70 YEARS OF LAND ROVER
Landy adventure and legacy
Stretching over 250 metres, the most remote Defender outline was imprinted on the side of a mountain in the French Alps. The unique snow art was created to announce World Land Rover Day on 30 April, exactly 70 years after the original Land Rover was first unveiled at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.
The unique image is a tribute to the moment when the engineering director of Rover, Maurice Wilks, first etched the shape for the original Land Rover into the sand of Red Wharf Bay and proposed the idea to his brother Spencer who was then managing director at Rover. The forward-thinking design was christened the ‘Land Rover’, an outline now instantly recognisable as the legendary Defender.
The snow sculpture honours both the people who helped to create the most recognised 4×4 in the world, as well as the pioneering technologies of Land Rover — from its Series Land Rover and Defender origins to the introduction of the Range Rover in 1970 and the Discovery in 1989.
Snow artist Simon Beck, who specialises in creating geometric outlines on foot, braved sub-zero temperatures to start the celebrations by creating the Defender outline 2,700 metres up at La Plagne in the French Alps. Beck trekked 20,894 steps over a near 17-kilometre distance to produce the high-altitude Defender outline.
RESTORING THE ORIGINAL
Land Rover is marking its 70th anniversary with a series of events and celebrations in 2018, beginning earlier this year with the restoration of the vehicle that started it all — one of the three preproduction Land Rovers that were shown at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show — giving the world its first glimpse of the shape that would become instantly recognisable as a Land Rover.
This original launch vehicle has been missing for 63 years. It was last on the road in the 1960s, after which it spent 20 years in a Welsh field before being bought as a restoration project. The restoration was never finished, though, and the Landy ended up parked in a garden where it weathered the elements.
Following its surprise discovery just a few miles outside of Solihull, in the UK, where it was first built — the experts at Jaguar Land Rover Classic spent months researching company archives in an attempt to unravel its ownership history and confirm its origins.
The team behind the successful Land Rover Series I Reborn programme embarked on their most challenging project yet: a year-long mission to preserve this historically significant prototype and enable it to be driven again. It is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history and is as historically significant as ‘Huey’, the first pre-production Land Rover.
The team will follow a dedicated process to restore the vehicle that boasts some special features unique to the 48MY pre-production Landies such as thicker aluminium alloy body panels, a galvanised chassis, and a removable rear tub. The patina of its components will be preserved, including the original light green paint applied in 1948.
SOUTH AFRICAN LEGACY
South Africa also has a rich Land Rover legacy. It started in 1949 when the first Series I 80” models were sold here. In August 1950, Car Distributors Assembly built the first Land Rovers in Port Elizabeth. The first local production of fuel tanks and chassis-units at the Port Elizabeth plant was announced in August 1963. The use of locally-produced components steadily increased to 44% of total vehicle weight by 1972.
In 1974 Leyland South Africa, assemblers of Land Rover, had three assembly plants in the country. Local content continued to increase in 1980 with the Series IIIS which was fitted with locally produced petrol and diesel engines. The Series IIIS was unique to the South African market and was a distinguished model from the earlier Series III that was also locally-built. Only two body types were available from the factory, a pick-up and a 12-seat station wagon.
The diesel engine was a locally-built 3.8-litre four-cylinder known as the ‘Atlantis,’ or ADE4, that delivered 55 kW and 243 Nm of torque. The R6 2.6-litre six-cylinder petrol engine delivered 82 kW and 202 Nm of torque and was fitted as standard with an oil cooler. Around 5,000 units were built before production stopped in 1985.
In 1992, the Blackheath factory in the Western Cape was identified as the largest Land Rover assembly-plant outside the UK, however, in 1995 production moved to a smaller plant in Rosslyn.
THE LEGENDARY 2.8I MODELS
It was during this period of BMW ownership (1997 to 2001) that the South African Defender 2.8i with the BMW M52 engine was developed and built. Some of the top engineers at BMW, including Frank Isenberg, head of BMW Driver Training and the M2 project, was part of the development team.
The project was initially labelled as top secret, and the team converted a Defender 110 with a 3.5-litre V8 into the first 2.8i. To adapt the BMW engine to the Defender chassis, some parts from the recently developed BMW M51
diesel-powered Range Rover 2.5 DSE were utilised.
However, a new bell-housing was designed thanks to the 10-degree tilt of the M52 engine that couldn’t match the input shaft of the R380 gearbox. Other unique parts developed included air intake ducts, engine mounts, the radiator cowl, cooling hoses, fuel lines, clutch lines, an air-conditioning system, engine wiring, tachometer gauge, and an exhaust system.
Prototypes were subjected to extensive testing, and at least three of the six prototypes were soft-top Defender 90s. The very first one was painted Coniston Green and nicknamed “Green Mamba” by BMW engineers.
The 2,793 cc straight-six engine developed 143 kW and 280 Nm of torque, and the high gear ratios of the six-speed gearbox helped it sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 9.3 seconds. It could reach a top speed of over 180 km/h (later models were restricted to 160 km/h) – making it the fastest production Defender ever produced. Until 2001, a total of 1,395 units were built that included 656 Defender 90s and 739 Defender 110s.
Land Rover also built 26 50th Anniversary Edition 90s with the BMW engine. They were painted Santorini Blue with unique decals on the sides. Each was randomly numbered between one and 50, since 24 50th Anniversary edition 110s were also built, but only with a diesel engine. The special 110 edition was called “Safari” and painted a limestone green colour.
The Camel Trophy was sponsored by Land Rover for eighteen years (1981 to 1998), and while a South African team only entered the competition for the first time in 1994, the South Africans won the coveted “Team Spirit” prize three times: in 1994 (Etienne van Eeden and Klaus Hass); 1996 (Sam de Beer and Pieter du Plessis); and 1999 (John and Mark Collins). The two brothers were also second in the overall standings in what was to be the last Camel Trophy event.
After the demise of the Camel Trophy, competitors representing sixteen nations entered a new Land Rover sponsored event, the G4 Challenge. This ‘ultimate global adventure’ was first held in 2003, and the second, with eighteen nations participating, in 2006. The 2008-2009 G4 Challenge was cancelled in December 2008, meaning the winner of the 2006 event, South African adventure racer Martin Dreyer, was the last G4 Challenge winner.
THE LONGEST DEFENDER
The Land Rover 147, a further extended Defender that was only offered in SA, became available in autumn 2001 when Land Rover was under Ford ownership. The 147, with the badge also indicative of the wheelbase length in inches, catered specifically to the needs of safari tour companies.
The 37” chassis extension for the Defender 110 was developed in cooperation with Land Rover Special Vehicles. It was 935 millimetres longer than a standard 110 and was offered only as a six-door station wagon.
Engine options included both the Td5 and 300 TDI diesel engines. It weighed 337 kilogrammes more (in total 2,392kg) and had a turning circle of over 15 metres. Land Rover production in South Africa finally ceased at the end of 2005.
THE LANDY TIMELINE
1948 – Land Rover Series I launched at
the Amsterdam Motor Show
1953 – Long wheelbase version of the
Series I introduced
1958 – Land Rover Series II unveiled 1970 – Original two-door Range Rover
(the Classic) goes on sale
1971 – Land Rover Series III launched 1976 – One millionth Land Rover built
1979 – A Range Rover wins the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally (and again in 1981)
1981 – Land Rover begins a 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
1997 – New Freelander unveiled with new
technology: Hill Descent Control 2003 – Inaugural G4 challenge sees 16 teams traverse USA, SA, and Australia
2004–Third-generation Discovery launched at New York Motor Show
2005 – All-new Range Rover Sport unveiled 2006 – Freelander 2 launched; first Land
Rover from Halewood