Land Rover History

Milestones In Land Rover’s History

1947 While using a Jeep on his farm in Anglesey, Rover’s Technical Director Maurice Wilks and his brother Spencer Wilks, Rover’s Managing Director see a gap in the vehicle market. They sketch the outline of a vehicle in the sand of a Welsh beach and the ‘Land Rover’ is born.

Development commences using a Jeep chassis with a Rover car engine. Simple body panels made from light alloy and a chassis fabricated from off-cuts avoid the use of rationed steel and the need for complex and expensive press tools.

1948 The first Land Rover is launched at Amsterdam motor show and is an instant success.

Rover soon realises that the ‘stop gap’ product is set to out sell its cars and by the end of the year is exporting the Land Rover to nearly 70 countries.

1949 The first Land Rovers are exported to the USA.

1950 The Land Rover is fitted with new, larger and more powerful headlamps that now shine through apertures in the grille. A hard top is offered.

The four wheel drive system is changed. Drive to the front axle in high range is now engaged by pressing down on a one lever while low range is selected by pulling another lever rearward. Selecting low range automatically engages four-wheel drive.

1951 The 1.6-litre engine is replaced by a larger-bore 2.0-litre unit.

1953 To improve the load space area, the wheelbase is extended to 86 inches while a new long wheel base Pick Up version and a Station Wagon appear.

1955 Based on a new engine in production for Rover saloon cars, a new power unit is introduced.

1956 The 10-seater 107-inch wheelbase Station Wagon is introduced.

The wheelbase is extended to 88 and 109 inches to make room for a new diesel engine under development.

1957 The new 2.0-litre diesel engine is introduced. Featuring overhead valves, it is the start of a whole new engine family.

1958 Ten years after the launch of the first Land Rover and at the same event – the Amsterdam Motor Show – the Land Rover Series II, featuring a wider body with barrelled sides and sills to conceal the chassis is unveiled. It also debuts a new 2.25-litre petrol engine.

1959 After 11 years in production, the 250,000th Land Rover rolls off the line.

1961 The capacity of the diesel engine is increased in capacity giving a greater power output. The Land Rover range is now known as the Series IIA.

1962 The 12-seat Station Wagon is introduced.

1965 The Rover Company completes negotiations with General Motors to acquire the rights to an all-alloy lightweight 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine.

1966 In April, Land Rover production reaches the half million mark.

1967 The six-cylinder 2.6-litre engine is made available as an option on 109 inch wheelbase models.

The Rover Company merges with truck manufacturer Leyland which had acquired the rival Coventry-based car maker Triumph.

1968 Following a three-year development period, the ‘Truck Utility ½ Ton’ – better known as the ‘Lightweight’ enters service with the British Army.

Two major British vehicle manufacturing groups merge. Leyland, including Rover and Triumph join the British Motor Corporation (BMC), incorporating Austin, Morris and Jaguar to unite British vehicle manufacture in one company, British Leyland.

1969 To comply with new lighting regulations, the headlamps are moved to the front wings.

1970 In June, Land Rover launches a major new model line – the Range Rover. Suspension is by long-travel coil springs, endowing the vehicle with good road manners as well as remarkable articulation for off-road agility. Power comes from the new all-alloy, 3.5-litre petrol engine giving the big vehicle a top speed of nearly 100 mph. The Range Rover features permanent four wheel drive to cope with the power and torque output of the V8 engine. The Rover-designed two-speed transfer box shares a common case with the four-speed manual gearbox and has a vacuum-operated centre differential. The braking system has innovative dual-circuit hydraulics with all-round disc brakes. The two-door body features Land Rover’s trademark aluminium panels on a steel frame and embodies Rover’s latest safety technology including seat belts integrated with the folding front seats. The trim reflects the vehicle’s utility roots with its easily cleaned PVC coverings.

The Range Rover is awarded gold medal for its coach-work while its safety features are recognised by the award of the Don safety trophy.

1971 The Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical achievement.

The 750,000th Land Rover is produced.

September sees the launch of the Land Rover Series III. The vehicles now feature an all-synchromesh gearbox and more powerful brakes with the long wheelbase 109 inch versions receiving servo assistance. The interior is updated with a revised instrument pack placed in front of the driver and a new top roll to the facia. Externally, the Series III introduces a new front end treatment with a revised lighting layout in a styled wing-front recess. This is complemented with a new plastic radiator grille.

Using two Range Rovers, the British Trans-Americas Expedition leaves Alaska in December heading for Tierra del Fuego. One of the last great car journeys of the world left to be done, the real challenge lies in the jungles of the Darien Gap in Central America.

1972 The Land Rover 1-tonne Forward Control is announced. Designed to a British Army specification, it is powered by a de-tuned, militarised version of the 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine used in the Range Rover.

1975 Following years of industrial disruption, British Leyland is taken under state control to prevent its bankruptcy and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

1976 The production of an 88-inch Station Wagon at Solihull marks the millionth Land Rover built.

1978 Industrialist, Michael Edwardes, brought in by the Government to manage British Leyland, creates Land Rover Limited as a separate operating company. For the first time in its history, Land Rover is under independent management and government funding is promised to allow for a doubling of production by the 1980s.

1979 A new version of the Land Rover 109-inch powered by the V8 petrol engine is launched.

1981 The four-door version of the Range Rover is launched.

1982 Range Rover production reaches 100,000. Following the introduction of the four-door a year earlier, the company introduces an automatic gearbox option to the Range Rover using the three-speed Chrysler ‘Torqueflite’.

The Land Rover ‘County’ Station Wagon variant is launched with improved interior comfort. The High Capacity Pick Up is introduced on the Land Rover 109.

1983 Land Rover’s new Managing Director, Tony Gilroy begins a programme to concentrate production at the main Solihull plant.

The Land Rover One Ten is launched. The new vehicle uses the coil spring suspension of the Range Rover in a new stronger chassis frame. Other features include a five-speed gearbox, front disc brakes, a one piece windscreen and optional power steering. The extended wheelbase, Land Rover 127 also appears in Crew Cab form.

The Range Rover is upgraded with a five speed manual gearbox and other improvements. Annual production now tops 12,000 vehicles.

1984 The Land Rover Ninety debuts, featuring new doors with wind-up windows.

Following a successful limited edition, the ‘Range Rover Vogue’ is introduced at the top of the model’s line-up.

1985 The refinement of Range Rover’s automatic option is improved by the introduction of a ZF 4-speed gearbox.

Land Rover vehicles are now being sold in 120 countries with plans for even more expansion.

1986 A diesel powered version of the Range Rover is launched with a 2.4-litre turbo-charged VM engine. The benefits of the new engine are underlined when a diesel Range Rover breaks 27 speed and endurance records.

The Land Rover also gets the option of a turbo-charged diesel engine based on its earlier naturally aspirated unit.

1987 The formation of Range Rover of North America heralds the launch of the vehicle in the US market.

1988 Land Rover introduces a Borg-Warner chain driven transfer box with a viscous coupled centre differential into the Range Rover’s driveline. This provides a significant improvement to the vehicle’s refinement, reinforcing its luxury credentials.

The 40th anniversary of the Land Rover is marked by total sales of over 1.6 million vehicles world-wide.

The Rover Group is sold to British Aerospace (BAe).

1989 The Frankfurt Motor Show in September sees the launch of the first new Land Rover vehicle since the Range Rover in 1970. The Discovery moves Land Rover away from its traditional markets and into the burgeoning leisure sector. While based on the Range Rover, the Discovery is all new where it matters. The interior with its distinctive facia style and striking light blue colourway owes much to input from the Conran design consultancy. The exterior features a distinctive stepped roof with a single rear door mounting the spare wheel. The power train debuts the new 200 Tdi direct-injection diesel engine while the 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine is offered as an alternative. The Discovery’s launch is supported by a massive marketing campaign which is designed to support Land Rover as a brand in its own right.

Helping to distinguish the Range Rover from its new stable mate as well as giving a useful power boost, its V8 engine is enlarged to 3.9 litres. Detail design changes give the Range Rover a sleeker profile with concealed front door hinges.

1990 The Land Rover range is offered with the 200 Tdi engine and, in support of the new Land Rover brand strategy, the model is named ‘Defender’.

A four door version of the Discovery is introduced.

The 20th anniversary of the Range Rover is celebrated by the introduction of a four-wheel, four channel ABS braking system, the first in the world designed for optimum performance off- as well as on-road.

North America becomes the largest export market for the Range Rover.

Underlining its credentials as the world’s leading manufacturer of off-road vehicles, Land Rover opens the ‘Land Rover Experience’ at Solihull.

1992 Land Rover of North America is founded with a limited edition of 500 Defender 110 vehicles powered by the 3.9 litre V8 engine.

The long wheel base Range Rover LSE showcases a number of ‘firsts’ for an off-road vehicle including air suspension and electronic traction control.

1993 Land Rover of North America follows up the success of the launch of the Defender 110 with the Defender 90 soft top.

For the 1994 Model Year, Discovery receives a major facelift. Externally, there is a new front end treatment with new front lights while internally, a new facia allows the installation of driver and passenger airbags. These changes pave the way for Discovery’s introduction into the North American market.

The Range Rover also receives a new facia treatment.

1994 An all-new Range Rover is launched. The new vehicle has a long wheelbase chassis and air suspension system and seeks to bridge the gap between off-roader and sports saloon. The new Range Rover has a new chassis and semi-monocoque body for rigidity and is powered by developments of the V8 petrol engine with a BMW six-cylinder diesel alternative.

The Rover Group, including Land Rover is acquired by the German car maker BMW.

1995 Production of Land Rover vehicles at Solihull tops 100,000 units per annum.

1997 The Frankfurt Motor Show in September sees the debut of a brand new Land Rover product, the Freelander. Powered by transverse-mounted four-cylinder petrol or diesel engines, the Freelander uses an Intermediate Reduction Drive unit to take the drive to the back axle via a viscous coupling. Two body styles are offered – a five-door estate and an exciting three door. The Freelander’s off-road ability is re-enforced by the innovative Hill Descent Control (HDC) system.

1998 April 30th sees the 50th anniversary of Land Rover. Special commemorative limited editions of all four models are produced.

The Discovery Series II is launched. The new vehicle has a new longer body to accommodate seven forward facing seats. Another innovation is Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE), a computer-controlled high-pressure hydraulic system to control vehicle roll. The ABS braking system of the new Discovery incorporates the Hill Descent Control (HDC) system developed for Freelander.

The new Discovery acts as the launch platform for the Td5 engine, a five-cylinder, 2.5-litre direct injection diesel engine featuring high pressure electronic unit injectors. The engine now also powers the Defender.

2000 The Rover Group is sold by BMW with Land Rover being acquired by the Ford Motor Company, joining Aston Martin, Volvo, Lincoln and Jaguar in the Premier Automotive Group. Bob Dover is named as CEO.

A revised Freelander debuts with power coming from new 2.5-litre V6 petrol or 2.0-litre common rail diesel engines.

2001 The three-millionth Land Rover comes off the Solihull production line – a Freelander built for the US market.

The new Range Rover is revealed. Its investment cost of £1 billion makes it the biggest project carried out by the British motor industry.

The new vehicle is very different than its predecessor. It is larger and of monocoque construction. The suspension uses air springs but is independent all round with an innovative linked system to replicate the action of a beam axle to maximise off-road articulation. The vehicle is powered by two BMW engines – a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel and a 4.4-litre V8 petrol. The external design and stylish interior epitomises presence and luxury.

2002 The Discovery receives a face lift in the shape of a new front end featuring the Land Rover ‘family face’ introduced on the new Range Rover.

Range Rover production notches up its 500,000th vehicle in May.

2003 The Freelander is facelifted with new, Land Rover trademark ‘pocketed’ headlights, external design revisions and an upgraded interior

Land Rover runs the first ‘Land Rover G4 Challenge’, an extreme adventure competition using specially-adapted Range Rovers, Discoverys and Freelanders with Defenders in support.

The Land Rover is named ‘The Greatest Car of All Time’ by viewers of the BBC’s ‘Top Gear’ television programme.

2004 The Range Stormer concept vehicle, heralding a new Land Rover design direction is revealed at the Geneva Motor Show.

The Discovery 3 makes its public debut. Featuring a new ‘Integrated Body Frame’ architecture, the new vehicle echoes the design themes of the original Discovery but with 21st century sharpness. New technology includes the ‘Terrain Response’ system. Power units include a 4.4-litre V8 petrol, a 2.7-litre V6 diesel and a 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine. The suspension is independent all-round and a flat floor optimises space in the rear compartment.

The Discovery 3 is launched in the North American market as the Land Rover LR3.

2005 The Range Rover Sport is launched. It uses similar architecture to the Discovery 3 with revisions to the suspension to improve road holding. To further improve handling, the Range Rover Sport can be specified with the Dynamic Response system. A Jaguar-derived 4.2-litre V8 petrol supercharged engine developing 390 horsepower is offered.

The exterior design has all the drama of the earlier Range Stormer concept vehicle while the interior is configured around four people with the driver being treated to a cockpit feel engendered by a high centre console and well-placed instrument panel.

The 500,000th Freelander leaves the production line just eight years after its introduction. The vehicle is marked with paw prints and the logo of the Born Free Foundation and is offered as a prize to launch an appeal for the animal welfare charity.

2006 The Land_e is revealed at the Geneva Motor Show. The diesel-electric hybrid SUV incorporates the latest fuel saving technology and a unique 4 x 4 drive system.

The Range Rover 2007 model year vehicle introduces a new V8 diesel engine. Based on the technology used in the smaller V6, it provides virtually the same performance as petrol engine versions but with vastly improved fuel consumption. The engine is also available in the Range Rover Sport.

The Freelander 2 is launched. An all-new vehicle, it continues the Freelander concept but with a new generation of six-cylinder petrol and four-cylinder diesel engines. The transmission incorporates new manual and automatic gearboxes and an electronically-controlled coupling unit. The crisp lines of the exterior design incorporate cues from its predecessor while the interior has a well-integrated, luxury feel.

The new model includes the latest Land Rover on- and off-road technology including Terrain Response. Built in the award-winning plant at Halewood on Merseyside, it is firmly aimed at staking a claim in the vital US market.

Land Rover announces its CO2 offset programme. Managed by Climate Care, manufacturing generated CO2 emissions and the first 45,000 miles of customer use are offset. Projects include a wind farm in China, a hydro-electric dam in Tajikistan and the distribution of efficient cooking stoves in Uganda.

2007 The icon of the Land Rover brand, the Defender receives a facelift in the shape of a new, 2.4-litre diesel power unit coupled with a new six-speed gearbox. A new interior revitalises its appeal.

The four-millionth Land Rover vehicle is produced. A Discovery 3, it is donated to the Born Free Foundation.

Land Rover adds to its portfolio of wildlife protection projects by supporting the Borneo Orang-utan Survival Foundation.

The Ford Motor Company announces that it intends to sell Land Rover together with its partner, Jaguar. Bids are received from Indian companies, Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra in addition to a number of private equity firms.

Announcing the G4 Challenge for 2008, the company reveals a partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, committing to raise £1 million for the organisation from the event.

Land Rover’s CO2 Offset Programme is ranked as the largest of similar consumer offset schemes. Journalists are taken to Uganda to view a scheme to provide villagers with high-efficiency stoves to minimise the environmental impact of cooking using charcoal derived from local forests.

To celebrate its upcoming 60th Anniversary in 2008, Zara Phillips unveils the Land Rover Defender SVX at the British Red Cross Ball. Produced as a numbered special edition of 200 vehicles in both soft-top and station wagon variants, the Defender SVX features metallic black paintwork, tubular side steps and a bold new silver grille and headlamp surround. Riding on new ‘diamond turned’ alloy wheels, the Defender SVX is also fitted with an aluminium undershield. Custom-designed Recaro seats are provided for the driver and front passenger. Other interior features include distinctive alloy gear lever knobs and a comprehensive in-car information package including a new audio system, MP3 player cradle and satellite navigation.

At the end of November, Land Rover sales for 2007 cross the 200,000 barrier. Total sales for the year are 226,395 with records being set in the UK, US and other markets. The company’s impact is also felt in emerging markets with sales in Russia up 96 percent and in China up by 143 percent.

2008 Ford reveals Tata Motors as the preferred bidder for Jaguar and Land Rover, announcing that more detailed negotiations are taking place on the sale of the company.

The latest Land Rover concept vehicle steals the limelight debuts at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Conceived as a premium car, appealing to new customers from the luxury and executive sector, the three-door LRX cross-coupé is of compact size and class-leading efficiency thanks to its low weight, slippery shape and the use of hybrid technologies previewed in the Land_e.

Created entirely in-house, the LRX is the first concept vehicle designed under design director, Gerry McGovern. The LRX features style cues such as the ‘floating’ roof and clamshell bonnet but also looks to the future with wrap-around glazing, tapering blade indicator clusters and concealed door releases. Its stance emphasises its breath of capability from sophisticated urban to challenging off-road environments.

The specification showcases Land Rover’s latest technologies including Terrain Response which gains a new ‘Eco’ mode, and Electronic Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) that uses electric power to drive the vehicle at low speeds, a system under test in modified Freelander 2 vehicles.

Although LRX is of compact dimensions, the interior is roomy, versatile and sophisticated. Trim materials are of premium quality from sustainable resources and include chromium-free, vegetable-tanned leather and felt carpeting. Extensive use is also made of recycled aluminium.

At the dawn of its 60th anniversary year, the LRX is seen as a vigorous response to the challenges of a changing world and a commitment to continuing future growth.

Further Royal recognition comes in May with a visit to the Solihull plant by HRH The Prince of Wales, celebrating his own 60th birthday later in the year.

In the latest recognition for its success and achievements, the company is presented with two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. The first, for International Trade, recognises overseas sales of £4 billion with major growth in China and Russia. The second, for Innovation, celebrates Land Rover’s unique Terrain Response system, itself the product of 60 years experience in producing off-road vehicles.

In June, Tata Motors acquires Jaguar Land Rover for US $2.3 billion and appoints David Smith as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Long term agreements with the Ford Motor Company ensure the continuity of components and technological support. Mr Ratan N Tata, Chairman of Tata Sons and Tata Motors, pledges support to the Jaguar Land Rover in ‘building the success and pre-eminence of the two brands’.

To reinforce its commitment to the British Red Cross, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the granting of its Royal Charter, Land Rover donates 60 vehicles to the charity in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

October sees the launch of the Freelander 2 TD4_e, the world’s first SUV with an intelligent stop/start system. Put through its paces by the press in an appropriately urban circuit through the streets of London and in a specially-constructed off-road course inside Battersea Power Station, the Freelander 2 TD4_e, delivers significant improvements in both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

2009 While posting record sales for the first half of 2008, by the end of the year the company is feeling the effects of the downturn in the global economy sparked off by the crisis in the banking industry. This results in balancing production to meet demand while the G4 Challenge competition is cancelled.

The New York International Auto Show sees the debut of major changes to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport for the 2010 model year and the introduction of the Discovery 4/LR4.

The 2010 Range Rover is distinguished by the integration of a number of contemporary design elements, notably a new front bumper with a smoother profile, a deeper grille and new headlamp units. The new interior features new materials and finishes and showcases two world firsts – a 300mm (12-inch) Thin Film Transistor (TFT) instrument display and a widescreen, dual-view screen enabling the driver and passenger to view different images simultaneously.

Under the bonnet, two new 5.0-litre V8 direct-injection petrol engines are available – a supercharged version developing 510PS and a naturally aspirated unit developing 375PS. The 3.2-litre TDV8 diesel, producing 272PS completes the line-up. To complement the new engines, which can take the Range Rover to 96 km (60 mph) in less than six seconds, there is another world first – the Adaptive Dynamics system. The braking system is also upgraded.

Design changes on the Range Rover Sport for 2010 give it a cleaner, more muscular appearance. A new, two-bar grille and a re-profiled bumper are enhanced by new lamp clusters. The interior also receives a significant update with a newly-sculpted facia and console, new door casings and upgraded materials.

The Range Rover Sport is now also available with both the supercharged and naturally aspirated versions of the 5.0-litre V8 engines. While retaining the popular TDV8 diesel engine, a new 3.0-litre version of the V6 diesel engine with twin sequential turbo chargers and producing 245 PS can also be specified.

Steering wheel paddles are now employed to provide manual control over the upgraded six-speed automatic gearbox. The Adaptive Dynamics system is also fitted alongside Dynamic Response to endow the Range Rover Sport with superlative on-road handling – a feature enhanced by a new ‘Dynamic’ program setting on the Terrain Response system.

The debut of the Discovery 4/LR4 signifies major changes to Land Rover’s mid-range nameplate. While staying true to its functional, geometric lines, the Discovery 4/LR4 has a new, softer bumper profile with a larger intake, a new grille and a jewel-quality lamp cluster. The rear lamp cluster features LED stop, tail and indicator lamps.

The exterior is complemented inside by a new, integrated facia with flowing lines angled towards the driver. The centre console and door casings are also revised with premium materials used throughout.

The Discovery 4/LR4 receives two new power units in the shape of the naturally aspirated version of the 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine and the new 3.0-litre TDV6 diesel. The 2.7-litre TDV6 is retained. Handling is improved by a revised suspension inspired by the Range Rover Sport, and variable ratio steering.

Fulfilling its role as a superb towing vehicle, the Discovery 4/LR4 is now available with a full 360 degree camera system with a Towing Assist feature to help line up a trailer – a system also available on the other 2010/2011 model year vehicles.

The latest vehicles also see the introduction of Land Rover’s e-Technologies, designed to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions

And then there was the Evoque.