75 years of Land Rover: Part 1


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It's been quite a trip... : credit: © Nick Dimbleby, JLR
To celebrate this massive milestone, all this week on the LRM website we'll be taking you on a journey through our weird and wonderful A to Z of Land Rovers. In part one, we go from Air Suspension, James Bond and the Camel Trophy, to Eastnor Castle, Four-wheel steer and the Forest Rover...


With models like the Discovery finding more homes as normal family vehicles, Land Rover had to do something about body roll. Anti-roll bars were used initially, but Active Cornering Enhancement was introduced with the Discovery 2 and used hydraulic rams to keep the body flatter in corners.


Rover started advertising the Land Rover right from the get-go. Fortunately, most times the images look more like the actual thing than this advert placed in the 28 April 1948 issue of The Motor.


The Half-Ton Land Rover was designed to be narrow enough to be carried two abreast in an Armstrong Whitworth AW660 Argosy aircraft and light enough to be carried by a Westland Wessex helicopter – which gained it the Lightweight moniker.
It was designed to be stripped down for air-transportation; built-up it was heavier than the civilian model.

Air suspension

Where would Land Rover be without air suspension? Introduced with the Range Rover Classic, it has given Land Rover drivers a fantastic ride ever since. With its ability to lower to get in and out or connect a trailer, adjust for any load, or lift itself up to cross obstacles, it’s a winner.


Although Series and Defenders were the basis for many ambulance conversions, Discoverys were also adapted, and some gained extended wheelbases. The last generation Land Rover-based ambulance to enter military service was the Defender XD 130 Pulse.


There have been loads of amphibious Land Rovers over the years, many created for military trials, but Land Rover has also used them for publicity, with a Ninety and Discovery being used as part of its promotional activities for Cowes Week. An amphibious Land Rover crewed by Steve Burgess and Dan Evans made the first crossing of the 56-mile Bering Strait between Russia and the US in a land vehicle in 2008.


Land Rovers are fantastic for towing, so why not give them a fifth wheel enabling them to make up an articulated unit. That’s what Dixon Bate did in the 1960s, offering a range of trailers. A number of Defender 90s were also so-equipped for moving racecourse starting gates.


Why settle for the same as everyone else, when you can have your Range Rover built your way. From any colour under the sun to bespoke interiors, Land Rover’s crafts people could make you something that really stood out from the rest.


Translating from Arabic as ‘Beloved’ Aziza is the name given to the different Land Rovers globetrotting photographer Nino Cirani used. He had three: a grey 88in export-spec Series II, a grey 109in station wagon and the one most people know, a red 109in hard top with windows. All three carried an Autohome Air-Camping roof tent, and were comprehensively kitted out for overland trips. Aziza 3 is part of the collection of the Automobile Museum, Turin.

David Bache

Taking the Land Rover’s flat edges and softening them slightly with the barrel sides of the Series II was a brilliant bit of design by David Bache. The fact that next to no changes were made to the styling for almost 60 years, from 1958 to 2016, shows that good design never looks dated. Bache also had a hand in the styling of the original Range Rover.

Ben Nevis

Climbing the UK’s tallest mountain might be a tough task on foot, but try getting a vehicle up there… That’s what 16 members of the Land Rover Owners Club achieved in June 1963. Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment repeated the feat in 1992 with a stripped-down Ninety.

Bond, James Bond

Bond films have seen plenty of Land Rovers, from the Hong Kong police 107in Series I station wagons in 1967’s You Only Live Twice and the Series III in the opening sequence for The Living Daylights. More recently Land Rover has teamed up with the franchise to supply vehicles, including the much-copied big-tyred Spectre 110, and Defender L663s in No Time To Die.


Drew Bowler started Bowler to create off-road competition vehicles, and his legacy lives on with the Bowler Rally series, after the company was bought by Land Rover and incorporated into its Special Vehicles division. The Bowler Rally Series includes a variety of different surfaces from gravel rallies to hill rallies to give participants a good grounding in motorsport and set them up for epic events such as the Dakar.


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The Range Rover which broke 27 vehicle speed and endurance records in 1986. It was done to counter negative press – Top Gear TV show was given a new VM diesel Range Rover to test which had not had its proper pre-delivery inspections and slated its performance. The vehicle is part of the Dunsfold Collection.

Camel Trophy

Although the first and last Camel Trophy events that ran from 1980 to 2000 didn’t use Land Rovers, it’s the Solihull era that defines the event. It was a test of both the crews and the vehicles and perhaps the ultimate tool for proving how tough Land Rovers were. LRM contributor Nick Dimbleby’s recent book on Camel Trophy history is a must-read.


Camouflage wraps and panels help disguise the vehicle until the company wants you to see what it is like – a common sight on the roads around Land Rover’s Gaydon plant.


A variety of companies offered camper conversions for overlanders, with Dormobile and Carawagon being the best-known.


With Suzuki SJ410s buzzing around the UK’s roads, Land Rover flirted with a Ninety tailored for the leisure market. With a roll-over bar, bull bar, swing-away spare wheel carrier, Range Rover seats, chunky tyres and side-stripes, the Cariba was more Miami than Margate. It wouldn’t be until 1993’s 90SV that a production leisure Land Rover would be available.



The love child of a Series Land Rover and a tank, the Centaur was designed for carrying heavy munitions by Laird of Anglesey. Several test vehicles were made, but it didn’t go into production.


Centre steer

If you’re looking to sell a vehicle to replace a tractor, putting the steering wheel and controls in the middle makes perfect sense. As it had a view of selling its new model as a farm implement, Rover’s prototype for the Land Rover was a centre steer.


The dam at the Clywedog reservoir was the scene for one of Land Rover’s best TV adverts, which showed a Land Rover Ninety splashing through the water at its base before winching itself up and onto the road at the top. Richard Hammond replicated it in a specially adapted Series I for Top Gear.

Conran Design

The light and airy interior of the original Discovery came to be thanks to a collaboration between the company and Conran Design.

Range Rover Coupe

Another concept vehicle, the SV Coupe was touted as being a limited production run, but never got any further than the prototype stage.

Roger Crathorne

A Solihull man through and through, Roger Crathorne spent his entire working life on the vehicles. He won the first Hill Rally in a Range Rover (YVB 166H) in 1971 and helped create the Land Rover Experience which launched in 1980.


The Honda-badged Discovery sold to the Japanese market.


COMING UP: In part two, we'll take you from the DC100 Defender concept car to the fabulous Forest Rover...



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