Gary muses over what makes a Land Rover Legend
There’s an old saying that goes something like “you should never meet your heroes, because you’ll only be disappointed”. Well, I have been meeting some of my particular heroes from the world of Land Rover, and I have found it to be the most wonderful experience. I certainly haven’t been disappointed!
When our esteemed editor came up with the idea that we should run a series of features under the title Land Rover Legends I have to say that I was delighted, because I have wanted to do something like this for a very long time. For me, the Land Rovers that we are all so enthusiastic about are more than just vehicles. They only exist because of the vision, the inspiration, the creativity and the dogged determination of the people that brought them into being, sometimes against all the odds as the company lurched its way through a rollercoaster of ups and downs during the British Leyland years, the ill-advised British Aerospace period, the German holiday under BMW, and then the American adventure with Ford, before finally achieving what we all hope will be ongoing stability and global growth with Tata. The very fact that the company’s people managed to keep their eyes on the ball at certain times, with all that uncertainty and upheaval, is to my mind quite remarkable.
I think that too many of the standard reference books don’t really explore in detail the people side of things, because they really do little more than naming names in terms of who was responsible for this, or who did this, that or the other. Me, I want to know a bit more about the people that made the Land Rovers we love, and what was actually going on in the company at the time, and why they did what they did, and this is what I have set out explore in my contributions to the Legends series.
I am also hugely inspired by the stories of how people have used Land Rovers to accomplish great things, whether as wellknown explorers and adventurers, or as ordinary men and women who have been able to live out their dreams, to visit places they would perhaps otherwise not have visited, or to experience cultures they would otherwise not have encountered. Sure, they could have done it in a Toyota or, for that matter, on a donkey, but somehow it is the Land Rover angle that inspires us, even if the vehicle was merely a means of achieving what they set out to do.
The people and their stories bring the vehicles to life and that’s why I was so enthused by the idea of meeting and interviewing some of these legendary people. Some I have met before, and some I know well enough to consider them to be friends, but others I don’t know other than as names in the Land Rover history books, and I am therefore meeting them for the first time. I look forward to sharing their stories and perspectives with you.
In this month’s issue we are publishing the third Legend in the series. Our first was Geof Miller, who spent over 30 years with the company and was involved in the development and launch of the Range Rover in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Geof further contributed to Range Rover history in his retirement years, when he was one of the small group who set out to track down and hopefully save as many of the pre-production Velars as they could find.
Our second Legend was Mike Foster, who relied on Land Rovers for his day-to- day survival, and the survival of the parties he was leading across the Sahara and Ténéré deserts. Although he was never a Rover employee, it was Mike who led the famous double crossing of the Sahara in late 1969, when two Engineering Prototype 100-inch Station Wagons were put through their paces as part of a durability testing programme.
When Patrick first asked me what I thought about his idea for this series, my first reaction was to ask: “What exactly is a Land Rover Legend?” In other words, how do you determine who should be featured, among the many thousands of people who have worked at Rover and its successors, or used Land Rovers to accomplish some great achievement or adventure, or spent their lives using them and driving them, or researching them, or preserving them, or restoring them, or writing about them, or photographing them? Well, it certainly isn’t easy to draw up a list, and after I drew up my first one I made a second, and a third…
And then I told Patrick that in my view a Land Rover Legend is someone who has committed a significant part of their life to the cause. Someone who has pushed the frontiers. Someone who had vision and foresight and led the bold innovations that moved the company into new markets. Someone whose life has depended upon, or revolved around, Land Rovers. Someone who cares enough about them to have spent time and money saving them, long before it was financially justified. Someone whose passion for Land Rovers has shaped and structured their lives.
I reckon my third list has barely scratched the surface, but in the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the series.
Gary Pusey is co-author of Range Rover The First Fifty, trustee of The Dunsfold Collection and a lifelong Land Rover enthusiast. What this man doesn’t know, isn’t worth knowing!
“A Land Rover Legend is someone whose life has revolved around Land Rovers”