29 July 2023
In the penultimate part of our A to Z journey, we move from Series vehicles to Supercharged V8s...
Manufacturing overseas isn’t a new thing; back in the 1950s, Metalu’rgica de Santa Ana (later Santana) took on a contract to build Land Rovers in Spain, with the first locally-built models being launched in 1958. Initially very similar to UK-built vehicles, slight changes soon started to be introduced, from very different-looking Forward Control models, and the Militaire, a Lightweight-like model, available in SWB and LWB form.
With their generous size and prestigious appearance, Range Rovers make a great base for discreet armouring. Want one? Land Rover will sell you a Sentinel.
Series Land Rovers
Including the leaf-sprung models built from 1948-1985, Series models are definitely not Defenders, even though the company does sometimes include them in the Defender timeline. The Land-Rover became the Series I when the Series II was launched in 1958. The Series IIA, with its 2286cc engine, arrived in 1961, and the Series III was launched in 1971.
Ex-RAF pilot and test pilot, Tom Sheppard has undertaken some epic expeditions in Land Rovers over the years, including the 7494-mile first coast-to-coast crossing of the Sahara through the Mauritanian Empty Quarter – undertaken in 101 Forward Control Land Rovers. He has written Four-by-four Driving (previously The Land Rover Experience) and the essential overlanders’ manual Vehicle-Dependent Expedition Guide, which he continually updates.
Snatch Land Rover
The Snatch Land Rover offers occupants a degree of protection from small arms, and was originally designed for use in Northern Ireland to replace Lightweights fitted with Vehicle Protection Kit (VPK). Its limited protection became apparent in Afghanistan and Iraq where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) caused a number of crew fatalities.
The wing of the company that makes the stuff you can’t do on the production line. From commercial conversions to bespoke Autobiography versions, it’ll be done here.
Land Rover wanted to make a splash – literally – with the launch of the Range Rover Sport L461 in 2022. Stunt driver Jessica Hawkins, who had already worked with Land Rover on the Bond film No Time To Die, drove the new model along the river bed before turning onto the spillway against the flow, with a 90-metre drop waiting for her if she got it wrong.
Way before the Range Rover Sport was launched, you could have a Freelander Sport. With stiffer, lower, suspension, body-roll was reduced, so it could be thrown round corners more enthusiastically, but at the expense of off-road ground clearance.
Passenger carrying models were called Station Wagons. Up to 12 seats were fitted depending on wheelbase, and the 12-seater models avoided purchase tax as they were classed as buses.
In order to reduce emissions on vehicles, Stop-Start was introduced to the Freelander 2 in 2008. It switches the engine off when stationary, restarting when you put your foot on the clutch. Initially available on manual models, it is now a feature on all Land Rover models.
Models have gained this badge to signify their high-performance pedigree. Supercharged V8 petrol engines have turned Land Rovers from farm workhorses into tarmac burners. They’re still capable off-road, only limited by the grip the tyres can find.
A concept vehicle prepared for the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1999, the SVX was a stripped-down and blinged-up Td5 Defender 90, running on 20-inch alloys. The full open-top design had echoes of a CCV trialler, but the smart micatallic Himalayan Green was set-off nicely by the silver roll cage, grille, headlamp surrounds and body cappings. 2008’s black 60th Anniversary SVX soft top bore more than a slight resemblance to the concept car.
Not every owner wants to learn how to be an off-road expert so Terrain Response – introduced with the Discovery 3 – was Land Rover’s answer to this. With settings for Mud and Ruts, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand and Rock Crawl, drivers can select the ground conditions they are experiencing and become an off-road expert. It has evolved over time and Terrain Response 2 even offers driver advice, and a configurable version is also available on some models.
Starting the evolution from farm/military vehicle into more family-friendly vehicles, the coachbuilt Tickford station wagon showed a glimpse of where Land Rover would end up today.
Land Rover managed to get one of its vehicles into 2000’s Tomb Raider film, starring Angelina Jolie. Initially the company wanted to supply a Freelander for the film, but that was rejected; they wanted a Defender. And it transpired that the star couldn’t drive a manual, so it had to be quickly adapted to be an automatic. Tomb Raider limited editions were made in 90 and 110 versions and are still sought-after. Six lucky first owners won their 110s through a competition run by Weetabix.
The ability to pull the maximum trailer weight allowed with overrun brakes has always been a selling point, and although some of the models now have lower ratings, most of the vehicles available from the company can still haul a 3500kg trailer with ease.
Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox and Bburago all included Land Rovers in their toy ranges. Over the years there has been a move away to more intricate models, which are less resilient to enthusiastic play by kids. Oxford Diecast has an extensive range in smaller scales, while Almost Real makes some superbly detailed 1:18 diecast vehicles. You’ll be able to race a Series I on Scalextric track soon, too.
Where the ground is very soft, even a Land Rover can get bogged. The answer? Fit tracks. The Cuthbertson conversion was available for Series Land Rovers and reduced the ground pressure significantly. More recently, Mattracks has offered bolt-on conversions and were chosen for use in Siberia on the Defenders of Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Global Expedition in 1997-98. Sadly the expedition had to be cancelled at the last minute.
Land Rover North America has been an active supporter and partner of Tread Lightly! which encourages drivers to engage in responsible four-wheeling.
The Pan-American Highway from Anchorage, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina is an epic drive, but it’s conquering the 250-mile Darién Gap in 1972 that the two British Trans-Americas Expedition Range Rovers are best known for. Led by Colonel John Blashford-Snell, the road sections weren’t uneventful with an accident severely damaging one of the Range Rovers at the start of the trip. The Darién Gap section, though, is the stuff of legends, with the team encountering every kind of obstacle, from bottomless swamps to mechanical failures. One vehicle is at the British Motor Museum, the other is part of the Dunsfold Collection.
AND FINALLY: In the last part of our A to Z, we're talking V8s and X-Tech, as well as celebrating our own LRM 25th Anniversary...
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