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History of Land Rovers

Foram Mehta
When we are talking about the history of Land Rover cars we are talking about an automobile brand that started off manufacturing about a century ago. Land Rover has been passed on to different owners ranging from BMW, to Ford to now Tata Motors.
The history of Land Rover goes back to 1860 and it was initiated by J.K Starley. Mr. Starley set up his business of manufacturing sewing machines in Coventry which is a city in West Midlands, in England. Starley founded a comapny 'Starley and Sutton Company' with William Sutton. In 1884, he expanded his business by introducing safety cycles followed by 'Rover Safety Cycles' and soon established 'Rover Cycle Company Limited'. By then 'Rover' (which means a bike in polish) was an established brand name. Starley died in 1901; he is still known as the inventor of the modern bicycle.
Starley was succeeded by Harry Smyth and in 1904, Rover started to build his first car. In 1906, 'Rover Cycle Company Limited' was changed to 'Rover Company Limited' and it started to specialize in manufacturing cars.
Rover had built a good name for itself and was growing successfully until it was struck with the depression of 1930s. Rover suffered a lot during this phase; it was struggling to survive.
This struggle lasted until Spencer Wilks became the Managing director in 1933. Wilks specialized the production of cars to prestige cars and he introduced various modern operations and management systems and made the business process efficient. Most of the best Land Rover models were and still are its SUVs.

The Beginning

Series I, 1948-1957

After the World War II, Rover had created a good name and a market for itself in the local regions but it had not had the exposure to exports. They realized that now they can't get enough steel sheets to keep their production going.
Using the abundant aircraft aluminum left after the world war II, Maurice and Spencer designed the Land Rover in 1947, inspired from the 'Willys Jeep' used in the World War II. The Unique selling price of the Land Rover was that it was constructed from 'Brimabright aluminum' and 'magnesium proprietary alloy', which was lightweight rust-proof.
This solved their problem of export efficiency and scarcity of steel. All the early versions of the Land Rover had a centrally-mounted steering wheel and had a steel box section chassis. This was basically to save coats involved in making left-hand and right-hand drives for export. This marks the birth of the Land Rover.
After this the second body option 'Station Wagon' was introduced.

Series II, 1958-1961

In 1958, the centrally mounted steering wheels were scrapped and changes were made in the old design and new engineering refinements were adapted. It was now larger in structure, had a more powerful engine, longer wheelbase, improved stability, and a more responsive ride because of the tighter turning radius.
It was now, that Land Rover emerged as a strong contender in the 4-wheeler market.

  • 10 Seater Layout + 12 seater option on the top.
  • Size: 88 inches and 109 inches
  • Petrol Engine: 2.25 liter
  • Category: Minibus.

Series II A, 1962-1970

There were minor changes in the series II and Series II A. Body configuration were now made available from the factory. Land Rover had started to sell about 60,000 pieces a year.

  • 2.25 liter Diesel Engine
  • 2.6 Liter Straight Six Petrol Engine
  • Standard-fit Serve-assisted brakes

Series II A FC, 1962

In 1962, Series II A Forward Control was launched. It was based on the Series II A structure but this time the cab was positioned over the engine to give a better load space.

  • Tires: 900x16
  • Deep Dish Wheel rims

Series II B FC, 1966

In 1966, Series II B Forward Control was launched. It was again similar to the Series II A FC, but this one had an added 2.25lt diesel engine. The production of this vehicle ended in 1974.

  • Heavy Duty Wide-track Axles
  • Front Anti-roll Bar
  • Revised rear springs above the axle
  • 110 inch wheelbase

Series III, 1971-1985

Series III's body and engine were same as the II A's. The headlights were shifted to the wings. The metal grille was replaced with the plastic ones. The engine compression was increased from 7:1 to 8:1. It was the first model to have featured the synchromesh on all four gears. The instrument cluster was shifted to the driver's side and five-bearing crankshafts were added to the engines.


1947: Marks the birth of The Land Rover.

1948: Land Rover is exported to over 70 countries after the success in the Amsterdam Show.

1954: Land Rovers with wheel base 86" and 107" were introduced.

1958: Land Rover Series II was introduced.
1961: Land Rover series IIA was introduced.

1962: A 12 seater station wagon body was introduced to save taxes and the first 'forward control' vehicle was introduced.
1966: Land Rover Series IIB was inaugurated.

1967: Land Rover merges with Leyland.

1968: The 1 ton version of the Series IIA 109" is introduced.
1970: Range Rover was introduced.

1971: Land Rover Series III was introduced.

1972: V8 powered Forward Control 10" is introduced and gains military demands.

1976: Land Rover crosses the 10,00,000 mark.
1979: Land Rover launches a V8-engined Stage One 109". This model gave more space for expansion of the engine.

1988: Land Rover is taken over by British Aerospace.
1990: Land Rover launches a new 4x4 model named 'Discovery'.

1994: Land Rover is now taken over by BMW and a new model of Range Rover 'P38 Range Rover' was introduced. This model was aimed to target the SUV demands.

1997: 'Freelander' was introduced with a monocoque body.

1998: Discover Series-II was launched.

2000: Land Rover is taken over by Ford.
2002: Another remodeled version of Range Rover, 'Range Rover Mk III' was launched.

2004: A remodeled version of Discovery 2, Discovery 3 was launched.

2005: The Range Rover Sport was introduced and its engine was replaced with the Jaguar AJ-V8 engine.

2006: Freelander 2 was introduced.
2008: After the Ford's announcement to sell Land Rover and Jaguar was made, Ford agreed to sell it to 'Tata Motors'. The deal gave Tata rights to three British brands, which are Daimler, Lanchester, and Rover.
After having changed many owners, since 2008, Land Rover successfully belongs to Tata Motors. And even after being almost 60-70 years old, vintage Land Rovers are still in demand.