to Utah for some adventuring. Find a Land Rover Freelander for sale