LAND ROVER SERIES I-III
£450 (in 1948)
Front engine, four-wheel drive
RANGE OF ENGINES
1595-2625cc, four- and six-cylinder petrol, 3528cc V8 petrol, 2052-2625cc four-cylinder diesel
MOST POWERFUL ENGINE
84mph (Series III LWB, 3528cc)
BEST OVERALL FUEL ECONOMY
21mpg (Series 1 2-litre petrol)
NUMBER OF SEATS
3 to 8
After WW2, Rover director Maurice Wilks bought an army-surplus Jeep as a runabout for his Anglesey farm. It needed constant repairs but Wilks couldn’t choose a 4x4 alternative because there weren’t any. Hence, his Eureka moment: Rover would build its own. “It must be along the lines of the Willys Jeep”, Wilks decreed, “but much more versatile, more useful as a power source, be able to do everything”.
The resulting ‘Land Rover’ used mostly Rover car componentry, except for a specially-designed power transfer case, in a structure made from lightweight, rustproof aluminium. Wheelbase was 80in…oddly the same as the wartime Jeep’s!
At first, Land Rovers had a curious permanent four-wheel drive system with no central differential and a freewheel in the front drive to reduce tyre scrub. This was fine for going up hills but not so good for coming down, where the wheels turned at different speeds. In 1950, a dogleg clutch giving the driver two- or four-wheel drive fixed this Land Rover issue.
Within months, Rover was making more Land Rovers than cars. By the time the artist Terry Davey produced this superb cutaway illustration in the early 1970s, the basic Land Rover was in Series IIA/III guise, having reached 750,000 civilian and military sales. Changes in engine, wheelbase and equipment had been many and frequent, but the Landys off-road supremacy was unrivalled and – in Defender form today – remains so. Cheers to the Land Rover.