A true legend
Land Rover celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998, and now, as
we near 2004, we wanted to glance in the rear view mirror to look back in Land Rover history at its most significant moments.
It was 1948 when the 80" made its world debut at the Amsterdam Motor
Show; a bulletproof piece of hardware that could go anywhere and be hosed off when it came back. But the Post-War years had
created the need to make the vehicle more useful as an agricultural workhorse, so in 1954 the 86" and later, the 107" were
created to fill this niche.
A decade after its introduction, the Series I design fell to the
Series II - a vast improvement over the original in size, comfort, style and performance. By 1959, a quarter-million Land
Rovers were on the road. By 1966, it was a half million. Rovers were taking on the world's most treacherous and unforgiving
territories...and winning. Then, in 1970, Land Rover engineers created a paradigm shift in the concept of the off-road vehicle.
The Range Rover debuts! It was designed for serious off-road use (and it too could be hosed clean inside & out), but it
added an element of luxury for the country gentlemen it sought to attract. It was an idea ahead of its time.
The 70's inspired a number of innovations. In 1971, the Series III
debuted, and a year later, the 101" followed. Originally designed as a gun tractor for the British Army, it found modern favor
as gargantuan, overbuilt long-range camper.
In 1976, Land Rover sales hit the 1 million mark; not exactly Ford
and Chevy numbers, but a testament to the fierce loyalty the Land Rover inspires in its legion of fans worldwide.
By 1988, the Range Rover had come off the back roads of the estates
and summer "cottages" of the wealthy and joined the mainstream. Luxury features abounded, and its style was so unique it became
the first (and only) vehicle ever displayed at the Louvre in Paris as an example of modern sculpture. Such beauty and on-and-off-road
performance in one vehicle? Unheard of! Now, of course, there are at least 65 marques calling themselves SUV's, many of which
have little or no off-road heritage at all!
The idea of the Range Rover took off, and 1989 sales exceeded '88
sales by 41% (which is why so many of you drive '89's!). Finding its success and appeal so overwhelming, Four Wheeler magazine
awards the Range Rover its coveted "Four Wheeler of the Year" award.
Despite its success, Range Rover was still a landed gentry vehicle.
Rover engineers searched for a design to fit the needs of the family, and created the Discovery, with more room and less expensive
luxury features. In 1990, Discovery won Off Road & 4 Wheel Drive magazine's 4x4 of the year before it was officially launched!
(They used a Tdi and tested it in Scotland.) Still more awards followed. In 1994 the Defender won Four Wheeler of the Year
by Four Wheeler magazine, and a year later, the Discovery won Four Wheeler's Four Wheeler of the Year award. (See a pattern
1996 saw the last Range Rover Classic (#317,615) roll off the assembly
line. The Vogue SE was loaded; a heady compilation of over 10,000 parts. The beautiful new 4.0 takes its place, where it remains
the unquestioned king of the SUV hill.
Following the trend towards small, sporty SUV's, the engineers once
again got together to create the Freelander, which debuted officially in 1997. The following year, the Freelander wins 4x4
of the Year by Off Road & 4 Wheel Drive magazine, and goes on to become the best-selling SUV in all of Europe!
In 2000, Range Rover enthusiasts gathered at the Heritage Motor
Centre in Gaydon, England to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Range Rover. 605 Range Rovers attended, from prototype
"Velar" models to the rare 6x6 stretched versions. A fitting tribute to the one, the only, the original and still champion