Vehicles for The Venturers.
//DON’T CALL US A CAR DEALER.
The lobby reflects the renovated industrial aesthetic of downtown Birmingham, but there’s something in the air that makes you want to pack up the camping gear and head to Horseshoe Bend or Little River Canyon. RMR4x4’s shop is rustic and wide open, with cement floors offset by restored redwood siding that creates an ambiance more akin to a hunting lodge rather than a car dealership. Thick green ivy clings to the exterior walls. Handmade canoes hang from exposed rafters. A near mint-condition Chris Craft Continental wood motorboat gleams alongside the sitting area, practically itching to bounce over the waves at Lake Martin. Uniform stacks of logs encircle a wrought iron wood-burning stove, left cold through the summer.
For a moment you wonder if you’re in the right place. (“This is supposed to be a car dealership, right?”) But we’re told this isn’t the first time someone has commented that RMR4x4’s headquarters feels more like a clubhouse on the lake than an auto shop where top-tier vehicles are repaired and resold.
Only after all this do you notice there are real-life offices and computers sheltered behind the redwood walls, a custom 2016 Dodge Viper GTS and lifted Range Rover wrapped in matte vinyl parked on the lobby floor. They feel more like pieces in a museum than showroom models— yet they’re for sale.
“I hate the phrase ‘used car sales,’ and I think most people feel the same way so I thought, why not take a different approach to it?” These are the words of co-founder, Sean Eden. He defines this approach as the secret to their success:
“Instead of trying to turn cars, we set out to build a business built on great relationships with the people we sell to, and you just want to do a good job for somebody you’re friends with.”
And Sean certainly seems to live out that ideal: he’s relaxed and unassuming in a weathered ball cap and t-shirt, looking like we’ve caught him between trips from the lake to the campsite.
“Instead of just cleaning them up and letting it be someone else’s problem, sometimes we’ll throw a few thousand in upgrades and improvements before we list them. We thoroughly inspect everything. We love and live Rovers so we know where the problems are in each model and we make sure we take care of that.” At the end of the day, they’re selling used vehicles that they go through thoroughly, but there’s a lot of moving parts in there.
“So, if something pops up down the road,” Sean tells us, “a hundred percent of other dealerships will say, you signed off on this ‘as-is,’ but we go, ‘Well, it’s been six months, but let’s just handle the repairs and fix it. We really try to go above and beyond.”
Just past the towering single-pane glass doors at the back, timeless Rovers of all ages and attitudes line the walls of the sky-lit garage that’s more like a hangar than a showroom. Each of them, a bold testament to that above-and-beyond mentality.
The range of the Rovers alone is enough to make your eyebrows go up.
Directly before us looms a 2018 Land Rover Discovery HSE with less than 15,000 miles on it. But it’s not the low miles or just-off-the-assembly-line glow that makes it stand out: it’s been fitted with a custom olive green matte wrap that emphasizes the model’s perfect blend of luxury fashion and aggressive off-roading capability. Plus, it’s just not something you’ll see on every street corner. Upgrades like this give each vehicle a very personal twist.
Looking to go a little more retro? Check out the safari-ready 1985 Land Rover Defender 110. Want to wind the clock back even more? Feel free to drool over a 1962 Land Rover Defender 90. Just looking at these classic body types makes you feel like you’ve stepped out of downtown Birmingham and into a scene from an Indiana Jones flick.
But their wide selection of Rovers is just the tip of the iceberg.
Further to the back, you’ll find near-mint condition Jaguar MK1 Saloons and XJs ranging from 1958 to 1986. Slung long and low along the opposite wall is a candy shell mint-and-cream Packard Super Clipper from 1956 that could make Elvis croon. Among them you’ll find the occasional wood-paneled Grand Cherokee and Chevy pickup.
While the striking exteriors may be the vehicles’ most immediately obvious attributes, RMR’s eye for unique detail goes much deeper than that. Just last month they sold one of the most expensive Rover models ever made: a Range Rover Holland & Holland. The rare model was a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration with storied gun maker Holland & Holland. Upholstered with milky smooth brown leather, embroidered with H&H logos. Paneling featuring engraved metallic accents. Interior woodwork carved from a single piece of walnut to ensure that no matter where you look, the trim matches up perfectly. And just to put a cherry on top, the walnut was finished with oil to recreate the signature look of Holland & Holland’s classic rifle stocks.
But every vehicle that comes through these doors gets a personal touch in some way or another. Whether it be the paint job, wrap, lift, or detail-oriented repair work under the hood, the craftsmen behind RMR have decades of unique experience working with Land Rovers.
Mastering their approach to business was another story.
Sean confides in us that when they first started selling, they were just trying to be the cheapest option. “But you can’t hope to be the cheapest in town if you want to buy nice cars,” he says with a grin. Over time, the business model evolved from “inexpensive” to offering “a fair price and going overboard on making sure people are getting a quality product.”
It may have taken some time to get things working the way they like, but nowadays it’s not uncommon for them to sell a new find before it even touches pavement in their garage.
When it comes to hunting potential high-quality Rovers through their network of contacts, these guys know exactly what to look for-- they’ve sold them for over twenty years at this point. But they don’t limit themselves in model or means. A prime example is the limited edition Ford Raptor 150 they tracked down personally for one of their frequent customers. Going overboard? Some might think so. But that’s exactly the kind of concierge-style service RMR4x4 prides themselves on. Something rarely seen from a traditional used car dealership.
“Once someone has bought from us they tell us they’ll never buy a car anywhere else. And it’s because we really do make the buying process easy.”
But it’s after a customer buys one of their vehicles where RMR really shines.
Half the calls they get every day are from someone who bought a car a year or two ago and is in need of a routine tune up. Sales manager Ron Smith tells us, “You can take a Land Rover to the Land Rover dealership to get brakes, but we’ll do the same job for less than half what they charge. And using real Land Rover parts. We’ve got all the industry connections, so we can get lots of specialized work done for our dealership rates and just pass the savings on to our customers.”
Ron himself is living proof of the way RMR does business. A few short years ago, before it became his occupation, Ron was actually a repeat customer.
“I never thought I’d make friends with people I bought a car from,” Ron admits, laughing. “I bought a couple of vehicles from them and next thing you know, I’m having lunch with them or we’re going down to play golf. We just built a great friendship, and it all started when I bought a Rover from them.”
Meeting him in this setting, it’s not hard to imagine how a charming, laid-back guy like Ron would have become fast friends with RMR founders Kip and Sean Eden, the brothers who started their work on Land Rovers way back in 2001: anywhere in the lobby you look, from the vintage 1950s Coke machine and turn-crank gumball machines, it’s obvious these folks aren’t interested in just propping up appearances. They’re genuinely interested in having a good time with good people.
On any given day, people are constantly popping in and out of RMR’s lobby just to say hi, pet the dog, or pick up an RMR4x4 license plate cover. It would certainly seem the Eden brothers have fulfilled their dream of creating a warm, trusting community around the lifestyle they live and aspire to share.
“A lot of brands try to advertise a ‘lifestyle’—things like mountains and rivers and fishing and skiing, but don’t have anything to do with those activities themselves,” Ron says, punching his fist into his palm with a big smile, “but we don’t just talk about the stuff that these vehicles can do, we take them out and actually go do that stuff.”
“We get people who aren’t necessarily outdoorsy buying our merchandise because they want to be part of the family we’ve created,” says office manager Mary Alex Waite. “We sell Land Rovers, but we’re honestly more of a lifestyle brand. Cause the truth is that it’s not just the vehicles themselves, but the life they allow you to live that we’re all about.”
The RMR folks have no qualms with talking shop or discussing which state park they’re camping in that weekend-- and they’re more than happy to sell you a classic Rover, or an RMR4x4 branded hat if you’d like to be part of their lifestyle of friendships and four-wheel-drive, but as much as they love talking about it, as the bold white letters painted across their garage read ... they’d rather go live it.