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    Land Rover expert James Taylor explores out 30 defining design moments. Part one takes us from 1947-89

  2. WORDS:
    29 JUNE 2015
    • Posted: 29/06/15

      1. A sketch in the sand: Easter 1947

      The moment the “Land Rover” is born. Rover Company Chief Engineer Maurice Wilks sketches out an idea for a 4x4 utility vehicle which will keep the factory busy while the car market is constrained after World War II. He demonstrates his design to his brother Spencer Wilks, Rover's Managing Director, on the sand at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey when both are on holiday over the Easter period. In 2015, Land Rover pays homage to this event by drawing a huge Defender outline in the sand at Red Wharf Bay.

      Spencer Wilks (left) and his brother Maurice (right) were instrumental in developing the first Land Rover

      2. No doors, just multiple uses: April 1948

      The Land Rover goes public at the Amsterdam Show at the end of April. Rover's plan is to keep the cost down by making doors and a spare wheel extra-cost options! That idea doesn't last, but the simple, rugged shape of the original Land Rover does.

      The Series 1's simple, rugged shape came to define Land Rover

      3. A passenger-carrier, too: October 1948

      It becomes obvious that the basic Land Rover design has other uses. A seven-seat Station Wagon, with the body hand-made of metal panels over a wooden frame in the traditional way, becomes available from October. The Land Rover is no longer simply a commercial vehicle.

      By 1948 it was clear that Land Rover would serve as a passenger carrier

      4. More room, new doors: September 1953

      Land Rover users want more load space, so the original 80-inch model gives way to two larger ones: the 86-inch (with 25% more load space) and the 107-inch (with a full six-foot load-bed length). The original angled trailing edge to the doors gives way to a straight edge, and the exterior door handles take on a distinctive recessed design.

      By 1953 Land Rover had evolved to provide more loadspace

      5. A better Station Wagon: September 1953

      A new Station Wagon design is drawn up. It uses elements developed for the all-metal body of the existing utility vehicles to create a more rugged Land Rover that is also much cheaper to build than the earlier, wooden-framed model. This modular design principle endures into the 21st century and is a key reason for the success and longevity of the utility Land Rover.

      The modular design principle drawn up in 1953 endures to this day.

      6. The iconic design: April 1958

      Rover car designer David Bache designs the bodywork for the new Series II Land Rovers. This simple, clean design continues right through to the present day with only minor changes. Bache was Rover's chief designer from the mid 1950s to the early 1990s and is today acknowledged as one of Britain’s greatest. His stately Rover P5 (3-litre and 3.5-litre), clean-lined P6 (2000, 2200 and 3500) and big SD1 hatchback are all milestones in British car design; he oversaw the Austin Maestro and Montego, too.

      Rover car designer David Bache designed the bodywork for the Series II (1958)

      7. A new face: April 1969

      Headlamps move to the wing fronts on utility models to meet new traffic regulations around the world. They had originally been on the grille panel, where the projecting wing fronts protected them from damage by vegetation. After a few months with an interim design where the lamps sit on the wing panels, a more sophisticated recessed design is introduced. This basic solution is still in use today.

      In 1969 headlamps moved to wing fronts on utility models

      8. Dynamic and practical: the Range Rover, June 1970

      Combining interior luxury and improved “car-like” performance and dynamics with Land Rover practicality and off-road ability, the Range Rover is introduced as the second member of the Land Rover family. Permanent four-wheel drive gives secure handling and lighter axles give a better ride. The vehicle is the brainchild of top Rover engineer Spen King, and the design is deliberately simple and elegant (partly to allow for overseas assembly from kits of parts). Designer David Bache works on the shape, which rapidly becomes another design icon. All subsequent Range Rover designs bear its influence.


      Range Rover launched in 1970, combining Land Rover practicality with luxury

      9. Range Rover in fashion: February 1981

      The Range Rover's appeal amongst the sophisticated and prosperous leads to a demand for more luxury, so Land Rover tests the water with a limited edition that features wood trim and a picnic hamper. The In Vogue, named after the prototype appears in a fashion shoot for Vogue magazine, sets the style for the future.

      The In Vogue (1981) was named after a prototype that appeared in a fashion shoot for Vogue magazine

      10. Opening more doors to the future: October 1981

      A factory-built, four-door Range Rover becomes available alongside the two-door original. It improves practicality without losing the elegance of the original design, and rapidly becomes the preferred model.

      In 1981 a factory built, four-door Range Rover became available

      11. The County set: April 1982

      A taller one-piece windscreen is introduced on the new Land Rover One Ten models to improve visibility, together with deformable rubber wheel arch "eyebrows" to suit a new and wider track. These models have coil-spring suspension and borrow other elements of the Range Rover design to give Land Rover's utility models greater comfort and better on-road dynamics. A year later, the long-wheelbase One Ten is joined by the short-wheelbase Ninety. Recognisably derived from earlier Land Rovers, their enduring style remains more or less unchanged more than three decades later.

      10. Opening more doors to the future: October 1981

      A factory-built, four-door Range Rover becomes available alongside the two-door original. It improves practicality without losing the elegance of the original design, and rapidly becomes the preferred model.

      Land Rover One Ten and One Ninety (1982)

      12. Enduring design: March 1983

      Following the lead of the Range Rover, optional County trim on Land Rovers improves their comfort levels and makes Station Wagon models a more viable everyday alternative to a car. It's a big success with the public, and from now on a more luxurious County trim level will always be available on the Land Rover Station Wagons.

      An advert for the Land Rover One Ten

      13. Windows on the future: June 1984

      The 1985-model Land Rovers usher in a minor revolution. Out go the separate door tops and sliding windows, and in come one-piece doors with winding windows. The new design appeals to those more familiar with cars, without compromising Land Rover's traditional robust design. Even so, military users like the old doors, which allow them to strip their vehicles down for low-profile operations.

      The 1985-models featured one-piece doors instead of separate door tops

      14. A handle on design: October 1986

      As a new surge of enthusiasm for 4x4s comes from family buyers, Land Rover refines its utility models further. Car-type door handles with push buttons become standard. County models get body-colour wheel arch "eyebrows", too.

      By 1986 Land Rover was becoming popular with family buyers, so models were refined accordingly

      15. Family versatility: November 1989

      The new Discovery model delivers a Land Rover that's designed to be an everyday family car. The stepped roof, introduced to give additional headroom for occasional seats in the back, becomes a Discovery design cue. Now there are three members of the Land Rover family.

      The Discovery (1989) was designed to be an everyday family car

      James Taylor has been writing about motoring since the 1980s and is a world authority on Land Rover.
  3. WORDS:
    29 JUNE 2015


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