Winston Churchill at his estate, Chequers, with his Land Rover. It was fitted with a wider than normal seat to accommodate his girth.
The Land Rover, a British-made all-terrain vehicle that earned a reputation for its use in exotic locales, debuted at an auto show in Amsterdam on 30 April 1948.
The first Land Rover, known as the Series 1, was the brainchild of Maurice Wilks, the head designer for the British car company Rover, of which his brother Spencer Wilks was the managing director. Maurice Wilks used an old American-made Willys-Overland Jeep to do work at his farm in England. He claimed that the Jeep was plagued by mechanical problems and decided to design a more reliable vehicle. He intended it to be used for farm work and to be more versatile than a tractor. The resulting Land Rover, known as the Series 1, had a boxy, utilitarian design, four-wheel drive and a canvas roof. Such features as passenger seat cushions, doors, a heater and spare tires were extra cost options on the early Land Rovers.
The rugged Land Rover was well-received by the public and ended up being used not just for agricultural work, but by police forces, military organizations, aid workers in remote places and travelers on expeditions where road conditions were poor or non-existent. In 1976, the 1 millionth Land Rover rolled off the assembly line in Solihull, Birmingham, England.
In 1970, the Range Rover, a more comfortable, luxurious version of the Land Rover, was launched. The Discovery, a less expensive version of the Range Rover made its public debut in 1989; it was marketed to a younger, less conservative audience than Range Rover buyers. By that time, the company had experienced ownership changes: In 1967, Rover became part of Leyland Motors (later called British Leyland). British Aerospace later acquired Land Rover. In 1994, BMW acquired the Land Rover business. Then, in 2000, the Ford Motor Company purchased Land Rover for $2.7 billion. In 2008, Ford, which was experiencing a sales slump due to the worldwide economic downturn, sold Land Rover, along with Jaguar, to Tata Motors of India for some $2.3 billion.
This blog’s friend, “Chris-to-Fear,” owns a 1960 Land Rover. Last weekend, he and his Land Rover participated in the annual Mendo-Pacific Rover Club Event. He and one other member of the club posted about the event HERE and HERE. As Joe Bob Briggs of the Drive-In Movie Review would write, “Check it out!”