Land Rover boasts an exceptional heritage and history. The brand’s vehicles have traveled to the most remote corners of the planet, pioneered new technologies, and become the vehicle of choice for people who want to go above and beyond. This year, Land Rover is celebrating its 73rd anniversary. At the Wyant Group, we thought it would be fitting to outline seven cool facts about the British brand, in honour of over seven decades of excellence.
1 – WORLD WAR II ROOTS
The story behind the creation of the first Land Rover is interesting to say the least. Following the Second World War, Britain’s economy was in a dire place. Spencer and Maurice Wilks, then respectively the technical chief and managing director of Rover, were facing a challenge. Steel was in short supply and the British government required guarantees of vehicle exports in order to allow manufacturers to utilize it.
The brothers had a farm in Anglesey, where they used a war-surplus Willys Jeep. Maurice reasoned that they could improve on the concept; They wanted a vehicle that would be even better when it came to working on the farm – with the ability to serve as a tractor or generator – while also being fully functional on the road. A Rover for the land, basically. The concept was drawn on the sand of Red Wharf Bay, and the Land Rover was born.
An interesting fact about the Land Rover is that its defining features and strong assets were due to the austerity measures presented by World War II. The body was built using leftover aluminium from the war effort, which was more readily available. As for the light green paint that would become a hallmark of the early models, it was, in fact, the same paint used by fighter plane manufacturers.
2 – ROYAL DUTY
Land Rover is very proud of its British roots and has long been associated with the Royal Family. In fact, Land Rover supplied the first bespoke ‘State Review’ car for the Royal Family in 1953. Land Rover, along with Jaguar, are the only two automotive brands to hold all three Royal Warrants from Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. And it isn’t just for publicity: the Queen has been rumoured to be a big fan of Land Rovers and has driven them for a very long time. When it comes to interesting facts, being the official vehicle of the world’s most famous and longest-standing Monarch certainly stands out as an exceptional achievement!
3 – OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY
The first Land Rover was designed as a go-anywhere vehicle and it’s no coincidence that this has become an integral part of Land Rover’s brand identity. Effectively, Land Rover has always invested time and thought to ensure that capability was a defining aspect of their vehicles.
First, the inherent design of Land Rovers has long maximized approach, breakover and departure angles when it comes to obstacle clearance. This capability has been enhanced in many recent and current models thanks to the use of a height-adjustable air suspension.
Furthermore, Land Rovers have long been known – and relied upon – for their ability to cross deep spans of water, from floods to shallow rivers. This capability has been a life-saver for many owners, adventurers and search-and-rescue operators over the years, and the brand has continued to improve this capability: the current Range Rover was the first production SUV in the world able to wade through 900 millimetres of water.
Finally, the brand has long offered vehicles capable of finding traction on slippery surfaces, thanks to the use of low range and locking differentials. They’ve and progressively enhanced these features with systems such as traction control, Hill Descent Control, and Land Rover’s Terrain Response system.
4 – ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT
Land Rover has always stood for capability and adventure. Consequently, it was not long before the brand became the vehicle of choice for global expeditions. From the 1950s, the Oxford and Cambridge expeditions used Land Rovers to venture into Africa, Asia and South America. In 1955-56, the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition to Singapore set off on the first overland expedition of its scale – 18,000 miles between England and Singapore. The route, long considered impassable, saw the team traverse deserts in the Middle East and tackle a muddy, dangerous stretch between Burma and India interrupted by countless streams, rivers, and overgrown vegetation, where the team often had to cut out a road themselves. This expedition has since been referred to as First Overland.
Land Rovers have always lived up to this spirit of adventure. The brand’s vehicles were the first to cross the Darien Gap and win the Paris-Dakar Rally. The Leyland Brothers completed the first east-west crossing of Australia in a Series III. For many remote populations, a Land Rover was the first car they ever set eyes on. Across the world, Land Rovers have become a symbol of adventure and exploration.
And we cannot fail to mention the Camel Trophy, a favourite of old-school Land Rover enthusiasts. For the better part of two decades, starting in 1981, Land Rover supplied the vehicles for what was deemed to be “the Olympics of 4×4”. Teams of two, organized by nationality, would drive Land Rovers over thousands of kilometers in the world’s most challenging terrain and most remote of locations. The teams, competing for the ultimate win, would often have to resort to teamwork and camaraderie to get through the most challenging obstacles.
“From the beach, jungle, bush, desert and the mountains to the mud, sand and snow; as the first true all-terrain vehicle, Land Rover has always stood for capability and adventure. Go anywhere, whenever, whatever the weather, however steep the incline.”
From exploring the remote portions of the globe to being the first vehicle to climb Heaven’s Gate – racing 999 steps up a mountain-side in the process – the ability to go ‘above and beyond’ has always been at the heart of Land Rover.
5 – SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Land Rover has also built a tremendous reputation thanks to its involvement with and support of various organizations. The brand has long supported explorers, conservationists, search-and-rescue teams and aid agencies, who have in turn helped map the world, established communications networks, helped safeguard rare wildlife species from extinction, and provided aid across the globe.
“As the go-to vehicle for humanitarian, conservation, research and protection projects, Land Rover dominated 70% of the global aid market in the 1970s. Across the world, it has been a symbol of hope and rescue, reaching places no car had before.”
Notably, Land Rover has been involved with the Born Free Foundation, with Land Rover vehicles proving useful for the wildlife preservation organization to reach animals in the most remote locations, in Kenya, Ethiopia, India and South Africa, where the vehicles are deployed. Land Rover has also supported the Royal Geographical Society for 25 years, funding outreach and expedition activities. Furthermore, Land Rover has been involved with the Red Cross since the 1950s, supporting humanitarian projects in twenty-four countries and across four continents. Land Rover is currently involved in a partnership with the Red Cross in endeavours such as a homelessness project in Italy, a water and sanitation program in South Sudan and a health and social care program in Portugal and the UK. Recently, Land Rover and the Red Cross have been exploring the use of drones and Land Rover’s all-terrain capability to help with search and rescue efforts as part of PROJECT HERO. This advanced communication concept vehicle is an excellent example of how Land Rover is continuing to innovate and maintain its involvement with aid agencies.
6 – BRAND FOLLOWING
Not surprisingly for such a storied brand, Land Rover has built a strong following across the globe. From off-road clubs to classic car collectors and historians, countless people have become aficionados of the brand. This fervent following is no doubt boosted by the brand’s exploits and reputation, but also thanks to the durability of their vehicles. Consider that a vast number of all Defenders produced, since the first one rolled off the production line in 1948, are still on the road today. Consider also that the Range Rover consistently ranks as the vehicle with the most loyal customers in various publications.
Whether it’s to tackle a mountain pass or to admire the timeless design of their vehicles, owners love to meet up and talk about their Land Rovers. This kind of following means that in addition to the OneLife publication, whole magazines and websites as well as Youtube and Instagram pages are dedicated to the brand’s vehicles and its fans. As an owner, the writer of this column can attest to this, with a great deal of spare time being spent reading magazines, interacting with fellow owners on forums, watching Youtube videos related to the brand and maintaining an Instagram page dedicated to his Land Rover. All things considered, Land Rover’s reputation and following is something of which the brand can be proud.
7 – INNOVATION
Beyond the innate capabilities of the brand’s vehicles and the adventures they’ve undertaken, another defining feature of Land Rover is the will to always innovate. While it’s easy to associate the brand with rugged and simple offroaders, Land Rovers have long been pioneers in the automotive world. Consider the Range Rover: it was the first SUV with anti-lock brakes, an automatic electronic air suspension and an all-aluminium frame. In fact, when it comes to cool facts, it should be mentioned that the original Range Rover’s design was considered so beautiful and revolutionary that it is now displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris – a first for any vehicle! Today, it is also the production SUV with the deepest wading depth at 900mm – did we mention it was also the first to reach this figure?
Over the last few decades, the constructor notably introduced Hill Descent Control and Terrain Response – features that are only now becoming more and more commonplace in other SUV’s and off-road vehicles. Today, Land Rover continues to innovate and look to the future, investing in the latest safety features and semi-autonomous driving tech, as well as producing the first luxury Diesel SUV hybrid. In fact, the UK-based manufacturer is aiming for all new models from 2020 to be either fully electric or hybrid. Land Rover has always found a way to evolve and remain peerless in its field, and as the brand looks to the next 70 years, it rests on a solid foundation.