LaForza: An SUV That Really Wants to Be a Ferrari
Last weekend was Barrett-Jackson’s annual auto auction in Palm Beach, Florida. If you’ve never gone to a Barrett-Jackson auction, let me tell you, it’s quite a spectacle. The stars of the show were without a doubt the Custom 2013 Ford Mustang Fastback from Need for Speed ($300,00), the first 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 roll off the production line ($1,000,000), the first 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 ($500,000) and a 1935 Packard 1207 V12 Convertible Coupe ($330,000). While those cars a fun to look at, it’s the oddball vehicles that are the true draw, like this one… a 1998 LaForza SUV (aka Rayton Fissore Magnum).
To be honest, before I saw Lot 642, I never knew anything called a LaForza even existed, let alone the fact that you could buy them new up until 2003. How have I missed these for so long?!? They’re so terrible and awesome at the same time. In case you’re with me and never heard of the LaForza SUVs until just recently, here’s what they are.
LaForza SUV (known in Europe as Rayton Fissore Magnum)
Take a look at the sport utility vehicle market today and you’ll find there are quite a few that sit happily in the luxury category. You have the Porsche Cayenne and Macan. There are more and more Land Rovers and Range Rover models every day (like the Discovery Vision Concept). Add to those the Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q3 through Q7, the varied Mercedes-Benz offerings (like the G63 AMG 6×6), all the BMW Xs and a countless others, and you get to notice that particular market is pretty full. Hell, even Bentley and Lamborghini are getting into the game.
But, think back to 1988 or ’89, when the LaForza came to the States. Try to think of what luxury SUVs existed during the tenure of Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush. There weren’t many. And, the ones that were around weren’t exactly stellar. Let’s see, there was the Lamborghini LM-002, Range Rover, Mercedes G Wagon and that’s pretty much it… except for the LaForza. The LaForza worked really hard to be the first real luxury SUV. Whether or not it succeeded is a matter of some debate.
Designed in Italy by Tom Tjaarda, the LaForza started out in Europe in 1984 as the Rayton-Fissore Magnum 4×4, which itself began life as a shortened, lowered and more posh version of the Iveco VM 90 military truck. The Euro-spec Rayton-Fissore Magnums were initially powered by a 2.4-liter Sofim turb0-diesel. Eventually, Rayton-Fissore switched to Fiat and Lancia supercharged four-cylinders, an Alfa Romeo V6, a BMW inline-six or Bimmer turbo-diesel as optional or upgraded engines.
That was all pre-1989, which happened to be around the same time the Rayton-Fissore Magnum 4×4 made its way across the pond to the US with the name LaForza. The US-spec LaForza was fundamentally the same as the Euro-spec, but did have a few key changes. It lost its roof rain gutters and gained body-matching painted bumpers. The LaForza also sported different head and taillights from its European counterpart. But, the most fundamental change was in the driveline. The 1989 LaForza was powered by a 185-horse 5.0-liter Ford V8 routing the power to all four wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission teaming with a 2WD-High, 4WD-High and 4WD-Low Newpross 229 transfer case. NEXT PAGE>>