A (very) brief history of Land Rovers

The designer of the Land Rover was using an old ww2 surplus Willys Jeep for farm work and when it began falling apart decided to make a rugged vehicle to replace its usefulness. Additionally the Rover Co. needed to quickly produce a stop-gap utility vehicle for export sales in order to qualify for steel rations.

The first Land Rover (below), released in 1948(-1958), was very different to the luxury sedans Rover Co. had been producing (above) but quickly caught on with the domestic agricultural market as well as in several export markets. The Series 1 was made from surplus aluminum and painted in the various greens of surplus airplane cockpit paint. It had four wheel drive and power take-off from the front, centre, and rear to run machinery, winches, and farm equipment.

The Series 2 was released in 1958(-1961) and had several improvements aimed at its new primary role as a vehicle for overland exploration and offroad travel in support situations. It has been said that 60% of people on earth who saw a vehicle for the first time were seeing a Land Rover.

Released in 1961(-1971), most Series 2a look very similar to Series 2 but have some improvements in engine and other areas and are considered some of the most hardy of the Land Rover models. The iconic Land Rover most people think of, as seen in films and documentaries through the 1960’s (such as Born Free or The gods Must be Crazy), is generally a Series 2/2a.

The Series 3 was released in 1971(-1985) and laid the foundation for many of the changes that were solidified in the later Ninetys, One Tens, and Defenders. The most noticeable visual change from the outside is the moulded plastic grille and headlights moved from the centre of the grille out to the wings (fenders) in order to comply with Australian, then American and Dutch regulations (this actually started in 1969 with late series 2a, which still have metal grilles). Inside, the seats and dash were slightly modernized from the all-steel Series 2/2a construction.

Due to some corporate and political circumstances contributing to the absence of resources to properly compete with the up-and-coming Japanese makers, an interim vehicle called the Stage I was produced from 1979 (-1985) that was basically a Series 3 with a Range Rover V8 and full-time 4wd, and some other improvements to axles and fuel capacity. It can be told by its Defender-like flat nose but leaf-sprung Series style body without wheel arches. Few were made and replacement parts can be difficult to procure.

Defenders were technically released in 1983 (but were first called Ninetys, One Tens, or 127s until 1990) and were produced in very similar form right up until until 2016. Early versions have inset door handles, sliding windows, galvanized trim, and ridged roofs like Series rovers. They differ visually from Series in that they are flat across the front end (to accommodate a larger engine), have a slightly wider body and a wider stance with flared fenders, coil rather than leaf springs, and do not have split windscreens.

Each of the above Land Rovers was produced in several configurations including short wheelbase, long wheelbase, soft top, hard top, pickup, station wagon, and many special configurations for military and others such as ambulances and utility vehicles. At one point in the past decade Land Rover estimated that 70% of all the rovers ever built were still on the road somewhere in some capacity. The fact that Defenders (and Series before them) have served in military support capacity for four decades and counting is a testament to their rugged simplicity, field repair-ability, and a full-circle nod to the surplus army Jeep that first inspired them.

…a humourous take that makes some valid points, though vw beetles did a lot of work on the ground too!