While many people think that The Land Rover was designed in 1948, it was actually designed in 1947 as a post-war temporary stopgap measure for the export-hungry Rover Company.
The enthusiasm of Rover's top management for the new model was so great that it axed plans for its new 'mini' car in favour of the 4x4 newcomer. It was engineered for extreme capability as well as strength.
Spencer Wilkins (Managing Director of Rover) and his brother Maurice (Engineering Director of Rover) were the creators of the Land Rover. Their purpose in producing the early Land Rover was to replace the US Jeep which was engineered by Willy-Overland and Ford.
Spencer wanted his creation to be extremely strong, but as steel was still strictly rationed after the war, they chose Birmabright aluminium-alloy for the body panels. This decision has had a significant impact as it has made the Company one of the world’s most forward thinking and innovative users of aluminium in vehicles. These qualities are as significant a part of what makes a Land Rover vehicle today as unique as they were 60 years ago.
Just after the war the British government offered large financial incentives for companies to produce products for export, the first Land Rover model therefore soon became Rovers flagship vehicle.
The first Land Rover prototype was built in the summer of 1947. The early versions had a tractor-like centrally-mounted steering wheel. This was done in order to save production costs by not having to build separate left- and right-hand drive models for export.
During the 1950’s-1960’s Land Rover became a dominant manufacturer of four wheel drive vehicles; this was mainly due to improved stability and a tighter turning circle.
The Land Rover range was improved and expanded over the years to meet customers' (both civilian and military) demands, and to exploit gaps in the market.
As a successful, tough, reliable mobility platform, many organizations all over the world came to depend on the Land Rover vehicles to get personnel and equipment into the most challenging situations.
The original Range Rover was launched in 1970, with permanent four wheel drive and a very powerful V8 engine, this model soon became one of the most iconic vehicles ever produced
Land Rover expanded the range even more and launched the Discovery in 1989, the Range Rover P38A in 1995, the Freelander and Discovery Series II in 1998, the Range Rover L322 in 2002, the Discovery III in 2004.
In 1994, British Aerospace sold Rover to BMW. After a rocky relationship BMW then sold Land Rover to Ford, the company became part of the Premier Automotive Group (PAG), joining Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lincoln and Volvo. Ford later sold Land Rover to the Tata group who have since made significant investments with plans for new models and factories.
Land Rover is still based at the Lode Lane factory in Solihull where the first Land Rovers were produced over 60 years ago. The factory has expanded a lot over the years, with separate production lines now handling the Range Rover, Discovery, Defender and Freelander. The new Range Rover Evoque is now manufactured in Halewood.
Land Rover engines are supplied by BMW, Midlands Powertrain and the Ford group. When the Discovery Series II was replaced production of the Rover V8 engines finally stopped. The only Land Rover built engine now is the Td5 in the Defender.
Almost all testing is carried out at the off-road course on site at the factory, and also at Land Rover's test facility and new headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire.
Land Rover has come a very long way from being a company producing a single model in the post-war years. The company continues to develop and explore new concepts and ideas, such as the Range Stormier concept car. The launch of the Range Rover Evoque sees the start of a series of product launches, and will see Land Rover drive into the 21st Century. Expect the 'baby' Range Rover Sport in the next year or so, then a new Freelander, and maybe even a new Defender. It's an exciting time for Land Rover.
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