The cars : Range Rover development story

The Range Rover’s launch in 1970 came after a long lead-up as the company grappled with the issue of building an additional model that was more-road focused than the agricultural Land Rover.

After a slow start, the Range Rover enjoyed a 26-year production run, and inspired countless imitators.

Range Rover: a legend in the making

Range Rover 1970

It is an overused expression these days: ‘market niche’. However, back in 1970, and through a desire to compete in the USA, the Rover Company came up with a car that created a new market niche in the UK and Europe. In fact, this statement actually diminishes the Range Rover’s significance in the automotive history, because it was so much more than this. It truly was a completely new concept, one which so many people took to their hearts and adopted as their own favoured mode of transport. In time, it also became an icon, a legend within its own lifetime – one which was recognised the world over.

But how did it come about?

The story of the Range Rover really begins in 1948 with the successful introduction of the Land Rover. The Second World War had left the Rover Company with a hugely expanded factory (it was increased in size in order to meet the war time demand for armaments), but the company’s range of quality cars did not sell in large enough numbers to use the vast shop floor efficiently.

Maurice and Spencer Wilks hit upon the idea of producing a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle, which was bound sell in large numbers, as it was a vehicle aimed at the agricultural and military market. The Land Rover was inspired by the Willys Jeep and immediately went on to become a huge international hit – its off-road ability was second to none, and the way it was designed (simple body panels bolted onto a separate chassis) allowed for easy repair by anyone with even the simplest tools.

Developing Land Rover’s success

Land Rover 80in station wagon

Everyone was happy. Rover’s management was, because it had significantly raised Solihull’s output. Customers were because it was the car for all seasons that this sector of the market needed, and the UK Government was, because in the years immediately following the war, it boosted the country’s exports significantly.

The only thing that concerned the Wilks brothers was the fact that demand for Land Rovers was bound to slow down as the economy improved, and the only way to maintain demand in this climate was to make the Land Rover a more habitable place for the driver and passengers. This concept was investigated pretty much as soon as the original was created, and the first station wagon version of the Land Rover was developed before the standard car even hit the market.

With a modicum of extra equipment and less spartan interior fittings, the 80-inch Station Wagon (above), as it was called, was offered for sale at the end of 1948. However, thanks to a high purchase price, the car was a sales flop (641 were produced) and it was withdrawn from the market in 1951.

The Wilks brothers did not give up on the concept and the idea of a more civilised off-roader was pursued further with the 1951 Road Rover. This car’s priorities were changed somewhat over the 80-inch Station Wagon, as sheer off-road ability was seen as a secondary consideration, compared with durability, practicality and on-road drivability. Gordon Bashford was the brains behind this car’s technical configuration, and it was he that decided against the use of the Land Rover’s chassis, instead choosing a shortened version of the Rover P4 platform – retaining its rear-wheel-drive transmission. Where the 80-inch Station Wagon, had a coachbuilt body, the Road Rover, as it was called, used simple, flat body panels (as did the Land Rover) in order to keep down production costs.

Road Rover is born

1951 mock-up of the "Road Rover" had a touch of "Toytown" about it, but the 2WD rugged utility wagon, as devised by Gordon Bashford, seemed like a good idea to Rover's management at the time. The continued success of the Land Rover lessened the need for a more civilised brother, so its development continued at a leisurely pace.
1951 mock-up of the Road Rover had a touch of Toytown about it, but the rear-wheel drive rugged utility wagon, as devised by Gordon Bashford, seemed like a good idea to Rover’s management at the time. The continued success of the Land Rover lessened the need for a more civilised brother, so its development continued at a leisurely pace

The Road Rover idea might have been a good one, but the development programme was conducted in a more controlled manner than its predecessor. The reason for this was quite simple: the Land Rover’s sales were proving to be a sustained success story, and the concerns raised by the Wilks brothers in the late-1940s were beginning to prove unfounded.

Moreover, the development of the P4 saloons was taking most of the R&D Department’s resources so the Road Rover tended to be overlooked.

That is not to say it was ignored: Gordon Bashford continued with the project. By 1955, it was being honed into a viable concept. It is said that Gordon Bashford even used one of the Road Rover prototypes as his own road car. In fact, in 1956, the Road Rover was developed into a Series II iteration and, because of Rover’s success with their new P4 model, it was decided to align it with the saloon models, as opposed to the Land Rover.

Road Rover, take two

The main difference between the new Road Rover and its older counterpart was the body style: out went the utilitarian look and in came a smooth, sophisticated look that tied it in nicely with the upcoming Rover P5 model. Technically, the Road Rover also changed: the wheelbase was increased to 98 inches, the front suspension was independent (like the P5) and the front brakes were now discs. Prototypes were built and the Road Rover made it tantalisingly close to production – during 1958 productionisation took place with a view to series production in 1960–61, but it never happened.

Sales forecasts were not overly optimistic, although this is probably not the reason for the Road Rover’s demise: complexity, and a raft of new models, allied to the continued success of the Land Rover probably all played their part in the decision. Either way, the demise of Road Rover showed that Rover would not market a new utility-based model line unless the management were completely sure that it would not harm the company’s reputation.

1957 Road Rover Series II shows that the emphasis had shifted from being a sister product to the Land Rover, to one that was aligned with the saloon models. It could quite easily be mistaken for an estate version of the P5 - especially from this view.
1957 Road Rover Series II shows that the emphasis had shifted from being a sister product to the Land Rover, to one that was aligned with the saloon models. It could quite easily be mistaken for an estate version of the P5 – especially from this view

The idea never went away and, although Rover focused its efforts on getting the P6 into production, and continuing its research on the gas turbine cars, a more urbane utility vehicle was still on the cards. By 1964, and with forward development programmes now in flux (thanks to the success of the Rover P6), the company turned its attention to the American market, with the intention of developing a product that would significantly increase Rover’s penetration over there.

One eye on the USA

Thanks to the success of the newly-launched Ford Bronco and Jeep Wagoneer, the big growth area was in this market was the large, family-sized off-roader with all the creature comforts of a saloon or estate – just the market that the Road Rover had been aimed at. By 1965, Spen King had joined Gordon Bashford at the Rover Company, and it was both these men that put their minds to developing a car that would compete in this market.

Technically, any such project would be an interesting one because it would involve a number of compromises. Unlike the Road Rover with its two-wheel-drive layout, management favoured a full four-wheel-drive system in any new car aimed at this market – but it needed to offer a favourable on-road/off-road compromise – something that the original Land Rover did not need, as it was still viewed as an all-out utilitarian model.

One thing that King felt in developing a suspension system for any car designed for this market, was the need for massive wheel travel and low-rate springs (which went against the thoughts that Brian Sylvester had in the direction of interconnection) because it would offer excellent bump-absorbency. More importantly, long suspension travel also ensured that the wheels would remain in contact with the ground more of the time, something essential for good off-road ability.

Good use of the Rover V8

Rover V8

Engine-wise, there was no contest: the Rover V8 engine (above) had been recently bought into the fold, thanks to William Martin-Hurst, and it would prove to be the ideal power unit for the new car. Torque characteristics favoured the bottom end of the rev-range and, because of its aluminium construction, it weighed 200lb less than the in-line 3.0-litre engine that would have been used had it not been for the introduction of the V8. This was early 1966, and the project was still very much in its infancy, and yet it looked so promising that Peter Wilks gave the project the go-ahead for further development.

Gordon Bashford devised the finer points of the car in the following months: a box-section chassis, which had long-travel suspension, low rate springs and the V8 engine. Unlike the Land Rover, the new car would have its four-wheel-drive system permanently engaged – primarily to ensure that the massive torque of the V8 was split evenly between two lightly loaded axles. The wheelbase of the new car was 99.9 inches, which was rounded up in the car’s name – in a nod to the earlier project, it became known as the 100-inch Station Wagon.

David Bache always wanted the 100-inch Station Wagon to look more like a car, less like the boxy and utilitarian device that was the Land Rover. This early clay model shows the way he wanted the design to go.
David Bache always wanted the 100-inch Station Wagon to look more like a car, less like the boxy and utilitarian device that was the Land Rover. This early clay model shows the way he wanted the design to go

The body was designed for simplicity of construction – being comprised of simple aluminium panels bolted to a steel skeleton. Throughout 1966, this concept was developed, and the first full-size mock-up was ready for January 1967. As can be seen in the accompanying photograph, it was this prototype which formed the basis of the eventual design and, although it had been pretty much styled by Spen King and Gordon Bashford simply to clothe the mechanicals, they had received assistance from the Styling Department in order to give it acceptable proportions.

Accident in design: the 100-inch Station Wagon prototype was built up under the close scrutiny of Spen King and Gordon Bashford, and the body style in this photograph was intended only as a temporary measure in order to clothe the running gear, whilst David Bache devised the definitive design. However, the management of the company liked this proposal so much, they asked for it to remain, with only the lightest of changes.
Accident in design: the 100-inch Station Wagon prototype was built up under the close scrutiny of Spen King and Gordon Bashford, and the body style in this photograph was intended only as a temporary measure in order to clothe the running gear, while David Bache devised the definitive design. However, the management of the company liked this proposal so much, they asked for it to remain, with only the lightest of changes

Corporate machinations

As recounted many times elsewhere, 1966 marked the time when the Rover Company was bought out by the Leyland Motor Corporation, but it was not until the early months of 1967 that Donald Stokes’ team actually scrutinised the new car. On the first viewing, Donald Stokes and John Barber were both tremendously excited by the 100-inch Station Wagon (as they were the Rover P8 also in development) and gave it the green light for further development. From this point, the future of the car was sealed – and, while Peter Wilks’ Engineering Department knuckled down to the task of finalising the mechanical specification, David Bache’s studio was given the task of tidying the King/Bashford style into something more stylish.

By September 1967, the first full-size running prototype was built, but because it was based entirely on Bashford and King’s original design, it looked spartan – however it proved very capable in testing. The concept was good and everyone within Rover knew that this time, they had got everything right. Meanwhile, David Bache worked on his task of cleaning up the design but, as can be seen in the styling photographs, very little was changed, and certainly nothing fundamental.

As can be seen in this image, the David Bache studio worked on the original design, simply adding style in the more obvious areas. A more definite grille/headlamp arrangement was worked on, whilst some other detailing was tidied (look at the window surrounds, side swage lines and rear lamp clusters). This model was also badged a "Road-Rover" in deference to the older design study, but at the time (September 1967), it was still known simply as the 100-inch Station Wagon.
As can be seen in this image, the David Bache studio worked on the original design, simply adding style in the more obvious areas. A more definite grille/headlamp arrangement was worked on, whilst some other detailing was tidied (look at the window surrounds, side swage lines and rear lamp clusters). This model was also badged a Road-Rover in deference to the older design study, but at the time (September 1967), it was still known simply as the 100-inch Station Wagon

1969 Range Rover prototype

By early 1968, the David Bache restyle on King/Bashford design was finalised and signed off for production. Prototype testing was undertaken all over the world, and, most of the time, the cars ran undisguised. The only acknowledgement to disguising its origins were the badges that it wore: VELAR (The name was originally used on the P6 BS. Mike Dunn was asked to make a name using letters from Alvis and Rover, and came up with the now legendary moniker. The Spanish word Velar, and Italian word velare, which means to keep secret or hide away, was the inspiration behind the name. When it came to registering the prototype Range Rovers, they were badged as Velars to keep the press away, but also registered as Velars on the V5. When the tax was renewed on the cars, they were all changed to Rover Range Rovers on the V5.).

Testing went well, and although it did not go quite well enough to meet the April 1970 deadline that British Leyland had wanted for its introduction, it still did extremely well – not only in off-road testing, but also in customer clinics.

Launch day: a star is born

1970 Range Rover launch image

Finally, on 17 June 1970, the Range Rover was launched to the press. It has passed into history that they loved the car one and all, but that was probably down to years of defining then refining the project, whilst sticking to the design they had arrived at, without undue modification. The result was that demand was immediate and sustained – customer waiting lists were drawn up as soon as the Range Rover appeared. The situation was simple: the Range Rover was launched at a price of £1998 and, at the time, there was no opposition that could offer the breadth of ability that the it possessed.

Not only was it a very accomplished off-roader, but it was also a commodious estate car and (as Rover would soon find out) something of a status symbol. People liked the high driving position and, although farmers and commercial vehicle drivers might have been used to this, to the buyers of prestige cars such as the Triumph 2500 or Volvo 145, it was a completely new experience. Very soon, Rover realised that people were buying its new baby for many other reasons than its off-road capability.

After the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1970, British Leyland received the best working exhibit award at the show for the Range Rover chassis, whilst the Institute of British Carriage and Automobile manufacturers awarded it a gold medal for ‘best utility coachwork’. CAR magazine commended it in the 1971 Car of the Year issue (it came second behind the Citroën GS) and, soon after, it won the Dewar trophy for ‘Outstanding British technical achievement in the automotive world’.

Everyone loved the Range Rover

It seemed that everyone did indeed love the Range Rover – even the French – who exhibited a quarter-scale model of it in the Louvre Museum during 1971 because of it being an, ‘outstanding piece of modern sculpture’. Autocar magazine loved it as well and, in its November 1970 Autotest, concluded that, ‘We have been tremendously impressed by the Range Rover, and feel it is even more deserving of resounding success than the Land-Rover.’

British Leyland knew it was on to a winner, and ensured that the price of Range Rover soon exceeded the rate of inflation. The demand for it did not abate and, even though during the first ten years’ of the Range Rover’s life, there were few real modifications to the design, people continued to clamour for it.

To give you an idea of how slow other manufacturers were at taking up the Range Rover challenge, when Motor magazine tested it in 1975, it was quick to point out the fact that the Range Rover remained unique in the market. ‘As we said at the beginning, the Range Rover is unique but not just because of the concept but also because it is a brilliant blend of compromises – it does so many things so well. It isn’t perfect, but there are so few cars which even begin to compete. We love it!’

Rover had produced this four-door prototype Range Rover way back in 1972 - looking almost identical to the finished article. Sadly, the company did not have the resources with which to get it into production.
Rover had produced this four-door prototype Range Rover way back in 1972, looking almost identical to the finished article. Sadly, the company did not have the resources with which to get it into production

However, the Range Rover was a success in spite of British Leyland’s involvement. The company’s lack of development on the Range Rover was shocking – but, in reality, and rather like the Mini at the other end of the model range, its underlying excellence would allow the company this neglect. It had to be this way, because British Leyland were fighting a huge battle in the middle of the market, where the majority of sales were – the Range Rover would have to fend for itself.

Changes afoot

However, customers continued to buy it and did so because it was such a unique car. In 1979, the tide began to turn, thanks to Sir Michael Edwardes – and with it came some long-awaited development. Following Edwardes’ reversal of the Leyland Cars one-badge-fits-all policy, it was only right that Land Rover should be separated from Austin-Morris and Jaguar-Rover-Triumph – so the formation of Land Rover Limited, as a separate and autonomous company in 1979, marked the beginning of some real investment in the company.

Testing the water: Land Rover watched with interest the world's reaction to the Monteverdi five-door conversion, which showed that the Range Rover's style would not suffer unduly by the addition of two extra doors.
Testing the water: Land Rover watched with interest the world’s reaction to the Monteverdi four-door conversion, which showed that the Range Rover’s style would not suffer unduly by the addition of two extra doors
Interior of a 1983 factory four-door version shows that the idea of a Range Rover with bare, utilitarian trim and hose-clean flooring has been consigned to history. This version was sumptuous and deeply carpeted - very similar, in fact, to its contemporary, the SD1 Vanden Plas.
Interior of a 1983 factory four-door version shows that the idea of a Range Rover with bare, utilitarian trim and hose-clean flooring has been consigned to history. This version was sumptuous and deeply carpeted – very similar, in fact, to its contemporary, the SD1 Vanden Plas

Outwardly, the first signs of change came in 1980, when the marketing effort behind the Range Rover was increased and, whereas previously it was sold alongside the Rover SD1, this was changed so that it became a bedfellow of the Land Rover. Special Editions would also become increasingly important in the Range Rover strategy in the short term, but many engineering developments would finally filter through during the next few years.

With the cash injection following the reorganisation, much behind the scenes work was done on the engineering and marketing side of the Range Rover. Land Rover prepared three specials that would pave the way for full production versions if they proved successful enough. Rather cannily, Land Rover developed these models with the assistance of outside specialists, so as to minimise its own expenditure, and act as an insurance against failure.

The year 1980 saw the introduction of the Monteverdi four-door conversion and, although Land Rover had approved the rather uglier FLM Panelcraft version of the four-door Range Rover, it was the Monteverdi version that they liked the most. Despite the slightly truncated rear passenger doors compared with the final product, the overall view was that this Swiss theme was pretty slick and well executed.

Four doors and an auto for my wagon

1980, and the scheme to improve the car's frontal aspect bears fruit. Management decided not to pursue the project...thankfully.
1980, and the scheme to improve the car’s frontal aspect bears fruit. Management decided not to pursue the project… thankfully

Land Rover Special Products approved the car for production, and offered it for sale through the company’s own dealerships. Of course, Land Rover cannot have been encouraged by the Monteverdi’s pitiful sales (it was painfully expensive though), but the reaction to the five-door concept added impetus to plans to introduce their own version.

The next special was produced with the help of Schuler – and appeared in late 1980. Ever since the development programme of the 100-inch Station Wagon back in 1967-’68, it was always envisaged that an automatic version would be launched. Because of lack of finances and other priorities within the company, the self-shifter never appeared.

However, thanks to the specialist market, Land Rover could test the market’s reaction to this (by approving it). Schuler actually prepared the automatic Range Rovers to include a transfer box and anti-lock brakes… Once it became clear that the market would stand an automatic, Land Rover pressed forwards with their own development programme based around the venerable Chrysler Torqueflite transmission.

Finally, the third significant special of the time was the Range Rover In Vogue edition, which was developed with the help of Wood & Pickett. The idea was a classical one: up-specify the interior and offer a range of special colours to make it stand out from the standard models. The choice of name followed the interesting marketing plan that involved lending a car to the glamour magazine Vogue which then used the car as a backdrop for one of its high-publicity photo shoots.

New models appear thick and fast

Although the four-door and automatic specials sold in tiny numbers, they were followed onto the market in 1981 and 1982 respectively, by the full production versions – and the Range Rover story moved forward into its next phase. Careful cost management and canny use of external contractors saw the five-door conversion, for example, completed at a fraction of the cost of what it could have done, in-house (Carbodies, for example, would order in the front door lower panels for its ill-fated CR6 Taxi-cab project)

Throughout the 1980s, the Range Rover was now developed constantly, and in response to the demands of its customers. Arguably, the five-door model looked as good as the two-door model but, more importantly, it proved to be an infinitely more practical proposition. Buyers bought it in large numbers, and within months, it was outselling the original version significantly.

Certainly, it was a very effective version, and stylistically more balanced than the Monteverdi version thanks to the superior execution of the rear doors and their shutlines. Next came improved transmissions, and the four-speed gearbox was replaced by the LT77 five-speed ‘box used in the Rover SD1, Jaguar XJ6 and Triumph TR7 – this allowed for more peaceful motorway cruising and slightly improved steady speed fuel consumption figures. The automatic duly followed in July 1982, which proved to be better than most commentators had been expecting. Further In Vogue models were produced to showcase the new models and, thanks to their success (and higher price), the Vogue became a production model in its own right in 1984.

Continuous improvement: better late than never

Throughout the rest of the 1980s, the Range Rover continued to be improved year on year – trim was constantly upgraded, equipment levels improved and refinement increased. Sales continued to hold up well past its 15th birthday – and the introduction of the 3.9-litre engine and revised dashboard in 1989 ensured its continued appeal.

In 1992, and just two years before its replacement was due, the long-wheelbase version appeared. This model with a 108-inch wheelbase (similar to what Gordon Bashford wanted when he sketched out the five-door model for Land Rover back in 1979) had its length added in the rear door area only, but to many people’s eyes, it was an improvement over the original. It certainly looked more balanced…

The rear room in the LWB Range Rover of 1992 was truly impressive. The car's transformation from utility vehicle to luxury saloon, arguably, was complete.
The rear room in the LWB Range Rover of 1992 was truly impressive. The car’s transformation from utility vehicle to luxury saloon, arguably, was complete

This longer model, denoted the LSE, also benefited from the addition of an entirely new air suspension system known as ECAS (Electronically Controlled Air Suspension) sported some very sophisticated features. Apart from the added refinement afforded by the removal of steel springs, the system afforded the benefits of variable ride height, which could be used to great effect at high speed (when the ride height was dropped over 50mph). It also made loading and unloading a doddle because the vehicle dropped to its lowest setting when the car was at rest.

The Range Rover continued in production for some time after its replacement, the P38 (or 38a) Pegasus model, was launched in September 1994, and one can only surmise that even after the introduction of the new car, the classic Range Rover continued to sell well because it was a tried a tested model which still looked so very, very good.

In its time, the Range Rover has been called many things, including the ‘Best 4x4xFar’ and, ‘The Rolls-Royce of off-roaders’ but one legacy it did leave was the trouble the company would have in replacing it. Certainly, the P38 was a better car, but somehow it never quite looked as good – a fact that can be seen in the two car’s production runs: 26 years for the original, seven years for its replacement.

At the beginning of this story, the Range Rover was described as iconic – in many ways it was. It still is… Its contribution to automotive history can be seen in the multitude of posh off-roaders available today, not least the raft of models inspired by it, such as the Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Aston Martin DBX. Before the Range Rover’s relentless move upmarket from the 1980s to this day, the idea of a luxury off-roader would have been laughable – now it is accepted as much as front-wheel drive is for small cars.

The Range Rover is another car of which the British should be justifiably proud.

Range Rover 1970

Keith Adams


  1. Always sad to think of the iconic models created by the component companies of BLMC. Immortal products such as the Range Rover, Mini, SD1 and MGB, designs and concepts that have and still influence modern thinking today. The collective heads of UK Government, Management and Unions should hang in shame. Without these cars would we have seen the 5GT & Audi Sportback (SD1), the mx5 (Elan, I know, but owes a lot to the MGB & Spitfire in the States), X5 & Others (Range Rover). Need I say more, thankfully Mr Adams has created a constant reminder of what was and could have been.

  2. Iconic it is, as much as the mini or MGB. The rear overhang has always bugged me though, even more so on the LSE. I think that the rear axle could have been put back 2 ins and give a decent rear door without the cost of a 10 ins longer wheelbase. Some tried to counter balance that long rear overhang by doing a longer front a la (chrysler) Horizon slanted grille/headlight treatment but it was not “natural” for a R/R to have square headlights, hence P38 will not gain ICON status and the actual version has round spots. Still, niche market it was in 1970 and the german SUV owe him everything, X5 foremost. Range rover is still the king of the Chelsea Tractor, the best looking and efficient way to kill the planet. If only I could afford one!!!

  3. I have always loved the Range Rover (although I don’t own one yet) and fully agree about it having iconic status. I mean, just look at it – a near timeless blend of understated elegance with functionality. What could look better on both counts in the SUV market?

    The rear overhang on all first generation Range Rovers is the same, as the long-wheelbase LSE had the same rear wings as the standard 100-inch wheelbase version. The only side panels that changed were the rear doors.

    While I will probably always favour the first generation model over its successor, the 38A, the newer model will possibly attract a different league of enthusiasts. For starters, this was the model that gave the Range Rover its last association with the legendary ex-Buick/Rover/Land Rover V8 engine.

    The interiors were noted for their comfort and greater luxury over those found in the first generation model, while the Autobiography personalisation programme saw quite a few special and limited edition derivatives being offered that utilised bespoke colour and trim initiatives surprisingly well. You do not need to look further than at a Vogue 50, Holland & Holland, Linley, 30th Anniversary LE or a late 2001 Vogue SE.

    However, my favourite will always be the Range Rover Classic 25th Anniversary Final Edition which I have run the historical register for with much enthusiasm since June 1996.

    Long live the Range Rover in all its guises!

  4. Hello, Can you tell me how many Land rover (by model)have been built since 1996.
    Thank You.
    Best regards.
    André RAWSKI

  5. I don’t agree that the LWB version looks more balanced. As is often the case with such models, the rear doors look too long in comparison with the front ones.

    The only car I can recall off the top of my head which looks as balanced in LWB form as it doesn’t in SWB is the Opel Vectra C (Mark 2 Vauxhall Vectra) estate. Renault had a go with its 21 Savanna but again the rear doors looked too long but not as excessively long as the Range Rover’s.

  6. Great Storey Great Machine, I read somewhere that it was reported in the 70’s as having better road handling than many ordinary cars of the time. I would say that is true, the AWD makes them feel quite safe even on hard cornering 🙂 alex

  7. Proof if ever there was any that BMW bought Rover for its four wheel drive expertise so that they could launch a range of their own.

    Fortunately for them, the continued success of the MINI means that they didn’t get their fingers burned in the process!

  8. A fascinating article. I always associated the original Range Rover with wealthy farmers and landowners, but nowadays more with footballers.

    JLR’s ongoing success is well deserved but I do find the size/height of todays Range Rover causes many blind spots for other drivers particularly when parked on street corners. I suppose the same can be said about all other SUV’s too.

  9. @7 I wonder how?
    BMW uses the diff-in-sump front layout and independent suspension at the rear. Just like they have done for ages.
    What was there to copy from the Range- and Land-Rover?
    Hill-Descent-Assistant? That’s nothing more than a Traction Control add-on.

  10. Re 9: You’re correct. LR had no technology worth taking. It’s about time the ‘poor old asset-stripped Land Rover’ myth was laid to rest. LR 4WD ‘technology’ of the time was hardly worth the name.

  11. I Like the Range-Rover, I really do… But the Jeep Wagoneer was introduced in 1963 and that means that the Range-Rover did in fact NOT “truly create a whole new market niche.” in my opinion…

    • I was driving a Wagoneer in Lesotho in 1969-1970. While it had the plush soft feel of the typical American car, its long bonnet was a real hindrance when driving on mountain roads that had sharp bends and sudden drop-offs when all I saw was the sky. Fine for a bit of weekend US off-roading, but not in the Maluti Mountains.

  12. @10:

    Really? So why are Land Rovers so good off road when the BMW X5 was next to useless? I have driven the Freelander Series 1 off road over quite rough terrain and even with ‘just’ traction control it was mightily impressive. Unlike with the bigger Land Rovers it also had a separate chassis and four-wheel drive which automatically switched to front-wheel drive at speeds over 70 mph. Some of this technology was clearly of benefit to BMW when it came to the X5 and latter offerings.

    There was a lovely story that back in the late 1990s when Land Rover was designing the L332 generation Range Rover and BMW developing the X5, boffins from Munich came over with an X5 prototype to try out on Land Rover’s own off-road course at Solihull, to assess its off-road capabilities. When they saw the terrain it was expected to travel over, they didn’t bother taking it out of the lorry container…

    I hardly think this is technology ‘not worth taking’. Even MG Rover Group saw the potential value of it for a prototype MG ZT-T.

  13. @10 …but that doesn’t mean I agree with what you just stated.
    I was just saying that the LR and RR have nothing in common with the X-drive system.
    Apart from the obvious.

  14. Re 12: The systems you refer to are not Land Rover’s. They are owned by Borg-Warner – and they are happy to sell it to anybody that wants it.

    Your story is just that – a story. The Solihull ‘jungle track’ is not particularly challenging and is not used for vehicle development or proving. Although, to be fair, I did once manage to tear the Panhard rod out of a Discovery on it.

    I hate to burst the bubble, but there are plenty of cars that are equally capable off road as a Land Rover product – with the added bonus of being cheaper, better built, and more reliable. The simple fact is that if your life depends on your 4WD car, people the world over buy anything but LR.

  15. Just reading how much Donald Stokes liked the Range Rover I am left wondering how well Rover and Triumph would have faired if left by themselves under the Leadership of Donald Stokes.
    I well remember the Range Rover Lau h as a kid. Even owning a Dinkey version was a status symbol. I had a bronze one.
    As for BMW, I still cannot understand why they didn’t do more with the strong LR brand. They should have got rid of all the volume stuff. Never developed the 75, but spent that money on LR and an MG sports car and of course Mini. I don’t think they understood the brands they had bought or the size of the task.

  16. @RobH… Not fair to BMW I think.. Those Bavarians did invest a lot in Rover and Land Rover… In fact, they invested more then they could afford… The Mini (wich became very succesfull) The 75 (wich wasn’t) and also the Range Rover L322 (2003) was planned and developped under BMW ownership… I think they understood the brands pretty good. They just lost too much money on Rover before profits came in… Afterall the RR and MINI became very succesfull in the end, so they did understand what would sell…

  17. @Antigoon:

    You forgot to mention that BMW also funded Project CB40, the Land Rover Freelander and also the heavily updated Land Rover Discovery Series 11 (Project Tempest).

    Rover Group’s losses were heavily exaggerated by German accounting practises which do not allow investment in new projects to be amortised over such a long period as Rover Group had become accustomed to working to. When £700 million was invested in the Rover 75 and German accounting expected that figure to be paid off within twelve months of the new model going on sale, it is no wonder Rover Group was making a loss.

    The Rover 75’s poor sales performance can be partly attributed to its launch being undermined by THAT announcement over poor productivity at Longbridge and its uncertain future by Bernd Pischetsrider. Also, the Rover 75 had to replace two existing models not one when it went on sale eight months after it was unveiled (the original plan by Rover executives had been to unveil it at Geneva in March 1999). Nearly eleven months after it had gone on sale, and with a phased model introduction, BMW Group had sold its ‘English Patient’ to Phoenix Venture Holdings. Sadly the Rover 75 was not on sale long enough for it to be judged accurately whether it would become a success or failure under BMW’s ownership of Rover Group.

    The L322 generation Range Rover unveiled in November 2001 was another example that would have sunk Rover Group’s losses even deeper if Land Rover and Rover Cars had not be split and sold off – its development cost was £1 billion.

  18. Q9&10 you appear to ignore the fact that BMW had never actually produced a 4×4 before their Rover involvement. Add to that the fact that their (off)-road products have trouble crawling up a snow covered hill let alone competing with a real off-roader. Strange that now RR no longer have Ford or BMW to keep happy their sales are on the up. I doubt that this is because they are no good.

  19. I wonder if Rover bought and studied any Jeep/AMC Wagoneers as part of the creation of the Range Rover? They came out about late 1962 and are similar in proportion, some dimensions, the idea of a more ‘car like’ interior and power. With operations based in the Northern NJ (and still are as to JLR), they could have bought a few and studied them here or even ship a few to the UK. By the way, the Wagoneer was also originally made in a 2 door and 4 door ‘estate’ versions. They also used the from the front seat to the nose and the chassis to make panel commercials and pick up trucks. They would keep the same body-chassis design from the early 1960’s to the early 1990’s, the later years as the Grand Wagoneer.

  20. Re 18: Actually, the black hole in the accounts was the massive LR warranty bill. At the time, it was running at several hundred million pounds a year. To put your quoted L322 development costs into perspective, the bill for the Focus at launch was a little under £5billion.

  21. @tr_man: no, BMW had 4×4 3 and 5 series long before they bought Rover. These were developed with the aid of Styer-Puch (now Magna) and went on sale 1985 (325iX). The drive train of the X5 is more 4×4 5-series than RR. The earlier BMWs were no off-road cars off course, but the same can be said about the X5 with its clearly on-road design of the drive train.

  22. That’s because BMW (and others) understood the -at that point- upcoming market. These days 90% of the SUV’s -as they starting to be called – never go off-road. Apart from climbing the curb.
    As we all know now, they are only used to bring the kids to school -false sense of security-, as phallic symbol, or for somenm to roll da ho’s ’round anda slam da 30″ spinners to, y’all.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want be found dead in one, but that’s me.
    But that’s because of the association, not because of they are particularlying rubbish.

    Hmm, maybe that explains part of the hostility here towards BMW…

  23. @LeonUSA (Comment 20):

    Quote: “I wonder if Rover bought and studied any Jeep/AMC Wagoneers as part of the creation of the Range Rover?”

    I believe there is reference in some of the Land Rover books to the Rover Company studying the Jeep Wagoneer and also the Ford Bronco that were sold in North America and Canada in the 1960s. The Rover Company likely had plans to sell the Range Rover through its small number of dealers in North America who were by then handling just the P6, although factors such as withdrawing from the North American market in the early 1970s and the huge demand for the vehicle in the Home Market and central Europe prevented this from happening.

    • Just what “Sports” can one carry out in an SUV? Land Rovers – from 1948 to the last real Defender were WUVs – Work Utility Vehicles; as was the first model of Range Rover – designed with farmers, vets, horse owners in mind. Hence the ability to hose it out. JLR has deliberately gone away from the Work aspect of its 4x4s, and lost all trust from the armed forces and civilian contractors, councils, etc. It has sold out it Wilks birthright.

  24. Bought and sold (for a profit) a very early 1986 3.5 V8 Efi manual, 4 door Astral Silver Fuel Injection.
    5 spd short stick, grey bracken trim. T’was in great condition inside and out, but the engine was a disaster! Had to rebuild it completely, clutch too!
    Kept it 12 months, and had to let it go to a Dutchman who saw it and needed to have it £££££ $$$$$ €€€€€€ He paid well for it.
    I even managed to write and publish a little 100 page book about the car.
    I miss my Range Rover Classic!

  25. “It is an overused expression these days: ‘market niche’. ” How wide is a “niche”? The uses to which the Range Rover have been put are so varied it was never a “niche” vehicle.

    If Volvo had built a four-wheel-drive version of the 145, the early Range Rovers would have had some competition.

  26. As I heard it the Range Rover was sort after by the army who wanted a vehicle more suitable than the Land-rover for carrying officers, but when they refused to order a significant amount the vehicle was nearly solved.
    Like most of the British motor industry at the time engineers ruled and marketing was just a second-class, unimportant sideline, so it’s initial success was really unforeseen by many.

    I also remember Landrover trials on Burton Dassett hills where the locals complained of 2 vehicles that took part as one landcover appeared to have the Rover (Buick) V8 and I believe the other had the Daimler V8 fitted??

    It was very muddy that day and all vehicles, standard or otherwise were being pulled out by a Willis Jeep.

    The half shafts on Landrovers were a notorious weak link and were not really up to being loaded by instant 2-wheel drive so it was advisable that the Range Rover should have constant 4WD.

    It is a pity that the UK industry never took market research seriously, preferring to use arrogance and a dated class system to run things instead.

  27. A great vehicle. Disgraceful how it was left to fend for itself in the 70s, but that was the curse of BL with all the successful divisions bled dry to try and keep the volume car factories going.

    The Range Rover is still unique in its combination of class, luxury and genuine off road capabilities, as none of the other super expensive SUVs can match it off road, and the G Wagon has a different image.

  28. “iconic” “better late then never” – “long awaited” – are all phrases concomitant with the demise of the British motor industry.

    A good engineering idea, no market research to speak of, and compromise after compromise. The Range Rover marque has survived DESPITE the British motor industry and has repeatedly had to reply on outside help to survive.
    It is a hallmark of the UK industry at on the rare times they hit upon a good formula, they failed to develop it.
    This short sighted and blinkered approach has been painful to watch.

    The upside is that at present the UK motor industry is bigger than at any time in history – so what do we do? Leave the market of 450 million people living next to us!!!!!

    • Wondered when Brexit would make a comeback! Next to the market of 450 Million there is a further 6 Billion elsewhere on the planet. The EU is a busted flush clearly demonstrated by the rapid shutting of member borders and lack of central management during the recent covid “crisis” . The UK is one of the largest car markets within “Europe”, their loss not ours?

      • Keith, I’m sorry what parallel universe are you from? or does the internet have a time lag of over 3 years for you considering you’ve just parroting the same out debunked theories even the right wing press are beginning to give up pedalling.

        If anything the EU is even stronger due to their response, which is a class act compared to our government’s shambolic efforts, that anyone who doesn’t consider 40,000+ deaths deaths a mere statistic. Don’t fool yourself it has anything less than a self inflicted national tragedy on top of another self inflicted national tragedy.

        We are going to lose far more trade than we’ll gain, & the major European manufacturers are hardly begging any concessions, especially as they have easier access to the Japanese market.

  29. My parents bought their first Range Rover in 1978. Brand new car and they did not have a lot of problems with it. However all these years I wondered why the ventilation and heating panel seemed not to fit in the dashboard. There was almost a gap of one cm between the metal panel and the dashboard. Was this deliberate or a typical BL design error?

  30. See this rear view of 4 dr prototype YXC905K shown above. Note one piece lift up tailgate. Other differences from production std wheelbase 4 dr appear to be: bigger fixed rear side window [possibly using 2 dr rear glass], thicker B and C pillars [?], rear door shut line about 3″ further forward [rear seat probably not moved], bigger rear quarterlight [similar to LSE] and smaller front quarterlight. Rear drop glass would have retracted further, possibly fully.

  31. Although Rover were looking at V6 versions of the Rover V8 in both alloy and non-alloy forms, which could have made their way into the original Range Rover and had other options for a 6-cylinder available. Had Rover persisted with the Rover P7 6-cylinder for use in the Range Rover, they could have developed a smaller de-stroked 2.8-litre Six along similar lines to the M110 in the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and L28 in the Nissan Patrol.

    A viable 5-cylinder P7 unit could have even acted as an entry-level engine, if the proposal to use the 2-litre P6 4-cylinder engine is still abandoned (along with the optional 2WD and automatic transmission) as mentioned in the article below.

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