THERE SHE ROVES
THE ULTIMATE ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE HAS FOUGHT WARS AND DELIVERED AID ALL OVER THE WORLD
As Land Rover celebrates its 70-year anniversary, we look at the history of an extraordinary vehicle that goes places no others can.
On Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey in 1947, Maurice Wilks drew a sketch in the sand. This sketch would become the inspiration for the first Land Rover. He proposed the idea to his brother Spencer, MD of the Rover company. Possessing a truly restless spirit, Wilks’ goal was to build something that could tackle any terrain, weather condition or challenge. That is exactly what he did. Launched on 30th April at the 1948 Motor Show in Amsterdam, it soon became obvious that he had created an exceptional vehicle. The Series I became an icon, as did Wilks.
King George VI became the first royal Land Rover owner when he was presented with the 100th car off the production line. Ever since then, there’s been a royal connection. Land Rover received its first Royal Warrant in 1951 and now holds three, with members of the Royal Family choosing it for use in both their public and private lives. During the 1970s HM The Queen and her children were often seen at equestrian events in their Series 111 (sometimes sitting on the roof for a better view).
The first British Army order arrived in 1949. Because it was so large (nearly 2,000 vehicles) all Land Rovers were painted in Army Bronze Green in order to keep costs down. The Land Rover first saw active duty in Korea in 1950 and has continued to serve its country, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hence the name Defender, which was acquired in 1989.
The Red Cross ordered its first Land Rover in 1954, starting a relationship in which Land Rovers have brought aid to literally millions across the globe. Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the Red Cross, says, “‘The amazing thing about the Defender for me isn’t the vehicle itself, but the people we can help as a result of being able to access these places.”
As seen on screen
In 1966, Land Rovers appeared in the film Born Free. This was to be the beginning of the brand’s ongoing involvement in wildlife conservation, The Born Free Foundation continues to be a charity which Land Rover supports. Land Rover has also appeared in Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, The Queen with Dame Helen Mirren and Quantum of Solace, with Daniel Craig as James Bond.
From the beginning, Maurice Wilks used Birmabright, a lightweight, rust-resistant aluminium alloy, and the use of aluminium to cut weight remains a key feature of Land Rover engineering. The biggest single change in appearance came when the headlamps moved from the grille to the wings in 1969.
The engineering evolved, the engine size grew from a 1.6 diesel to a V8 petrol. There was also an increase in the comfort factor when coil-sprung suspension was added in 1983.
On 29th January 2016, the last Defender rolled off the line at Solihull. It looked very similar to the first Land Rovers built there 68 years ago. It is not the end, though. That same day,
a special restoration project was announced by Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works. The Reborn programme is set to restore Series 1 to factory specification. What better way to celebrate 70 years of glory?
HISTORY OF AN ICON
Aluminium construction chosen – still a hallmark. Revealed at Amsterdam Motor Show on 30th April. First car registered in May. Full production starts in August. King George VI receives the 100th car built
First Army order colour-switches to Bronze Green
First active military duty in Korea
First long wheelbase version, the 107, is launched
First car delivered to The British Red Cross. Car custom-built for Churchill’s 80th birthday
Series 11 is launched
Series 11A is launched
Land Rovers appear in Born Free
Headlamps move to the front wings
Series 111 is introduced
The first V8 is introduced
The Land Rover 90 version is introduced
The Defender name is introduced
Appears in Tomb Raider
Appears in Bond film Quantum of Solace
The two-millionth Defender is produced