There have been quite a few motoring anniversaries
so far in 2015 - the latest is Land Rover’s 67th birthday. Perhaps its worth getting some of those infantile little jokes
out of the way first... such as:
LONG LIVE THE LANDY: Land Rover is about to celebrate another anniversary – 67 of the very best! Image: Land Rover South Africa
“Why do Land Rover Freelanders have a heatable rear window?"
Answer: “To keep the hands warm of the people that give them a push start!”
Another doing the rounds some years ago went something like this:
“70% of Land Rovers ever made are still on the road... the other 30% made it home without breaking down!”
HELL OR HIGH WATER
Land Rover owners are something of a
special breed, aren’t they? They are fully aware of the marque’s perceived
idiosyncrasies but, come hell or high water, they remain constantly faithful to
Maybe because a Landy would probably get them through hell or high water. Anyway..
A fellow journalist I meet up with on
occasions owns twotypes of Land Rover and while driving with him
he proceeds to tell me where he took one or the other the whatever last long weekend.
“Have any trouble?, I venture to ask.
the usual stuff, nothing I couldn’t fix at the roadside."
Call it brand allegiance, I suppose.
I've the same passionate feelings about
Morgan cars. Perhaps you have an affinity towards one brand over another – all
quite normal conversational behaviour when blokes get together and discuss the
latest in cars.
Sixty-seven years ago, back in 1948, things
weren’t going that well in Britain. True, the National Health Service came into
being – along with the nationalisation of electricity(!) – while on the
sporting front, the Aga Khan’s horse My Love won the Derby and a 12-year-old
jockey won his first big race... one Lester Piggott.'
'RIPE FOR TWEAKING'
Rover Cars up at
Solihull in the English Midlands, were slowly easing back into car production –
99% of which were for export – the home market had to play second fiddle for a
couple more years. The company’s technical director at the
time was one Maurice Wilks who detected a strong demand for ex-army Jeeps after
buying an American war-surplus one for his farm.
He felt it was a basically
sound vehicle just ripe for tweaking to allow British farmers to use its all-wheel drive to move around
their farms and go occasionally further afield. Country roads then weren't what they are now, you see.
The first model his factory produced was a
short-wheelbase example called the “80” that received its official launch at
the Amsterdam auto show that. It had permanent all-wheel drive and a 1600cc engine taken from the Rover P3 assembly line, but
Before long, 4000 Series I Land Rover Defenders were being
produced each month – netting valuable foreign currency for Rover and, of
course, the cash-strapped British government.
The Series II Defender was unveiled 10
years later but it was to be 13 more years before the Series was reviewed again. A
revelation in 1970 was the option of a completely re-designed Landy - it was called
the Range Rover. Under the bonnet was a lean and mean all-aluminium V8 –
again, just right for export right around the world.
It was to be 19 years before the
third Land Rover model was released, codenamed Discovery* It took the
brand to new heights and soon collected accolades globally for its strength and
go-anywhere tenacity – but the vehicle wasn’t cheap to buy – or to maintain properly.
In 1997 Land Rover showcased the slightly
smaller Freelander to the world – a model that never quite lived up to the hype that it was given. In fact, sales of the original Defender were receiving
something of a revival so the factory pulled out all the stops to be sure to
include this seminal model in its catalogues to this day.
A few years ago the already much revamped
Range Rover received a much-needed makeover including the offering of a stand
alone Sport version – a vehicle for which today the company can hardly meet demand.
There, you have it – just five** models in 67 years. Happy birthday, Land Rover!
HEARD OF THE 'FORWARD CONTROL'?
* Back in January 2015 Wheels24 (January 2015)
alluded to the fact that there was a new Land Rover Discovery on its way to
South Africa, a sporty, compact SUV offering the practicality of 5+2 seating,
along with superb capabilities in the premium sector in the SA marketplace,
with prices starting from R541 900.
**A model that I haven’t mentioned due to
space constraints was built from 1972-75. Known as the Forward
Control, it was really just an export vehicle and primarily for military
use. Strangely, they often turn up in South African scrapyards.
Anyone fancy a restoration job on the
rarest Land Rover of the lot?