Friday, December 2, 2011

1989 Laforza - A Personal Favorite

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I'm a big fan of the Laforza.

The Laforza started life as the Rayton Fissore Magnum 4x4. The body and chassis were designed by Tom Tjaarda, who also designed the De Tomaso Pantera.

A couple of US businessmen saw the Magnum and decided that, with some modifications, they could sell it as a luxury SUV. The bodies were shipped from Italy to the US, where a 5.0 liter Ford engine and transmission along with a NP 229 transfer case were installed. They started selling them in 1989.

It was a good idea, but the idea of luxury SUVs was just taking hold in the US. The Land Rover and the Jeep Grand Wagoneer were the big names in the market. People weren't keen on spending big bucks on an unknown SUV when, for the same money or less , they could buy an SUV with the legendary Land Rover and Jeep names. This attempt at selling the Laforza lasted about a year before the company declared bankruptcy.

In the mid 1990s a man named David Hops, who had made a name for himself by installing V8s in Mazda Miatas and calling them Monster Miatas, bought the remaining Laforza stock and chassis' and relaunched the brand. By this time virtually every major manufacturer had a luxury SUV and, once again, people weren't keen on buying an expensive SUV with an unknown name and miniscule dealer network. By 2003 this attempt at selling the Laforza was also bankrupt.

The ironic part of all this is that the Laforza is a damn nice SUV. Contemporary road tests praised it's ride and handling. It seems to have been well put together and older ones have held up well.

A few of the common Laforza problems are an overwhelmed electrical system (there's a kit to fix that available from a Laforza specialist in California) and a less than sturdy radiator support (easily repairable).

Parts for the drive train can, of course, be found at any local auto parts store. Most of the suspension is from Iveco and can be sourced in Europe. Switches and most other electrical items are from the European Fiat / Lancia parts bin. The headlights are from a US spec Audi 4000.

This Laforza appears to be in nice overall condition. One of the seats has a ripped seam and it also has a non-functioning door handle. (Parts sources can be found on Alessio's Laforza & Magnum 4x4 Forum.) It is said to run and drive well.

The prices for Laforzas are all over the place. This one, given its apparent nice condition, is reasonably priced at $2950.00.

Located in Columbus, OH, click here to see the eBay listing.


Anonymous said...

I used to think this was an early Japanese attempt at an "SUV". It's one of those late '80s designs that works wonders with boxy angles, clean planes and overall simplicity. How something so simple and deceptively bland can be so attractive is one of the design feats of that era. Audi did the same thing and their cars are beloved (and as you note, the headlights were used for the Laforza). The hood bump (complete with make insignia) is nice too, as are the big windows and body colored bumpers. A great lost chapter in the development of the much maligned American sport utility vehicle segment.

Sean SL said...

For some reason, I remember these with DOHC racing V-8 engines. Was a Ford 5.0 the only offering?

Maxichamp said...

I saw one of these last year on vacation in Washington state. It's an odd duck.

Just A Car Geek said...

Hi Sean - In Europe they came with a variety of engines, including an Alfa DOHC engine.

In the US it was Ford 5.0s. A prototype or two were built with GM Northstar engines. One came up for sale on eBay a little while ago.


Nessa629 said...

Does anyone know where I can get replacement exterior door handles. I need all 4 and preferably with a chrkme/metal finish instead of black plastic. This is for my boss and I'm hoping for big bonus points for helping him order these. Is there a vehicve that is interchangeable with the 1990 laforza? BexBeca everywhere I have looked has NO door handles for the laforza at all.

Just A Car Geek said...

Outside handles? I believe they were from a Lancia Delta HF integrale. You should be able to find them on eBay Europe.