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The Laforza Was an Italian Range Rover

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author photo by Will Kinton October 2016

The Rayton-Fissore Laforza was an Italian luxury SUV created by taking a military off-roader, filling it with luxurious appointments and selling it for a lot of money. It was meant to compete with the Range Rover and Mercedes G-Wagen, which were the only two other names in town at the time. The Italian SUV was more luxurious and more capable off-road than the other two luxury SUVs, but unfortunately, it wasn't a sales success in the U.S.

The Laforza first debuted in Europe as the Magnum 4x4, a medium-weight military off-roader, in 1984. Back then, it was available with one of two different small-displacement gas engines or a turbodiesel 4-cylinder. In 1988, Rayton-Fissore wanted to bring the Magnum to the lucrative American market but decided the engine choices were too European and the name was too American. The Magnum was renamed the Laforza, befitting its Italian heritage, and a 5.0-liter Ford V8 was swapped into the vehicle, making it the DeTomaso Pantera of SUVs. This is actually a very fitting analogy, because both the Pantera and Laforza were designed by the same guy, Tom Tjaarda.

Inside, the Laforza had burled walnut accents, Italian hand-stitched leather and luxurious carpets, which made the SUV feel like it'd been crossbred with a Ferrari Testarossa.

Unfortunately, the exterior of the Laforza was fairly sedate, and without any real details to catch the eye, it seemed more bland than its rivals. The Ford V8 wasn't too powerful, either, and although the Laforza was eventually offered with a 300-horsepower supercharged V8, it was too little, too late for the Italian SUV. Also, because it was Italian, it made the Range Rover look reliable and the G-Wagen seem cheap to fix. Sales were bad enough that you could still buy a brand-new 1989 model in the 1990s.

Somewhat incredibly, despite the dismal sales and minimal brand recognition, the Laforza managed to stick around until 2003. Today, even though the Laforza is rare and Italian, it doesn't cost a fortune to add one to your garage. Examples can be had with reasonable miles for less than $10,000, but unfortunately, Autotrader won't be able to help you find one. Rayton-Fissore isn't exactly a household name, you know.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Laforza Was an Italian Range Rover - Autotrader