At the 1948 motor show in war-torn Amsterdam the British company Rover rolled out an austerity era vehicle aimed at the slowly recovering farming community. In reality it was the illegitimate child of the American Willys Jeep and the British knack for improvisation: locked in permanent four wheel drive, bolted together from aluminium alloy due to the shortage of steel, and with the steering wheel in the centre to make it cheaper to produce for the overseas market, the Land-Rover was born.
Since that time Land-Rovers have evolved from the farmers’ workhorse of ’48 to adoption by the British military who had them in variants from armoured to ambulance and painted in colours ranging from the original olive drab, through black and green “disruptive pattern camouflage” to the delightful dusty rose colour of the SAS “Pink Panther”. Land-Rovers have been made under licence in Belgium, Germany and Spain and have been copied by manufacturers around the globe. They have even been subject to the pernicious actions of the marketing gurus when in December 1998 the Rover company announced a major brand change: they formally dropped the – from the name and it went from Land-Rover to Land Rover.
In 1970 (the beginning of the “decade that style forgot”) Rover launched a revolutionary new vehicle; the “Range Rover”…this was the first of the “lifestyle” 4X4s, the primordial evolution of the vehicle’s move from mud-to-Mayfair. Range Rovers had refinements like comfortable seats and carpets and even radios and cassette players which appealed to the non-farming community.
Throughout the 70s and 80s the two marques ploughed their individual furrows:- Range Rover pursuing very much the visible market; adoption by the Camel trophy and daily tabloid exposure with the Lady Di and the Sloane Rangers. Land Rover, meanwhile unintentionally got lots of daily news exposure with its military models on the streets of Northern Ireland and in the Falklands.
In the 90s Land Rover got a major makeover in the new Defender; at last a Land Rover driver actually got an enclosed crew cab and the workhorse was moving upmarket.
Interestingly the Defender particularly has one other major problem…..because of its unique construction (it is still bolted together and made of aluminium alloy) you can strip a Defender to untraceable component level in about three hours using everyday DIY tools…..which explains why 4 Defenders are stolen every hour in the UK! Land Rover are working on this!
At the 2010 motor show in credit crunch Paris the Tata owned company Rover rolled out the Range Rover ‘Evoque’. This “baby” Range Rover is the legitimate child of Victoria Beckham (who helped design the interior) and some very clever environmentally considered engineering which is claimed to do a whopping 58mpg and produce less than130g/km CO2 in its 2 wheel drive version.
Land Rover has come a long way…literally and metaphorically..in the last 60 years.
Article first published as Land Rover – Past, Present and Future on Technorati.