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Land Rover: History


Words Kayla Cloete, Images Land Rover/Various

It won’t surprise me if Hollywood decides to make another Steve-Jobs-type documentary based on the legendary Land Rover. I can just see it now: the opening scene zooms out over a beach. The words “Red Wharf Bay” briefly appear on the screen before the waves wash them away.

Two suited figures become visible in the distance as they walk towards our screen. “So, Maurice, whatever will replace this new Jeep of yours once it wears out?” the one figure enquires of the other.

“I don’t rightly know. I suppose it should be replaced with something versatile and practical that will be suitable for using on the lands.”

“I suppose you’re right. But, there is no option like that aside from the Jeep…”

“Well then, I guess we’ll simply have to make one.” And, with that, the suited figure named Maurice would bend down and sketch an outline in the sand. The outline would then transform itself before our very eyes into the 1948 Series I Land Rover as it rolls off the production line. This is how the Wilk brothers, Spencer and Maurice, are said to have come up with the idea of the Land Rover.

The brothers decided to use components from the existing Rover model range, but would design their Ranger to have a more all-terrain orientation and to incorporate key features to make it an appealing option to farmers. Ultimately, they would use the 1947 Jeep chassis with a Rover car engine and gearbox.

Since steel was in short supply after the war, the brothers opted for the more readily available option of aluminium for the bodywork. Aluminium had been used for aircraft construction during the war, and became available when the war was over. This material had the benefits of being lightweight and relatively soft, which meant that no expensive tools would be needed for the Rover’s production. Aluminium is also corrosion-resistant, which is a part of the reason for the Land Rover’s longevity.

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