The Landrover Series I – II – III Defined Its Iconic Place in Automobile History
Starting in 1948 when its design was penned by Maurice Wilks on the Welsh island of Anglesey, the Land Rover came to establish a firm hold on the British consciousness. As an icon, it is hard to beat. It is recognisable as a symbol of British car manufacturing around the world, and with its service as the workhorse of the Commonwealth’s Armed Forces it has seen action everywhere from snow-blasted escarpments to searing desert ranges.
The first model of Landrover is known by its utilitarian name, Series I or Series One. Two more major revisions (and one interim) were to come, and a tradition was established when they were called the Series II, Series IIA and Series III. Split mainly between the 88 inch SWB (short wheelbase) and 109 inch LWB (long wheelbase) there were also special vehicles made for Emergency Services and the Armed Forces, including the Army’s own 101 Forward Control development of the Series II.
At the end of November 2012, there were still almost thirty thousand 88 and 109 models in the DVLA’s system.
In 1990 the new Defender took on the mantle, and we had seen the last of the Series. The King is dead, long live the King!.
A Short History
After the Second World War, the British Army was on a lookout for a suitable replacement for its personal carrier vehicles that until then had been happily met by the Ford Willys Jeep that the US Army left after the war.
Maurice Wilks, head designer at the Rover Company based in Birmingham was said to have been inspired by the same Jeep and his Landrover prototype was actually built on its chassis. The first production grade Landrover made of aluminium was exhibited at the Amsterdam Motor Show of 1948. It took the colour from paint the British Army had immense surplus of – green. Hence, the first Landrover came in various shades of it and thanks to its non-corrosive all-aluminium body, the Series I Landrover, which lasted for 10 years before getting a model update in the Series II, built a reputation for durability under the toughest road conditions.
Over their 42 year reign as the first SUVs on the planet, the Series Landrovers have found their way onto the roll-call of many armies around the world. First used by the Brits using the simpler 2.25 litre Petrol engine, the Series saw action in the Korean War of the early 1950s as well as the Suez Crisis. The 1960s saw various versions on the same Series chassis that made into a multi-role personnel carrier, a long range desert patrol known in military circles as the “Pink Panther” and machine gun equipped versions.
Its versatility echoed much of the civilian after-market conversion kits that allowed the Series Landrovers to be an ambulance, an amphibious rescue craft, a pick-up truck, a closed delivery van, a farm hauler, a police patrol and a family car. Its hand-built construction made it the easier vehicle to overhaul and modify.
In 1976, the one millionth Series rolled off its factory at Solihull. By this time, the Rover Group had released a more upscale Range Rover model with the luxury appointments that predated the release of the Cherokee Jeep which is mistakenly credited with having created the SUV trend. The Army’s Series Landrovers would have seen action in the Falklands War of 1982 if not for the sinking of the “Atlantic Conveyor” – a merchant vessel requisitioned to transport Military equipment including Chinook Helicopters and several hundred Landrovers to the Falklands. The loss nearly wiped out the British Army’s land rover fleet. It was soon replaced by 200 Series III Landrovers.
Change of Hands
Landrover changed hands twice in the UK. First to government-owned Leyland Motors (later British Leyland) who acquired the Rover Company in 1967. The Ryder report of 1975 recommended separating the marque and it was included in the transfer of the now privatised Rover Group to British Aerospace.
The marque fell into German hands when BMW bought the Rover Group in 1994 to facilitate its move into fashion-orientated ‘soft-roaders’. The now profitable Landrover and Jaguar brands were then passed on to Ford, and eventually sold again to India’s Tata Motors.
Articles And Links
This article was written by Rupert Astbury
- Land Rover Goes Green (mcdonaldlandrover4x4.wordpress.com)
- Land Rover – Designed to serve (auto2014.wordpress.com)
- Report: Land Rover ending Defender production after 67 years (autoblog.com)
- Look: Land Rover to end production of the iconic Defender (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Jaguar Land Rover breaks £1bn profit barrier (telegraph.co.uk)
- Land Rover Launches Long-Wheelbase Range Rover, Autobiography Black Trim (motorauthority.com)