Mike Gould

LRO (UK) - - Contents - MIKE GOULD

Looks at the hid­den per­ils of an­niver­saries

The year 1948 saw the ar­rival of Bri­tain’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice. Other fa­mous ar­rivals that year in­cluded Charles, Prince of Wales, me and Ozzy Os­bourne (the iconic Brum­mie head­banger was born a few hours later than me, and only a short dis­tance away). Oh, yes, nearly for­got – and the Land Rover was launched.

You would have to have been on the moon or stuck down a cave to have missed Land Rover’s PR on­slaught cel­e­brat­ing its 70th. Stunts have in­cluded tak­ing over Soli­hull town cen­tre and or­gan­is­ing a cav­al­cade of ve­hi­cles up the fa­mous hill climb at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed. It’s dif­fi­cult to see what they can do to top this for the ar­guably more sig­nif­i­cant 75th an­niver­sary other than to shoot one into space.

But an­niver­saries are tricky things. One Land Rover man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Tony Gil­roy, hated them: he be­lieved that com­pa­nies should be look­ing for­ward rather than over their shoul­ders at past suc­cesses.

My ca­reer at Land Rover spanned four decades and three sig­nif­i­cant an­niver­saries. The first, in 1978, had the most im­pact be­cause it was then that Land Rover be­came an in­de­pen­dent com­pany re­spon­si­ble for its own bud­gets and prod­uct plan rather than be­ing merely a Bri­tish Ley­land model line. The re­sult was sig­nif­i­cant mod­els such as the Range Rover In Vogue, Land Rover V8, the High Ca­pac­ity Pick-up and the County range – each sign­post­ing a path to the fu­ture.

In­de­pen­dence daze

A decade later, things were rather dif­fer­ent. Land Rover Lim­ited’s in­de­pen­dence proved to be short-lived, with the com­pany be­ing firmly grasped back into the clutches of the Rover Group to pre­vent it be­ing sold off sep­a­rately. In­stead, the Rover Group was off­loaded on to Bri­tish Aero­space in a con­tro­ver­sial deal. A strike, by then a rare event at Land Rover, well and truly put paid to the 40th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions – a spe­cial-edi­tion 90 was binned and mem­o­ra­bilia dumped.

In 1998 the 50th an­niver­sary saw Land Rover again un­der new own­er­ship, this time BMW. But four years af­ter the ac­qui­si­tion, the Ger­man com­pany was less than happy with its ‘English Pa­tient’. Even so, the event was marked with the ‘In Search of a Leg­end’ com­pe­ti­tion to find the most mem­o­rable Land Rover of them all.

I was en­gaged by the ap­pear­ance of some scruffy ve­hi­cles at the press event and the even­tual win­ner was a con­tro­ver­sial choice. Most peo­ple thought ad­ven­turer Bar­bara Toy’s ‘Pollyanna’ would get the nod, but it went to an un­heard-of Se­ries II [see be­low].

To round off the half-cen­tury, a group of em­ploy­ees took two Free­landers and a De­fender sup­port ve­hi­cle around the world on the ‘Fifty 50 Chal­lenge’ and each model line had an an­niver­sary spe­cial edi­tion.

Now an­other 20 years have passed – and with them the orig­i­nal Land Rover’s suc­ces­sor, the De­fender. A re­place­ment is em­bar­rass­ingly over­due, so it’s to be hoped that the 70th an­niver­sary PR blitz will cli­max in its de­but.

70th an­niver­sary cav­al­cade at Good­wood. Right: our 1998 cover says it all, but not ev­ery­one agreed

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