It started life as just a squiggled sketch in the sand – and today it is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Loved by the Queen, driven by Winston Churchill and adored by millions loyal drivers including soldiers of the British Army and SAS, British 4X4 maker Land Rover is marking seven decades to the day since the first of its vehicles was shown to the public.
That day was April 30, 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show, and today Land Rover is hosting a party and broadcasting a special commemorative YouTube film.
Land Rover has created this picture charting its cars through the years in both their on road, off-road and special guises
The aluminium bodied 4X4 was developed as a stop-gap British version of a Jeep, designed to help Britain’s farmers and finances after the war when steel was in short supply.
It subsequently became the rugged back-to-basics Defender model and over the decades spawned a host of derivatives including the Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery.
Today the UK car firm is celebrating with a party at the Land Rover Classic Works in Coventry – which restores old original models to pristine condition – to coincide with that a broadcast goes out at 8pm tonight at: https://www.youtube.com/user/landrover
Land Rover said: ‘The special broadcast tells story of how Land Rover was created as a stop gap vehicle after World War II and went on to become the world’s favourite 4×4 with over 7 million sales.
‘It features some of some of the greatest Land Rovers ever built and some of the people who make and drive them.
‘It will pay tribute to seven decades of adventure, humanitarian aid and hard work across classes and cultures around the world.’
The firm’s classics division now offers customers the chance to buy a Land Rover Reborn – a fully restored Series 1
The rugged back-to-basics original Land Rover spawned a host of derivatives including the Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery (pictured).
The vehicle line-up at the Coventry event includes the first prototype Land Rover known as ‘HUE’ after its registration plate, the original two-door Range Rover and the seven-seater Discovery, as well as expedition-proven models from across the decades.
The current range, including the sector-defining Range Rover Evoque and Velar SUVs, will also be on screen as Land Rover celebrates its lifelong status as a favourite among celebrities, politicians and royalty.
Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Prof Dr Ralf Speth said: ’Land Rover was born with the launch of a single vehicle. Today our family of SUVs is testament to the pioneering spirit of innovation that has characterised Land Rover for seven decades.’
Land Rover’s timeline shows how the cars have developed through the years from the back to basics original Series I to the new Velar and super luxurious Range Rover SV Coupe
The original Land Rover started life as a squiggle in the sand, when – shortly after the Second World War – Rover director Maurice Wilks sketched on a beach near his holiday cottage in Anglesey a workhorse vehicle to replace the American army surplus Jeep he was then using.
So in 1948 Britain’s answer to the ubiquitous Jeep – the Land Rover – was born and launched at that year’s Amsterdam Motor Show as the world’s first mass-produced civilian 4X4 costing £450.
The Land Rover Reborn project show car was based on a Series 1 sourced from Australia and meticulously rebuilt
The rugged original Land Rover proved a huge hit, particularly with Britain’s post-war farmers and country dwellers
With post-war rationing and steel in short supply but masses of aluminium around, the vehicle was initially made with the lightweight metal.
The original sage-green paint was acquired from a fighter plane factory.
The first pilot pre-production model called ‘Huey’ after its registration number ‘HUE 166’ and is fully working.
Astonishingly, some three-quarters of the 2million Defenders ever built since then are said to be still in regular use.
Land Rover holds a royal warrant, as supplier to the royal household. The royal relationship with Land Rover goes back to 1948 when King George VI viewed the original Land Rover.
The Queen, who is regularly photographed at the wheel, took delivery of her first one shortly after coming to the throne in 1952 and has used Land Rovers ever since.
The Queen used a specially adapted Land Rover for her first world tour in 1953 and Her Majesty and Prince Philip continue to use the car maker’s vehicles today – including the somewhat more luxurious Range Rover
Her Majesty used a specially adapted one for her first world tour in 1953, while Winston Churchill was given one as an 80th birthday present at his home in Chartwell, and another was used for Pope John Paul II’s tour of England in 1982.
Shortly after ending his love affair with young Princess Margaret in the 1950s, former battle of Britain pilot Group Captain Peter Townsend set off on a 57,000 mile journey around the world in his short Wheelbase Land Rover Station Wagon which he completed in 1957 and chronicled in his book ‘Earth, My Friend.’
The Defender became a regular movie star movie featuring heavily in the film Born Free (1966) about the story of Elsa the Lion.
Defenders are still used today by the Born Free Foundation, whose founder Virginia McKenna OBE was in the movie. Hollywood actor Steve McQueen was a fan. It also featured in the Angelina Jolie film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and in the James Bond movie, Skyfall,
To celebrate the 70th birthday, Land Rover staged an expedition into the Alps this year to recreate the drawn line in the sand
Except this time the shape of the car was drawn into the snow on top of a mountain, rather than on the beach where it was first sketched out.
The Defender name itself can be traced back to 1990. It was created to avoid confusion with a new Land Rover launched the previous year called Discovery.
Military versions of the Defender have seen service around the globe and the armed forces have purchased almost 200,000 variants of the UK built Land Rover with the most famous being those used by the SAS in the desert, nicknamed ‘pinkies’ after their painted camouflage colour designed to blend with the dunes.
To cheering and applause from the workforce at Land Rover’s Solihull factory near Birmingham, the final Land Rover Defender 4X4 drove off the production line in January 2016 and joined the firm’s heritage collection.
A radical new generation Defender is to be launched next year.
A special broadcast with TV motoring pundit Quentin Willson (left) and presenter Andy Jaye (right) will celebrate the seven decades of Land Rover cars, including the original Range Rover, pictured in the foreground.
To mark the final year of the classic Defender Land Rover launched a series of official special editions ranging in price from £27,800 to £61,845.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show seven years ago Jaguar Land Rover signalled how potential hi-tech replacements for the Defender would look, unveiling a macho, open-topped off-roader – codenamed DS100 Sport – designed to be as useful off-road as the trusty original. It also showed off a more fun-packed version looking like a beach-buggy, as well as a more practical workhorse version.
In January, Land Rover announced plans to ‘sympathetically renovate’ the world’s most historically significant unrestored model – one of three pre-production cars from the original Amsterdam motor show launch on 30th April 1948.
It will take the stage at the Land Rover Classic event alongside its closest modern relative – the 405PS Defender Works V8 revealed earlier this year, of which only 150 will be produced.
The Land Rover timeline
1948 – Land Rover Series I launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show
1953 – Long Wheelbase version of the Series I is introduced
1956 – Oxford and Cambridge teams complete on London to Singapore expedition in Series I
1958 – Land Rover Series II unveiled with more refined design
1970 – Original two-door Range Rover (the Classic) goes on sale
1971 – Land Rover Series III launched
1972 – Range Rover crosses Darien Gap on 18,000-mile Trans-America expedition
1976 – 1,000,000th Land Rover built
1979 – A Range Rover wins the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally (and again in 1981)
1981 – Land Rover begins legendary partnership with Camel Trophy
1981 – Four-door Range Rover released
1989 – Land Rover Discovery, the third Land Rover model, goes on sale
1990 – Original ‘Landie’ relaunched and renamed Defender
1994 – Second generation Range Rover launched
1997 – All-new Freelander is unveiled with innovative new technology: Hill Descent Control
2001 – Third-generation Range Rover with all-round independent air suspension revealed
2003 – Inaugural G4 challenge sees 16 teams traverse USA, South Africa and Australia
2004 – Range Stormer Concept previews performance Range Rover and three-door body
2004 – Discovery 3/LR3, the third-generation Discovery, launched at New York Motor Show
2005 -All-new Range Rover Sport unveiled
2006 – Freelander 2/LR2 launched. The first Land Rover to be manufactured at Halewood
2007 – LRX concept car previews design language of a new luxury compact SUV
2009 – Fourth generation of the Land Rover Discovery introduced
2010 – Range Rover Evoque, the world’s first luxury compact SUV, makes global debut
2012 – Fourth-generation Range Rover introduced – the first all-aluminium SUV
2013 – New generation of Range Rover Sport unveiled at New York Motor Show
2014 – Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division is officially launched
2014 – Range Rover Sport SVR debuts, the fastest, most agile, most powerful Land Rover
2014 – Discovery Vision Concept previews design vision for new family of Discovery vehicles
2014 – Launch of Discovery Sport, a new premium compact SUV with 5+2 seating
2015 – Trio of end-of-line Defender editions revealed with biggest sand drawing in UK
22015 – One-of-a-kind Land Rover ‘Defender 2,000,000’ sells for £400,000 at charity auction
2016 – Last Defender rolls off the production line
2016 -All-new Discovery with world-first remote Intelligent Seat Fold technology launched
2017 – Land Rover launches the fourth Range Rover, the Velar
2018 – Limited Edition Range Rover SV Coupé debuts at Geneva Motor Show