Show on the Road

A star since it first hit the road 50 years ago, the Range Rover is one of the most iconic SUVs of all time. At Brooklyn Coachworks, one man has made restoring and remodeling the classic cars his life’s work

Rumbling along a dirt road in upstate New York, Daniel Marcello sits behind the wheel of a 1974 two-door Range Rover Suffix B, easing it down a craggy pathway and paying careful attention not to kick up too much dust. As with every car he drives, Marcello maintains an acute awareness of each movement and sound that the automobile—painted in a striking shade of Tuscan Blue that has earned the attention of several fellow drivers—makes. “Need to look at that later,” he says as he shifts gears with some added force. It’s just one of the many coveted cars he’s carefully restoring for his lengthy list of clients. They range from European diplomats to metropolitan lawyers, salt-kissed surfers, and more than a few bold-faced names— all proud members of the Land Rover club.

For Marcello, a creative director–cum-mechanic and owner of the garage Brooklyn Coachworks, it’s a love affair that began nearly two decades ago, after he landed a role as an advertising executive and found himself capable of purchasing what, he explains, was his dream car—a 1994 NAS Land Rover Defender 90. “I found it in North Carolina, drove it home, and ever since I’ve been off-roading it around the world,” he says. “I drive it everywhere I can, taking care of it along the way: changing engines, changing suspension, making it get by for the last 20 years.” From this single set of wheels he has grown to become a veritable elder of the Land Rover community under the Brooklyn Coachworks moniker, a one-stop shop for sourcing, restoring, and maintaining all imaginable rides made by the British carmaker.

His work unfolds inside a small workshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that arrived in a rare stroke of real estate luck last year. Tucked away just a few steps from the borough’s coveted Kent Avenue hub, once home to large industrial complexes and now dotted with popular eateries and condominium buildings, visitors are greeted by a neat row of handsome automobiles, all in various stages of completion. Some new arrivals have a noticeable patina, often from years of neglect, while their adjacent projects display a future that could demand any amount of improvement, from a simple new coat of paint to an entire internal overhaul.

Inside the workshop, Marcello and a small team of mechanics tinker away, careful to lend their Midas touch with intention, so as not to disrupt the life cycle of the car with flashy interiors and gadgetry. Instead, Marcello seeks to preserve the legacy of the Land Rover as a beautiful example of democratic engineering. “It can be a farmer’s car or driven by royalty,” he muses. “They just imply adventure, and exploration, and it says nothing about your wallet. They have a character and, weirdly, I think, sort of a soul, which is why I’ve always been drawn to them.”

With such a wide-ranging provenance, each new car can be found in the most unexpected corners of the world, often from drivers who remain unaware of, or perhaps more so perplexed by, how these rough-and-tumble cars have turned a corner from everyday utility to obsession. Such was the case earlier this year when Marcello unearthed a 1949 Series 1, an extremely rare model in the Land Rover universe.

Sourced from a barn in rural Australia, it had originally been intended to serve as a working vehicle on a farm, though it was never used. As a result, it’s only been driven about 400 miles in its lifetime, a fresh start by vintage Land Rover standards, which often have several hundred thousand miles to their credit. “It was the second one I had ever seen in my life,” Marcello says. “The owner didn’t have an email address, so we had to communicate first through letters, then phone calls, then the car made its way to Sydney where it was transported to the US on a boat, which took about four months.” Nearly a year later, after considerable improvements to the car’s underside, chassis, suspension, engine overhaul, and entire exterior, the now-completed project sits safely under lock and key at an off-site location before it’s slated to be auctioned for an estimated sum of $100,000 to $120,000.

“This was such a standout example, but my work has been filled with awesome moments like this,” Marcello says. “Sure, there’s always this element of luck and serendipity when you find a beautiful piece of history like this, but none of it happens without this tight-knit community rallying around it all.”

Zachary Weiss is a writer living in New York City. His work has appeared on the websites of Vogue, British GQ, Architectural Digest, and Travel + Leisure.
  • Photographs by Zachary Weiss
  • Courtesy of Brooklyn Coachworks