Cappuccinos, Cigars, And Shotguns: Building The Ultimate Gentleman’s Range Rover
Photography by Jamie Ferguson
Whenever I am in the company of my dear friend Alexander Kraft, I feel miserably under-dressed. A man of impeccable taste, Alex is the CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty France & Monaco, and like his bespoke wardrobe and dapper style, so too his cars are tailored to suit his gentleman ways. This summer I had the chance to spend some time with Alex and get behind the wheel of two of his favorite cars in his stable: the Range Rover and the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2—both customized to Alex’s taste.
Like the Italian grand tourer parked alongside it, it was a vehicle he’d always looked fondly on but didn’t exactly plan to buy. He’s had a slew of modern versions over the years, but he preferred the look and feel of the classic upright British 4×4.
“I had one of my late night internet sessions, and I was looking at various cars, and then I found this, the exact model Range Rover I was interested in. It’s a long-wheelbase version of a very late model, a ’93, the 4.2L long-wheelbase version. It was basically the highest-end specification that was available for the car at the time.
“Many of my friends told me they are a nightmare to maintain. Especially the model I like with the air suspension. ‘This can go wrong, so can that, et cetera,’ but lo and behold, this car was for sale in Monaco, so I called the guy.”
The seller was an engineer by trade who’d used the car as a daily driver; originally from Germany, he was just the second owner in the car’s twenty-plus years of life. Though it’s been the recipient of some choice modifications under Alex’s ownership, it came to him in a very original condition: “He had tweaked the engine a little bit so it was more reliable, but that was about it. The car was quite, you know, it was very plain. While there was no rust, the body was quite scrappy, so it needed a paint job. It needed an interior job too, but it was solid where it mattered; the body underneath was fine, the engine was fine, the gearbox was fine.”
So, Alex bought the Range Rover, and in the process took on another project that he could have some fun with. Upon acquiring it he brought it to the same body shop that had worked on the Ferrari, where they proceeded to strip the truck down to its metal. This revealed a little more rust than expected (isn’t this always the case?), especially on the rear gate, but the shop got it sorted out with no issues.
“They put in a completely new window frame for the tailgate, and they did a really good job on the paintwork that followed once the body was sorted.
“As for the interior, the seats, I only cleaned and re-dyed them, they’re still the original pieces—I wanted to keep it quite original in there. It’s got new carpets, but it was in pretty good shape inside overall. Soon enough though I was saying to myself, ‘What can I do with the Rover that’s a little bit unusual?’ I always liked the Overfinch models, and also the old Holland & Holland special editions of that particular Range Rover. Especially with those custom trunks in the back.
“So I said to another garage that I use here in Monaco, L&H Corporation, ‘Can you do a Holland & Holland-type custom trunk setup for me?’ And they said, ‘Yes of course, what would you like to do?’ Alexandre Huet and Nicolas Lessetier are the proprietors of L&H and they go out of their way to accommodate such special requests.”
Rather than copying the existing styles to the T though, he decided to have it kitted out with his own take on the ultimate British gentleman’s setup.
“I wanted to have something slightly nautical, with different kinds of woods, and leather, and drawers. When they asked me what I wanted to put in those drawers, I just said, ‘Well obviously let’s do a bar. Let’s have a drawer for my shotgun too, why not?’, and the one thing I’ve I’ve always dreamt about having in any car: ‘I’d like to have a cappuccino machine in there too.’”
They told him it would be quite the challenge to get all of that in the back and working properly, and to their knowledge nobody had done an in-car cappuccino machine before. There are trucks with coffee machines, like standard filtered jobs and maybe a hand-operated espresso machine, but nobody had seen a bonafide cappuccino rig put in a vehicle that wasn’t delivering it in a box to someone’s home.
“So, I gave them that challenge, and they said, ‘Well sure, we can put a machine in there with the milk-foamer, and we’ll put it on its own power source. Its own powerful battery.’So we set about designing the whole thing together, and they did a really great job executing it, and yeah, that’s that—I think it’s probably the only car in the world with its own cappuccino machine in the back.
“Behind the scenes was really quite a headache though. They put a service opening in there so we could charge the battery if it gets flat so it doesn’t all have to come apart. We’re still playing around with it a little bit back there in general. For instance, they’re building—the spare wheel is still in there, so they’re covering the spare wheel in leather as well, the subwoofer is going to be leather wrapped too—it’s an ongoing process.
Asking him what might come next for the Range Rover, Alex already has a few more modifications in mind. “For the next project, I already put a little humidor and a little bar in the passenger compartment in the back, but we want to redo the entire thing and connect it with the front glove box that’s between the seats. So that’s the next project. Take out the entire tunnel and glove box in the middle and connect it with the bar and humidor in the back. So that could be then the next story in a few years time.”
The Queen, and perhaps the late Hugh Hefner, would be proud. As would the Audobon Society—the shotgun is for clays.