In-house designs : Land Rover LCV⅔

The development of a replacement for the Land Rover Defender has presented successive Rover and Jaguar Land Rover managements with an ongoing problem down the years. The familiar-looking Land Rover LCV 2/3 could have done the job very effectively had it borne fruit.

Here’s a run-down of what we know about it…

The 1997 Land Rover LCV2/3
The 1997 Land Rover LCV2/3

Defending the 1990s

The Lightweight Concept Vehicle programme was initiated by Land Rover in the early 1990s, and was a serious investigation into the production of lighter, cleaner and greener off-roaders. The idea was to test-bed new technologies for Project Vinland, harking back to the days of the British Leyland Technology ECV programme, and one of the targets was to come up with a Defender replacement capable of 40mpg.

The LCV1 was based on a Discovery 1 and was effectively that car re-clad in aluminium – and produced encouraging results. That led to LCV2, which was a series of prototypes closely based on the Defender 90.

Underneath, though, it was radically different to its lookalike, built on a unique bonded and riveted space frame. Despite this, it was strong – and is said to have the strength and durability of the production Defender. That was developed into the ultimate incarnation of the LCV, the LCV⅔ – or LCV ‘two-thirds’, as it was known internally.

Land Rover LCV 2/3 never bore fruit

The LCV⅔ was built to demonstrate to company management what could be achieved in the next phase of the programme, LCV3. Sadly, that never got underway, leaving us with a fascinating insight into the mindset of Land Rover in the late 1990s, and what its idea of a new-age Defender replacement would look like. It’s also an interesting comparison with the Land Rover SD5 of the 1970s.

The styling inside and out was conservative, yet progressive, designed to appeal to management – but it was underneath where all the action takes place. The space frame design philosophy and construction techniques were carried over from the LCV2, while the engine was a KV6 lifted straight out of the Rover 800.

Looks retro, but ultra-modern underneath

The pick-up was considerably more aerodynamic than the Defender 90, and looks really appealing even today. However, the project never took off – investment costs would have been too high in an era when the emphasis was on getting the Range Rover L322 and Rover 75 into production.

According to site contributor Joel Beaumont, ‘the LCV⅔ was styled by David Bees and a great proportion of the engineering was done by a selection of people in the Pre-Concepts Department, including Neil Thomas, Robert Barlow and Pete Webber.  The department was headed by Mike Pendry who retired shortly after I joined in 1998.’

More room than a Defender.
More room than a Defender

LCV2/3 interior looks reassuringly familiar
LCV2/3 interior looks reassuringly familiar

Keith Adams


  1. You can see little snippets of today’s Landies in the interior and the front end…does the smoothed off front remind anybody else of the Mini?

  2. I’ve looked at this many times at Gaydon and to me its just a logical evolution for the Defender. Tough Chassis, simple engines, bolt on panels and electrics that work. Leave the glitz for the rest of the range.

  3. Love the Landy, seen it several times in the flesh and it always looks good. Pointsthe way to the brilliant DC100.

  4. What a missed opportunity : the replacement for the Defender, 20 years early (but not a moment too soon!)

  5. Provided that Land Rover are to surrender the last reminents of their traditional utility 4×4 market to the Far East, then the DC100 represents a brilliant entry level, leisure market, 4×4 for Land Rover and (if that’s their intention) good luck to them.

    However, what we see here is a genuine update on the Defender concept. It seems to have many of the advanantages and the character of the current car, without the shockingly cramped cab and tiny windows.

    What concerns me about Land Rover abandoning their traditional market isn’t the loss of sales (they sell so very few now anyway), but each Land Rover showroom usually has a Defender in it and that gives a hugely positive feeling to a customer, that’s new to the brand, when they come to look at a Disco, Evoque, Freelander or Range Rover! It makes them feel that they are in a showroom where the real deal is sold.

  6. The Defender is what made Land Rover and is still there Halo product.The DC100 comes across as soft , sounds like it is full of electronics , the very thing that makes current Land Rovers unreliable !!! This concept looks to me to be very limited in appeal to a wider audience and I remain to be convinced . I am sure most Defender sales are 110 station wagons so where are these longer wheelbase DC100s ????? A double cab is what will sell in the zillions , where is this variant ?????

  7. I wouldn’t worry about the future of the current defender or the DC100.

    I see the DC 100 being made here, and the present defender tooling being shipped overseas.
    Tata could end up building the Defender in India?

  8. An interestng design concept, even down to the new dashboard fascia design which I particularly like. Reserve all the additional silverware dashboard detailing for an upmarket derivative, and the dashboard in a more toned down form actually looks more appealing than the current updated Defender dashboard, right down to those 38A Range Rover-sourced air vents and passenger airbag cover and Discovery Series 2 door grab handles.

    Imagine this as a short-wheelbase soft-top model with bikini-style canvas roof like the Defender NAS 90 models and more recent SVX 60th Anniversary had, a high impact exterior colour and a roll-over cage. It would look more appealing than the Jeep Wrangler. Oh, if only…

    The Defender’s replacement needs to look at it this for some inspiration.

  9. I was in awe of this when i first went to Gaydon in 2005, and wondered why it was never produced! but i’m sure the details with it said that it had an L series engine in it. The dash design is what makes it for me, if only they put that with the dash mounted transmission levers in the current Defender and it would be my dream vehicle!! mind you, i’d be happy with the Defender as is now, if only i could afford one

  10. replacing the defender is undoubtedly a daunting task. i dont think the above idea is realy what is needed though.its definitly got some good points dont get me wrong, but it sort or looks land rover-ish, like the nissan march looks mini-ish, (ie a Japanese attempt at a defender). the problems with the defender as it stands are , they let water in in copoius amounts. they are draughty, not very good in a crash, not very reliable, and the trim (which the above example addresses very well) until recently has not been very good. one of the biggest problems wth the defender is that while it looks big, its not really and its not roomy. so I think that is what will make the next defender, first of all utilitarian, roomy and functionality (multi platform)excellent crash protection including all terrain roll over, and hopefully the ability to keep on going and going and going like the topgear toyota invincible. and it also needs to look COOOL. unfortunately the above example looks nice and comfy and addresses some of the issues….but it certainly doesnt look cool sorry, I think the DC100 from the front looks too much like the freelander but from other angles it looks ok, but there are some other front end concept treatments out there that actually look not too bad. alex

  11. “What concerns me about Land Rover abandoning their traditional market isn’t the loss of sales (they sell so very few now anyway), but each Land Rover showroom usually has a Defender in it”

    Probably one that’s been sitting there about 20 years, knowing the rate at which they sell..

  12. Defenders usually sell in reasonable numbers – 15,000-23,000 each year and most dealers do not seem to have trouble selling them. Unless, of course, they have bought in the wrong spec version that does not suit their immediate customer base (e.g. a Defender 90 pick-up in base spec with solid paint for sale in a Land Rover dealership based in Mayfair or Chelsea.

    Then again, this is looking at just the buying requirements of the UK market and not other market territories. Last year, for example, I saw numerous Defender 110 County Station Wagons finished in black and fitted with the special 60th Anniversary grille and LED lighting and numerous other accessories being driven around Austria. Over here that specification would cost you over £32,000!

  13. The beauty of the defender is: it can be whatever you want it to be.
    That’s why the resale value is high.
    Buy an unloved pickup, find a station wagon top on ebay- sorted!
    No other vehicle is as adaptable.

  14. @ Chris Sawyer

    A trick of the eye! Look at the following pic and you’ll see the handbrake is between the two front seats

  15. They need to keep the Defender as simple as possible, and this would be bang on the money for the replacement

  16. Interesting snippet in this weeks Autocar about the DC100. JLRs opinion poll revealed that only 2% of people asked gave negative feedback on the car. Of this 2% the majority where existing Defender owners (probably had beards as well)

  17. Looks good apart from the front which is too smoothed off for my liking. Perhaps pedestrian impact considerations necessitated this though (as well as improved fuel consumption).

  18. Brilliant concept. LR are idiots for not taking this further. Imagine how good it would have been had they also stolen a few Ford bits (axles.. engines..), it might not have out sold the Wrangler, but it would have been the only viable alternative.

  19. @24 Paul..
    so what they are saying is 100% of people who might actualy buy a defender to actually USE it rather than pose in it don’t like the DC100.. and the other 82 % probbaly would not buy it, and if they did would just as likley buy an X5 and so will probbly never take it off road ever. The DC100 is just yet another yet another useless 4×4 posing pouch This on the other hand is a realistic repalcement for the Defender.

    What would be more interetsing would to have given this as and alternative

  20. … except the steering wheel is not Ford sourced. Indeed ’97 was under BMW’s tenure. I remember seeing this parked at the back of the Pre-Devt teams Portacabins at Gaydon. I recall talking to Neil Thomas about the vehicle – his enthusiasm for the concept was massive. Great guy. It’s the running gear which is what really makes this machine – the aluminium billet machined live axles and radius arms; chassis frame etc. This concept could have been production ready for 2000 (the hive down year) but the upper Mgt didn’t have the balls or foresight (strategy). It didn’t need to have the expensive axles to still be great. The one negative in the write up – KV6. Has no place in a Land Rover (I always thought it had the 2l L series diesel – maybe I’m mistaken?).

  21. Could a production version of the LCV2/3 have worked with an improved version of the T-Series? since in the old Defender it was said that the Turbocharged version far outperformed the Rover V8 powered version.

  22. Worked on the project. Project was suppose to be LCV3, but due to Budget restrictions, The concept investigations had to be cut back .i.e. the rear tail light system was full LED. The reverse light was a challenge as white LEDs were not available at the time. But Blue LED technology had just arrived and was very expensive. My theory was to use a combination of Red, Green and Blue LEDs (RGB)for White. The concept was initially cancelled but resurrected when the standard Tungsten filament bulbs could not be packaged within the styling concept. As the vehicle was registered to drive on the public road, I believe this to be the first road registered vehicle with Full LED tail lights.

  23. I worked on this project as the test engineer, in fact I put most of the mileage on the car running it in, in the dark at Gaydon in June 97 before a BMW board visit. Reitzle wasn’t keen on the styling (Defender doesn’t need styling it is a functional vehicle was his comment) but he liked the lightweight technology. I recall there were multiple reasons why the project was canned- it was from experimental vehicles rather than mainstream design dept(politics), nervousness about the longevity of bonded aluminium jointing technology, investment was needed elsewhere, etc. this car was KV6, the 4 running LCV2s were L series except one (LCV2/01) that was converted to KV6 to prove out the installation for this. That LCV was also converted to CVT gearbox later too. The KV6 drove well in this, I recall pulling around 100 on the emissions circuit at Gaydon when run in. The flat floor, proper 3 across seating and column change were nice features in terms of accommodation inside, I really liked the synchro on the transfer box for towing but not sure about the lack of diff lock in favour of a Torsen centre diff with 4 wheel traction control. I wasn’t keen on the wheel eyebrows being integral with the wings rather than easily replaceable like Defender ones when you had the inevitable incident off road. I recall the one piece bonnet and front panel wasn’t a success either as you banged you head on it when open. A great project, great team to work with – still some of my favourite memories from 20 years at Land Rover

  24. This is a key vehicle (along with ECV3) in the history of technological development at LR.
    I led a small team on LCV and this was its final incarnation in prototype development terms.
    Under the new BMW ownership we had to compare research programmes with Munich. I recall clearly meeting the then lead for BMW aluminium strategy, a certain Ralph Speth, to go through the Rover Group learning and forward plans for further development of the key technologies and how that would migrate into mainstream programmes. At the time BMW and Rover were both working with Hydro Aluminium but BMW had invested heavily in welded space frames (Z8, Z13 for example). We had shown on the LCV programme that the heat induced process problems with that route led to difficulties in scaling the process to high volume in an economically acceptable manner. We favoured the bond rivet process originally pioneered on ecv3 but developed further on LCV and with key suppliers.
    It’s really a hard sell to convince your new owner that he’s spent millions of Euros on the wrong technology, but we tried!
    Unfortunately this technology strategy decision was also right at the time when there was the small matter of deciding on the future for Mini. Should it be a radical evolution of the original Issigonis micro car to modern legislation or a marketing platform for development of High volume FWD BMW’s? We know how that turned out.
    Mixed in with the leadership in-fighting at the top of BMW at the time, there was no way we stood any chance of pushing our vision for converting the base technology of Rover Cars and Land Rover from relatively heavy stamped and welded bodies to one using aluminium, adhesively bonded with rivets and clad in affordable composite panels.
    Wind the clock forward….Jaguar meanwhile independently reach a very similar conclusion in the best route to deliver lightweighting and the necessary CO2 reductions. With LR now under their control, Mark White and the team there plan a route that sees Land Rovers ending up on a bonded and riveted unibody – the same end result just a bit later than originally planned!

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