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The car that saved Land Rover

Left: The first Range Rover at the official launch at the Amsterdam Motorshow 1970


At the end of the 60's the former proud Land-Rover marque was part of the British Leyland Group - and this group was almost dead. There had not been many investments made and those made were put in the military versions.

The Range Rover was the car that turned the old company into a mass volume manufaturer. It was the first real "car" produced by them. Before there were only utilities but no car. King (the developper) and his team took inspirations by the american contenders that already existed: The Ford Bronco, the Jeep Cherokee and the International Harvester (my favorite). They looked at the pros and cons and made a better car, a more

Right: The very first one built - but not the first one to be registered as the press service wanted a blue one for their pictures. The pilot-production vehicles were still badged as VELAR's


luxurious and an widely accepted alternative to luxury limousines as well as family estates. And they didn't forget to included some faults and shortcomings too.

The basic design was never completely changed for more than a quarter of a century. The concept was simple: Take simple and proven mechanics and add some comfort and a fashionable body. The sales department was completely flattened by this new move. Until now they were used to sell utilities to people who cared more about payload and how many worker could be stashed inside.

Left: One of the first buch and one of the last. More than a quarter of a century lies between them but they are still twins.


Now they had to sell a car which could pull a horsebox and transport it's passengers in comfort. As it didn't fit in any category they decided to emphasize it's versatility.

At the time the Range came out the venerable Series IIA was still in production. This was a great cross-country vehicle but nobody bought it for it's high speed performance or his interior comfort. These were found in the car line. So the elements from the cars (silky V8, long travel coil springs, power disc brakes all around) were mated to the four wheel drive ability and heavy chassis to make a great product. And great it was. The US 4x4's simply

Right: This early advertising drawing shows nicely the mechanical parts.

didn't have the on-road comfort and road manners nor the long travel suspension that made it so great offroad or the elegance in body styling.

Most manufacturers were first suspicious about the new trend. Only 1979 Mercedes aimed at the same segment with the 5-door G-Wagon. Obviously it had not the elegance and also lacked the good road manners of the Range. 1981 Isuzu and Mitsubishi brought cheaper alternatives but they only captured the bottom end of the market. It wasn't until the end of the 80's when the first

Left: Many smaller manufacturers built conversions based on the Range Rover, from almost unaltered cars to radical conversions. Usually they were shipped in similar form to the one pictured here. The crate on the back contains the additional parts.


real contender came in form of the Toyota Land Cruiser and ,in 1992, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

When Landrovers traditional third world markets collapsed in the early 80's it was only the Range Rover that saved the company from going under.

Left: In my opinion this was one of the ugliest conversions ever made. Wood & Pickett built this strange front.
Above: The original interior was easy to clean and functional - and bigger than most estates. Here an 1980 model.