The design for the original vehicle was started in 1947 by Maurice Wilks. It was simply called Land Rover (the terms “Series” and “Defender” are retroactive and only introduced in the 1990s). Wilks, chief designer at the Rover Company, on his farm in Newborough, Anglesey, working in conjunction with his brother Spencer who was the managing director of Rover. The design may have been influenced by the Jeep and the prototype, later nicknamed Centre Steer, was built on a Jeep chassis and axles. The early choice of colour was dictated by military surplus supplies of aircraft cockpit paint, so early vehicles only came in various shades of light green; all models until recently feature sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis. Early vehicles like the Series I were field-tested at Long Bennington and designed to be field-serviced.
Land Rover as a company has existed since 1978. Prior to this, it was a product line of the Rover Company which was subsequently absorbed into the Rover-Triumph division of the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BL) following Leyland Motor Corporation’s takeover of Rover in 1967. The ongoing commercial success of the original Land Rover series models, and latterly the Range Rover in the 1970s in the midst of BL’s well-documented business troubles prompted the establishment of a separate Land Rover company but still under the BL umbrella, remaining part of the subsequent Rover Group in 1988, under the ownership of British Aerospace after the remains of British Leyland were broken up and privatised. In 1994 Rover Group plc was acquired by BMW. In 2000, Rover Group was broken up by BMW and Land Rover was sold to Ford Motor Company, becoming part of its Premier Automotive Group. In 2006 Ford purchased the Rover brand from BMW for around £6 million.
In 2008, Ford Motor Company sold Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors. Included in the deal were the rights to three other British brands: Jaguar’s own Daimler marque, as well as two dormant brands Lanchester and Rover. BMW and Ford had previously retained ownership of the Rover brand to protect the integrity of the Land Rover brand, with which ‘Rover’ might be confused in the US 4×4 market; the Rover brand was originally used under licence by MG Rover until it collapsed in 2005, at which point it was re-acquired by the then Ford Motor Company owned Land Rover Limited. This sale also included the dormant Rover brand. As of August 2012, most Land Rovers in production are powered by Ford engines. Under the terms of the acquisition, Tata has the right to buy engines from Ford until 2019. In 2011, Tata confirmed plans that it is investing $559 million to build an engine assembly plant in the British West Midlands. However, it was only stated that the plant will produce four-cylinder engines. The eight-cylinder engines used in Land Rovers were not mentioned.
- 1947: Rover’s chief designer Maurice Wilks and his associates create a prototype using Jeep chassis and components
- 1948: The first Land Rover was officially launched 30 April 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show
- 1958: Series II launched
- 1961: Series IIA began production
- 1967: Rover becomes part of Leyland Motors Ltd, later British Leyland (BL) as Rover Triumph
- 1970: Introduction of the Range Rover
- 1971: Series III launched
- 1974: Land Rover abandons US market, facing competitive pressure from Japanese 4×4 brands
- 1975: BL collapses and is nationalised, publication of the Ryder Report recommends that Land Rover be split from Rover and be treated as a separate company within BL and becomes part of the new commercial vehicle division called the Land Rover Leyland Group
- 1976: One-millionth Land Rover leaves the production line
- 1978: Land Rover Limited formed as a separate subsidiary of British Leyland
- 1980: Rover car production ends at Solihull with the transfer of SD1 production to Cowley, Oxford; Solihull is now exclusively for Land Rover manufacture. 5-door Range Rover introduced.
- 1983: Land Rover 90 (Ninety)/110 (One-Ten)/127 (renamed Defender in 1990) introduced
- 1986: BL plc becomes Rover Group plc; Project Llama started
- 1987: Range Rover is finally introduced to the US market, following many years of demand being filled by grey market sales
- 1988: Rover Group is privatised and becomes part of British Aerospace, and is now known simply as Rover
- 1989: Introduction of Discovery
- 1994: Rover Group is taken over by BMW. Introduction of second-generation Range Rover. (The original Range Rover was continued under the name ‘Range Rover Classic’ until 1995)
- 1997: Land Rover introduces the Special Edition Discovery XD with AA yellow paint, subdued wheels, SD type roof racks, and a few other off-road upgrades directly from the factory. Produced only for the North American market, the Special Vehicles Division of Land Rover created only 250 of these bright yellow SUVs.
- 1997: Introduction of Freelander
- 1998: Introduction of second generation of Discovery
- 2000: BMW breaks up the Rover Group and sells Land Rover to Ford for £1.8 billion
- 2002: Introduction of third-generation Range Rover
- 2004: Introduction of third-generation Discovery/LR3
- 2005: Introduction of Range Rover Sport
- 2005: Adoption of Jaguar AJ-V8 engine to replace the BMW M62 V8 in the Range Rover
- 2005: Land Rover ‘founder’ Rover, collapses under the ownership of MG Rover Group
- 2006: Announcement of a new 2.4-litre diesel engine, 6-speed gearbox, dash and forward-facing rear seats for Defender. Introduction of second generation of Freelander (Freelander 2). Ford acquires the Rover trademark from BMW, who previously licensed its use to MG Rover Group
- 8 May 2007: 4,000,000th Land Rover rolls off the production line, a Discovery 3 (LR3), donated to The Born Free Foundation
- 12 June 2007: Announcement from the Ford Motor Company that it plans to sell Land Rover and also Jaguar Cars
- August 2007: Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra as well as financial sponsors Cerberus Capital Management, TPG Capital and Apollo Global Management expressed their interest in purchasing Jaguar Cars and Land Rover from the Ford Motor Company.
- 26 March 2008: Ford agreed to sell their Jaguar Land Rover operations to Tata Motors.
- 2 June 2008: Tata Motors finalised their purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford.
- 2010: Introduction of fourth-generation Discovery/LR4
- 2011: The Range Rover Evoque introduced
- 2012: Fourth-generation Range Rover was exhibited at the 2012 Paris Motor Show
- 2014: The New Discovery Range was unveiled at the 2014 New York Motor Show
2017 UK Land Rover Model Line-up
- Discovery 5, Large off-road 4×4
- Discovery Sport, Medium off-road 4×4
- Range Rover Evoque, Small off-road 4×4
- Range Rover Sport, Large off-road 4×4
- Range Rover, Large off-road 4×4
Land Rovers were manufactured primarily at the Solihull plant, near Birmingham, but production of the Freelander was moved to the Halewood Body & Assembly plant near Liverpool, a former Ford car plant. The Freelander is also assembled in knock-down kit (CKD) form at Land Rover’s facility in Pune, India.
Defender models are assembled under licence in several locations worldwide, including Spain (Santana Motors), Iran (Pazhan Morattab), Brazil (Karmann), and Turkey (Otokar). The former BL/Rover Group technical centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire is one of the JLR group’s design centres, and the former Jaguar Cars head office in Whitley is now the group head office and another group design facility.
In May 2010, Tata Motors announced that it plans to build Land Rover and Jaguar models in Mainland China (PRC) as the company seeks to cut costs and expand sales.
In late 2012, the automaker announced a joint venture for Jaguars and Land Rovers to be built in China, now the world’s biggest car-market. The agreement is with Chery, China’s sixth largest auto manufacturer, and calls for a new Chinese factory in Changshu to build vehicles starting in 2014. Trial production at the facility began in April 2014, with a potential capacity of 130,000 vehicles annually. The first production model by the Chery Jaguar Land Rover venture is the Evoque, with other models planned that also include modifications, such as longer wheelbases, to satisfy Chinese market demand. A plant for Ingenium engines was added in 2017.
Models developed for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) include:
- 101 Forward Control – also known as the “Land Rover One Tonne FC”
- 1/2 ton Lightweight – airportable military short-wheelbase from the Series 2a
- Land Rover Wolf – an uprated Military Defender
- Snatch Land Rover – Land Rover with composite armoured body in UK Armed Forces Service
- 109 Series IIa and III ambulance (body by Marshalls of Cambridge)
- Range Rover ‘6×6’ Fire Appliance (conversion by Carmichael and Sons of Worcester) for RAF airfield use
- 130 Defender ambulance
- ‘Llama’ prototypes for 101 replacement.
Models developed for the Australian Army:
- Land Rover Perentie 4X4 and 6X6
During the history of the Land Rover many different engines have been fitted:
- The inlet-over-exhaust petrol engines (“semi side-valve”), in both four- and six-cylinder variants, which were used for the very first Land Rovers in 1948, and which had their origins in pre-war Rover cars. Displacement of the first models was 1,600 cc.
- The four-cylinder overhead-valve engines, both petrol and diesel, which first appeared (in diesel form) in 1957, near the end of Series One production, and evolved over the years to the 300 TDi turbodiesel, which remains in production today for some overseas markets.
- The Buick-sourced all aluminium Rover V8 engine.
- 1,997 cc Petrol, inlet-over-exhaust: Series I engine, carried over for the first few months of Series II production.
- 2,052 cc Diesel, overhead-valve: Land Rover’s first diesel engine, and one of the first small high-speed diesels produced in the UK. It appeared in 1957, and was used in Series II production until 1961. Looks almost identical to the later 2,286 cc engine, but many internal differences. It produced 51 bhp (38 kW).
- 2,286 cc Petrol, overhead-valve, three-bearing crank.
- 2,286 cc Diesel, overhead-valve, three-bearing crank: Appeared in 1961 alongside the redesigned 2,286 cc petrol engine at the start of Series IIA production, and shared its cylinder block and some other components. It produced 62 bhp (46 kW).
- 2,625 cc Petrol, inlet-over-exhaust: Borrowed from the Rover saloon range, in response to demands from mid-1960s Land Rover users for more power and torque.
- 2,286 cc petrol/diesel, overhead-valve type 11J: five-bearing crank: In 1980, Land Rover finally did something about the crank failures which had plagued its four-cylinder engines for 22 years. These engines lasted beyond the end of Series III production and into the first couple of years of the new Ninety and One Ten ranges.
- 3,258 cc V8 Petrol: The ex-Buick all alloy V8 engine appeared in the Range Rover right from the start of production in 1970, but did not make its way into the company’s utility vehicles until 1979.
- 2,495 cc petrol, overhead valve: The final development of Land Rover’s ohv petrol ‘four’, with hardened valve seats which allow running on unleaded (or LPG).
- 2,495 cc diesel, overhead valve, type 12J: Land Rover reworked the old ‘two and a quarter’ diesel for the 1980s. The injection pump was driven off a toothed belt at the front of the engine (together with the camshaft), a change compared with the older diesels.
- 2,495 cc turbodiesel, overhead valve, type 19J
- 2,495 cc turbodiesel, overhead valve, 200TDi and 300TDi: Used in the Defender and Discovery from 1990. The cylinder block was similar to the previous engine, although strengthened but the cylinder head was all-new and a direct injection fuel system was used.
- 2,495 cc turbodiesel, five-cylinder, TD5: An all-new engine for the second generation Discovery, and the Defender featuring electronic control of the fuel injection system, ‘drive by wire’ throttle, and other refinements
- The original Freelander models were available with various Rover K-series engines.
Power take-off (PTO) was integral to the Land Rover concept from 1948, enabling farm machinery and many other items to be run with the vehicle stationary. Maurice Wilks’ original instruction was “…to have power take-offs everywhere!” The 1949 report by British National Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Scottish Machinery Testing Station contained this description: “the power take-off is driven through a Hardy Spicer propeller shaft from the main gearbox output and two interchangeable pinions giving two ratios. The PTO gearbox casing is bolted to the rear chassis cross-member and an 8 by 8 inches (200 mm × 200 mm) belt pulley driven from the PTO shaft through two bevel gears can be bolted to the PTO gearbox casing.” PTOs remained regular options on Series I, II and III Land Rovers up to the demise of the Series Land Rover in 1985. An agricultural PTO on a Defender is possible as a special order.
Land Rovers (the Series/Defender models) are available in a variety of body styles, from a simple canvas-topped pick-up truck to a twelve-seat fully trimmed station wagon. Both Land Rover and out-of-house contractors have offered conversions and adaptations to the basic vehicle, such as fire engines, excavators, ‘cherry picker’ hydraulic platforms, ambulances, snowploughs, and six-wheel-drive versions, as well as one-off special builds including amphibious Land Rovers and vehicles fitted with tracks instead of wheels.
Highly modified Land Rovers have competed in the Dakar Rally and won the Macmillan 4×4 UK Challenge almost every year, as well as having been the vehicle used for the Camel Trophy. Now, Land Rover has its own G4 challenge.
Land Rover Experience was established in 1990, and consists of a network of centres throughout the world, set up to help customers get the most out of their vehicles’ on and off-road capability. The flagship centres are Land Rover’s bases at Solihull, Eastnor, Gaydon and Halewood. Courses offered include off-road driving, winching and trailer handling, along with a variety of corporate and individual ‘Adventure Days’. The factory centres at Solihull and Halewood have manufacturing tours, while Gaydon has an engineering tour.
Model-by-model road accident statistics from the UK Department for Transport show that the Land Rover Defender is one of the safest cars on British roads as measured by chance of death in two-car injury accidents. The figures, which were based on data collected by police forces following accidents between 2000 and 2004 in Great Britain, showed that Defender drivers had a 1% chance of being killed or seriously injured and a 33% chance of sustaining any kind of injury. Other four-wheel-drive vehicles scored equally highly, and collectively these vehicles were much safer for their passengers than those in other classes such as passenger cars and MPVs. These figures reflect the fact that drivers of large mass vehicles are likely to be safer, often at the expense of other drivers if they collide with smaller cars.
The original Land Rover Owners Club was set up by the Rover Company in 1954. The company published the Land Rover Owners Club Review magazine for members from 1957 to 1968 when the club became the Rover Owners Association. This original association fell away when the company merged with British Leyland.
There are many Land Rover clubs throughout the UK and internationally. Land Rover clubs break down into a number of groups of varying interests.
Single Marque Clubs – Bring together owners of a specific model or series of vehicle such as the Land Rover Series One Club, or the Discovery Owners Club. Clubs based on ownership of earlier series vehicles tend to attract the purists amongst Land Rover owners whose interests often relate to restoration of their vehicles to their original condition. Single marque clubs have a global membership.
Special Vehicle Clubs – At various times Land Rover have produced vehicles for specific events or on a specific theme, most notable are the Camel Trophy and G4 Challenge vehicles which have been sold on to the general public, and a range of Defenders that were loosely based on the custom vehicles produced for the Tomb Raider motion picture.
Regional Clubs in the UK break down into two groups, competitive and non-competitive. The non-competitive clubs activities generally relate to social events, off road driving or green laning on un-surfaced public highways or ‘pay and play’ days at off road centres. Competitive clubs are a phenomenon almost exclusively found within the UK, who as well as the non-competitive activities detailed above run competitive events such as Tyro, Road Taxed Vehicle (RTV) and Cross Country Vehicle (CCV) trials, winch and recovery challenges or speed events such as Competitive Safaries. All UK competitive events are run within the framework of rules created by the Motor Sports Association (MSA) with further vehicle specific rules applied by the host club or association. Outside of the UK regional clubs are independent and mostly non-competitive.
A number of clubs are affiliated to the Association of Land Rover Clubs (ALRC), formerly known as the Association of Rover Clubs (ARC) the association applies its own vehicle regulations to all of its member clubs who have the opportunity to compete together at regional events and an annual national event with vehicles approved to the same standard. In recent years some non-competitive clubs have dropped their affiliation fifth ALRC. Few clubs outside of the UK are affiliated with ALRC. Other than ALRC and the short lived Association of North American Rover Clubs (ANARC), which was created 1998 to celebrate Land Rover’s 50th anniversary and disbanded in 2001, other groups of Land Rover clubs have affiliated with each other.
Land Rover owners were also early adopters of virtual clubs that are entirely based online. Bill Caloccia created the original Land Rover Owner email list (LRO) as single marque offshoot of the British Cars email list in May 1990. Bill later created email lists in the mid 1990s for Range Rovers (RRO) and various regions (e.g., UK-LRO, AU-LRO, ZA-LRO, EU-LRO, IT-LRO, NL-LRO). In California members of the LRO list created mendo_recce in 1995. LRO, UK-LRO, ZA-LRO and mendo_recce are still active email lists in 2014. As the web became popular forums web forums (e.g., Muddy Oval, Guns and Rovers, Defender Source, Land Rover Addict) and groups existing only in Facebook or other social media sites have been created and are popular communication methods.
In 2005, under Ford ownership, Land Rover became more interested in the club environment. An internal club was formed, The Land Rover Club, exclusive to employees of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (Now exclusive to the new ‘Jaguar – Land Rover’ group since the brand moved away from the Ford stable). Also, an agreement was generated to allow other clubs to use the Land Rover green oval logo under licence. In 2006, the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire club were the pilot licensees for the new agreement, who now benefit from a reciprocal arrangement where their own logo is trade marked and owned by Land Rover and they can refer to themselves as a ‘Land Rover Approved Club’.
In 2006, the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire club were the pilot licensees for the new agreement, who now benefit from a reciprocal arrangement where their own logo is trade-marked and owned by Land Rover and they can refer to themselves as a ‘Land Rover Approved Club’.