2013 marked the 65th anniversary of Land Rover, a brand that started as an idea to make something better.
Maurice Wilks, wanted a vehicle that could work as a tractor and an off-road vehicle on his land. At the time, Maurice was the engineering director at British brand Rover. He sketched the basis of his vehicle in the sand on the beach at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey. Even the logo came about as something traditionally British at the time, the Pilchard tin. The designer’s lunch left a stain on his drawing board which in fact became the Land Rover logo.
Land Rover prides itself in making six models and the fact that two-thirds of all Land Rovers ever made are still in use today.
The original Land Rover now known as the Defender will cease after 67 years of production to give way to the predecessor in 2015. In 65 years, the Land Rover Defender has not changed a great deal.
Starting off in 1947 with what was known as the Series I, a prototype was built using the Willys Jeep as a basis. Known as ‘Huey’ with chassis number LR1 and number plate HUE 166 was the first Series I Land Rover to roll off the line. Built entirely out of aluminium alloy which was more readily available than steel after war-torn Britain, also had the added benefit of being lightweight and resistant to corrosion. The car went on sale at the price of £450 and was 80 inches long and only available as an open top utility vehicle. Production started at the Solihull plant in 1948 and hasn’t stopped since.
As soon as the Series I was produced, Land Rover worked on making a seven seater model with a body built by Tickford which was used for overseas sales. It was not very popular with the UK market as it was not exempt from Purchase Tax causing it to be more expensive.
Within two years of production, the British Army changed most of their off-road vehicles from the Austin Champ to the Land Rover realising that the cheaper Land Rover could handle the responsibilities of the Champ. Land Rover is now the Army’s go to vehicle for its 4WD capabilities.
By 1950 , sales shot from 1758 to 16,795 vehicles a year. This was the year that Land Rover added selectable 4WD arrangements to the Land Rover allowing the driver to select low ratio and high ratio gearing. By 1958, the tenth anniversary of the company sales were at 25,000 a year and the Series II was launched. This vehicle had a restyled body with side sills. The engine was enlarged to a 2.2l petrol and a diesel was introduced which was known as the Series IIA.
The Series III Land Rover was introduced in 1971, for the first time with a synchromesh gearbox and updated aesthetics, however still keeping the basic structure of the original Land Rover. Five years after the Series III was introduced, the one millionth vehicle rolled off the line.
Certain comforts are expected to be found in most modern vehicles, however it took Land Rover quite some time to start adding basic comforts. These vehicles were used as work horses on the farm as Maurice Wilks intended when he came up with the idea for the Land Rover. But by 1984, those creature comforts began creeping into the system with wind up windows making their first appearance on the new Land Rover 90 based on the length of the vehicle in inches.
Six years later, Land Rover renamed the 90, Defender after the introduction of the Discovery in 1989. A massive revamp of the interior and tech on the Defender came about in 2007, with things like mp3 connectivity and a six speed gearbox making more and more of an everyday vehicle which is not only comfortable on a farm but on a busy street as well.
When the Defender stops production, a new vehicle will take the reins and try to live up to the illustrious career that the original Land Rover has had over 67 years. The concept car that was revealed to the public is known as the DC100 and is similar to the current Defender in many aesthetic aspects.
After Land Rover had made success at both ends of the off-road market, the only other option was to attack the middle and take the entire market share. To protect the Range Rover, The Discovery was marketed as a junior Range Rover to take the place of the original as the new models have been pushed further into the luxury sector. Project ‘Jay’ as it was called was somewhat based on the Range Rover capable of seating seven passengers.
Chris Woodark, Land Rover’s Commercial Director put it simply, “It’s a leisure vehicle not aimed at the luxury sector at all. Discovery, if you like, is for Yuppies and Range Rover is for people who’ve already made it.”
It was launched to the public in 1989 in a three door guise to protect the sales of the Range Rover. The engine was a 2.5L turbocharged, inter-cooled diesel known as the 200Tdi meant to be more economical than the standard V8s.
Five years after its original release, the Discovery was face-lifted in 1994 and started to make a name for itself as the ‘Family 4×4’ proving to be a success among the consumers.
The Discovery managed to break a record in Land Rover’s books by producing more than 100,000 vehicles in less than a year in 1995.
In 2004, Land Rover launched the Discovery 3 which introduced a body frame, a mix between a monocoque and chassis design which was known as hydroforming. New exterior design meant there was a stepped up roof and asymmetrical rear glass giving rear passengers more head room. Power came from a new 2.7L V6 diesel and a 4.4L V8 petrol and independent air suspension was available to give the Discovery a softer ride.
The fourth generation of Land Rover’s ‘Family 4×4’ was unveiled in 2010. As the Range Rover did before it, this new Discovery became more premium in cabin quality and advanced technology used.The LR-TDV6 3.0 twin-turbo diesel and LR-V8 direct-injection petrol engine, which delivered massive improvements in fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
With the previous Discovery having exceptional off-road capability, land Rover had to pull out all the stops to make the new one even better. They did this simply by transforming the on road experience for the driver and improving the impeccable off-road capability by adding in new suspension components, larger brakes, a revised steering rack, better traction control and an improved Terrain Response system.
By 2012, the Discovery was almost as luxurious as its older sibling, the Range Rover now with an eight speed automatic and all the technology you now come to expect on modern luxury vehicles such as voice activation and many others.
The Discovery is still breaking records, this time by beating the time set by an unmodified Fiat Panda driving from London to Cape Town; a total of 10,000 miles in 10 days.
By 1997, all vehicles that Land Rover built became larger and more luxurious, meaning that there wasn’t a specific model for a small off-road leisure vehicle. But to enter this sector, Land Rover not only were ambitious they succeeded. The Freelander, was the first SUV to be built with a monocoque structure and for the 4WD system, the transfer box was removed and a downhill assist known as ‘Hill Descent control’ was added which uses the ABS system to limit braking.
By 2001, the Freelander was not only Europe’s best-selling SUV but it was also the three millionth Land Rover to come off the line in Solihull.
Nine years after the release of the original Freelander, the all new Freelander 2 was born. Engines available for the 2 were either a 3.2L six cylinder petrol or a 2.2L common rail diesel four-cylinder. Tinkering with models happened throughout the course of each and every model of Land Rover and the Freelander was no different. Every year a new piece of technology was added either to aid the driver or the lower the carbon emissions of the vehicle.