Tuesday 24 April 2018

Land Rover (1948)

Land Rover Series I
Introduced April 1948

There’s a lot you could write about the iconic Land Rover, but we’ll try to keep it brief. After the Second World War, the chief designer of the Rover car company came up with an idea to build an off-road vehicle, inspired by the war-surplus Jeep that he kept on his farm. Designed with export markets in mind, the Land Rover used a great deal of aluminium in its bodywork as steel was rationed. With capable four wheel drive, a sturdy and reliable construction and the ability to be adapted to a huge number of tasks, the Land Rover became a huge success.

A boxy looking thing with no regard for aerodynamics, the Land Rover evolved very slowly over the 67 years that it was in production. The original Series I was followed by a larger Series II then Series IIA in 1958, Series III in 1971, then the Land Rover Ninety and One-Ten in 1983 which became the Defender in 1990, and this continued in production until 2016. Over the years the Land Rover became a bit smoother, a bit more comfortable and with better engines in each generation.

The design adapted well to military service, ending up in armed forces all other the world in a huge variety of guises. Emergency services, utility companies and just about anyone who needed a practical off-road vehicle also used them, as well as farmers and the general public.

Late model retro-themed Land Rover Defender
Increasingly the Defender became a popular (and expensive) leisure vehicle, again with a huge range of modifications and custom-built versions. But by 2016 the Defender was struggling to keep up with environmental and safety legislation and was finally put out to grass. Well, sort of… because in 2018 Land Rover came up with a Defender Works V8 which cost an eye-watering £150,000 or more.

Although Land Rovers are still popular for those jobs that other vehicles cannot manage, they are also high collectable. In the UK a Series I Land Rover in good condition will set you back around £30,000 or more, with similar prices for late model Defenders. Customised ones can cost £100,000 or more, but it is possible to finder older and more basic models for less than £10,000. In the US the Defender has become a cult classic which was only officially available for a few years in the 1990s. Prices there are buoyant, with a typical price for a mid-1990s model being $60,000 to $70,000.

The Land Rover is an example of a product that got it largely right first time, and although it evolved over the years it never really strayed far from that original idea. The Land Rover marque itself outlived the Rover Car Company (having been through several owners) and now there are six vehicles in the Land Rover stable, not including the Defender itself.  Somewhere along the line this niche vehicle adapted into the mainstream, with SUVs being a commonplace site of city streets. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on your point of view, but there’s no doubt that the original Land Rover had a great deal of influence in today’s popularity of these cars.

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