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Land Rover: The icon is 67, and counting

2015-06-22 09:10


LONG LIVE THE LANDY: Land Rover is about to celebrate another anniversary – 67 of the very best! Image: Land Rover South Africa


Land Rover celebrates 68 years of its iconic Defender in 2015 with an epic 1km sand drawing tribute at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey, England.

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:

“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!”


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 the brand.

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.

“Just 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.'


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 slightly detuned.

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!


* 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?

Read more on:    land rover  |  anniversary

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