Few automobile brands are as instantly recognizable as the Land Rover. For more than 60 years, these vehicles have been a staple of British culture, with the company itself being a national symbol at home and abroad.
From its original Series I design to the all-new Range Rover Sport, Land Rover has made more than its fair share of iconic cars and SUVs – which is exactly why we’ve decided to put together this guide on our history.
But before we can look at the evolution of this iconic brand, we need to start at the beginning.
The year was 1947 and after World War II had ended just two years earlier, Britain was still in the process of rebuilding its economy. But despite the country’s weakened state, Maurice Wilks (the chief engineer for Rover) and his brother Spencer (the managing director) were able to convince BMW that they had what it took to pull off a revolutionary new project.
In reality, they could barely manage to keep their heads above water while trying to manufacture post-war sedans that would appeal to shoppers all across Europe. However, they were convinced that they could develop a new utility vehicle that would eventually become known as “Land Rover.”
Land Rover is the second oldest four-wheel-drive car brand in the world and is one of the most well known.
The brand was founded in 1978, but Land Rover as we know it today wasn’t born until 1948.
The Land Rover name was initially used by the Rover Company for a boxy four-wheel drive, which made its debut at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948. It was called the Land Rover because it was designed for ‘land’ rather than ‘town’.
The first Land Rovers were designed by Maurice Wilks with his brother Spencer, who owned a country estate called Newborough on Anglesey, North Wales. Wilks had previously been chief engineer at Morris Motors and Rover, Spencer’s employer. Spencer decided to develop a vehicle for use on his estate.
After some initial sketches using a Jeep as inspiration, Maurice Wilks developed an early prototype with aluminium bodywork that was completed by June 1947. The chassis was an 80in (2,032mm) wheelbase version of a Jeep chassis that had been shortened and strengthened with steel channel section side members. The engine came from a World War II era Willys Jeep, though the gearbox came from an Austin 10hp saloon car.
The first Land Rover was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948. The four-wheel drive off-road utility vehicle was originally developed as a farm vehicle to replace the Willys Jeep, and was produced by British automaker Rover Company.
The first use of Land Rover as a name occurred in 1950, when it was used to describe one specific vehicle model, named simply ‘The Land Rover’. It was launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948. It was not called this in production or by the public until later, and initially it was simply called “the Land Rover”. The official name “Land Rover” only came into use in 1951 – though production did not actually commence until late in 1948.
The Series I that was produced by Rover between 1948 and 1958 featured a rectangular chassis with a 75-inch wheelbase and an 80-inch track. The original body work had flat sides with a door on each side for access to the front seats. A fold down windscreen provided access to the rear seats which were fitted as standard from 1954 onwards. The stylish rounded bodywork that is now so familiar became available from 1953 onwards and is commonly known as ‘station wagon bodywork’.
The first Land Rover was launched in 1948 at the Amsterdam Motor Show. It had a very modern design for its time and featured a boxy shape with very little bodywork. The company aimed to create an off-road vehicle that could be used by farmers and agricultural workers.
The vehicle went on sale the same year, but it wasn’t until April 1949 that production began. The first models had no doors and only plastic side windows, while the roof was made from canvas and could be rolled back. However, this configuration was soon dropped in favor of more practical all steel bodies with fixed roofs.
The Series 1 Land Rovers were available as a station wagon or pickup truck, but there were no rear seats installed in the vehicles. From 1950 onwards, Land Rover started to export cars to North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. That same year, it also created a fire engine based on the Series 1 Land Rover called the Fire Buggy.
Series II And Series III
The early 1950s saw the development of the Land Rover Series II which had a longer wheelbase and more powerful engines than its predecessor. The Series II was launched in 1958 and it had a longer wheelbase than its predecessor with increased power and improved off-road ability.
In 1959, Land Rover introduced the Series III which featured improved off-road ability and better on-road performance compared to its predecessors.
First introduced in 1948, Land Rovers were initially used on farms and smallholdings as they were designed to be functional, versatile and capable. They quickly became popular with farmers across Britain and soon caught the attention of British Army as they looked for a replacement for their Jeep vehicles.
With Britain’s Ministry of Defence looking to replace their ageing fleet of Jeeps, Land Rover got its first big break. It went through rigorous testing, including being driven up the side of a building at the Army’s testing facility! Luckily, it passed with flying colours and proved itself as an incredibly capable off-road vehicle.
The Land Rover Series I was then launched in 1948 alongside the brand new Rover saloon car as part of the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Although there were some teething problems with the early models – including having to remove both doors to fix a stubborn engine – they soon became popular with private buyers wanting an off-roader that could also be used as a daily driver.
1970s And More
The Land Rover 2000s was introduced in 1970 and was updated in 1974. It was a two-door convertible that was made for 4 years. The engine used in this model was the same as the one used in the Series IIA. Before production ended, the front of the car was updated to be more modern looking, but it still had the headlights from the Series IIA.
The History Of Land Rover Defender 110 finally came onto the scene in 1983, with a longer wheelbase and a larger top speed than any previous model. It also had an improved suspension system and an engine that produced 110 bhp. The Defender 90 is also known as “the wolf” due to its ability to run on diesel fuel.
The Land Rover Discovery made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Michigan on January 5th, 1995. The Discovery featured a four door design and came standard with either a six cylinder or eight cylinder engine. The last year of production was 2007 and there were only about fifty thousand of them built worldwide.
The next vehicle that made history for Land Rover was their Range Rover Sport. This vehicle had a four door design and came standard with either a six cylinder or eight cylinder engine. It has been highly regarded by consumers who have driven it to be the best off roader ever built.
2000s And Much More
The 2000s saw the introduction of more technology to Land Rover vehicles. This included the Terrain Response system, which was introduced in 2002. This system allows for the driver to select different modes for various terrains such as mud and snow.
The Range Rover Sport was also introduced in 2005. This model is designed to be more luxurious than the previous models, but retain its off-road capability.
In 2007, Land Rover celebrated its 60th anniversary with a special edition Freelander 2 model. This commemorative vehicle featured vintage styling and was produced in a limited run of just 600 units. It was available in three different colours – Havana Brown, Mauritius Blue and Stornoway Grey.
The following year, Land Rover launched an all-new Range Rover model. This vehicle features an aluminium monocoque chassis, making it much lighter than previous models – around 420kg lighter! This change has resulted in better fuel economy and performance from this iconic 4×4 vehicle.
Company Growth History Of “Land Rover”
In 1948, the British Rover Company launched the Land Rover, a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle, which was inspired by American military Jeeps. The car had an innovative boxy design and a steel ladder chassis with all round independent suspension.
The Series I was powered by 1.6-litre petrol engine and also available in diesel. In 1949, the Series I was replaced by Series II that featured a 2.0-litre petrol engine and improved interior.
In 1958 Land Rover launched the Series II. A that received more powerful engines and few other changes to make it more comfortable on road.
In 1961, Land Rover launched the Series III model which was powered by a new 2.25-litre petrol engine and it also received few aesthetic changes inside and out side. In 1971, the company launched two similar models named as Range Rover. The first one being a two-door SUV and other one being a four door SUV that became popular among farmers for its off road capabilities. Both these models were designed to be highly comfortable on roads too. Many celebrities including Princess Diana owned this car at that time.
Due to its radical design, Range Rover broke many sales records since its launch in 1970s.
As I’ve said, Land Rover has created many different types of vehicles. From the early series to what we see today, this company is a powerhouse and has done plenty for the automotive industry. I hope that you liked this article and it gave you a better understanding of what Land Rover does as well.