End of the road for Overfinch?

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Overfinch, respected builder of tweaked Range-Rovers since the mid ’70’s, may have reached the end of the road. Citing significant one-off non-trading costs over the past 18 months, the Surrey-based firm has announced it has gone into administration. However, they continue to trade, the administrators being confident that they can find a buyer for the business.

Overfinch rose to fame during the ’80s and ’90s by building mad-cap versions of the original Range Rover, using a formula that appeared to be no more complex than shoehorning a bombastic Chevy V8 into the upmarket off-roader. Bespoke interiors were also a speciality, lashings of cow and wood being liberally applied to cabins which were hardly low-rent in the first place. Importantly, Overfinch had a USP back then – no-one else was building off-roaders with enough power to blow the pin-stripes off a stockbroker. But since the advent of the ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ and the new money BMW X5/ Range Rover Sport/ Porsche Cayenne sector, has the gap in the market that Overfinch once occupied, been plugged?

Overfinch Range Rover Sport

Essentially, yes. And no. Mainstream SUVs are largely good at what they do – picking up Tarquin from school, occasionally pulling a horse-box across a damp paddock to the gymkhana, and going about their business in a car-like manner. They’ve got superchargers, V8s, and in some cases both, so you can buy what made Overfinch unique, from someone else, ‘off the shelf’. But an X5 or a Cayenne is hardly bespoke, which is perhaps why Overfinch now steer themselves down the exclusivity route, an antidote to the me-too ubiquity of the BMW and Porsche set. They can still tweak your engine, but it’s a slightly lukewarm uprated ECU and exhaust approach, as opposed to the full fat ‘bin the engine and shove in a Corvette motor’ approach. The alluring eccentricity of plonking a supercar engine into the drawing-room on wheels that is the classic Range Rover, has gone. And with it, much of the Overfinch character and flair for incongruity.

It’s all gone a bit bling – white paint jobs, 22″ wheels and bodykits. Perhaps inevitably Overfinch have attracted (although not neccessarily courted) a new type of customer. It’s become a Cheshire car. Undoubtedly, the sight of Wayne Rooney driving an Overfinch to training won’t do the brand any favours in the long-term. That’s not to say the simian footballer is responsible for the demise of Overfinch, but the ‘old-money’ Gentleman farmer image has definitely been eroded. The obscenely opulent Holland & Holland edition is probably not the way to endear themselves to the old customer base either. Hand crafted walnut gun cabinets, integrated crystal tumblers and champagne fridges speak more of Del Boy winning the lottery and turning up to a clay pigeon shoot, than Lord of the Manor. The reality is, the Lord of the Manor probably drives a manky Defender or a 20 year-old Volvo Estate. For the six figure price of a Holland & Holland he would surely rather repair the East Wing, and put some drainage in the lower field. Perhaps they have lost their way, but I hope someone rescues Overfinch. Maybe the administrators should be knocking on the door of Mr.Tata – it would be a shame to go ‘corporate’, but I can see a future for the valuable brand that is Overfinch, as an in-house tuner, the AMG of Land Rover.

By Tim Kendall
16th November 2010

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