Land Rover has the slogan “The best 4X4 by far”. This is a slogan that could only be given if the proof of the pudding was truly in the eating, as the saying goes. And the Land Rover has certainly proven itself to be one sweet 4×4 in Australia. Land-Rover, over many years have proven that they can make the best vehicles for all terrain types. Formidable traction and control, both on and off-road, are skills that all Land-Rovers through the years have held in their armoury, and today’s new models lead the way.
The first Land Rover was designed in 1947 in Wales by Maurice Wilks. He was actually the chief designer at the British car company Rover. It is said that he was inspired by an American World War II Jeep that he used on his estate. The first Land Rover was intended for farm use that could be used for everything from ploughing, tractor work and feeding out, but still have the capability of being taken into town. The first Land Rover prototype was built on a Jeep chassis. A distinctive feature of the early and more rugged LandRovers is the body, which is constructed of a lightweight rustproof proprietary alloy of aluminium and magnesium called Birmabright. All Land Rover, models up until recent times, also featured a sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis.
Land Rovers have competed in the Paris Dakar Rally as well as being the vehicle used for the Camel Trophy as part of a sponsorship deal. The Land Rover Defender is also used by military forces throughout the world. The Land Rover Defender has been used in the roles of ambulances, artillery tractors and as a weapons platform.
In 1948, Land Rover was designed by the Wilks Brothers and was manufactured by the Rover Company. In1967, Rover becomes part of Leyland Motors Ltd (later British Leyland). By this time, Land Rover Australia had already proven itself a worthy performer in the Australian market and the Land Rover Owners’ Club was founded in Sydney in 1966, one of the oldest enthusiasts’ clubs in Sydney.
Land Rover Australia could see the necessity of offering an alternative to the more rough and ready truck and tractor-like vehicles that Land Rover were rolling off the factory floor. Oh yes, the new Land Rover they had in mind should be as capable off-road as every Land Rover gone before it, but this new design should be more luxurious and more comfortable, more practical on-road as well as off. This was the reasoning behind the production of the outstanding Range Rover in 1970.
In 1975, British Leyland collapsed and it was recommended to Land Rover that they be split from Rover, and be treated as a separate company within British Leyland. Unfortunately, as was the case for most of the British automobile products, reliability and general workmanship were shoddy. This had a huge effect on the British car sales and on Land Rover as a whole. Despite the quality problems the Range Rover remained a premium 4X4 and offered luxury, excellent on and off road capability, as well as a healthy wallop of power, so this remained a regular choice in dealers’ yards everywhere.
Toward the end of the eighties, Land Rover could see a niche market for a model between the formidably capable 4X4 defender and the plush up market Range Rover. So in 1989, the introduction of the Discovery model was a much anticipated arrival. It was capable off-road, nice inside and built like a tank. However, shoddy workmanship still leaked into the overall package and there were reliability problems right from the word go.
But this changed. In 1994, the very capable Discovery and Range Rover were given a system clean out when BMW bought the Rover group outright. Quality took a giant leap in the right direction and all Land Rover products the world over including the small Freelander, were aided by BMW’s engineering excellence, and economic nous.
The BMW take over lasted around six years before BMW found that they were being hit in the pocket. BMW sold Land Rover to Ford who have taken over the reigns to this day and have done a commendable effort in producing premium Land Rover 4X4 products that are sought after the world over.
The use of Land Rovers by the UK and Commonwealth military as well as on long term civilian projects and expeditions is largely due to the superior off-road performance of the brand. For example, the short wheelbase version of the Land Rover Defender is proficient of tackling a gradient of 45 degrees, an approach angle of up to 50 degrees, a departure angle of 53 degrees and a ramp break-over of up to 155 degrees – greatly superior not just to urban 4x4s but to military vehicles such as the HMMWV and Pinzgauer High Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle – and the average John or Jane Smith from a middle-class Melbourne suburb is more likely to find a Land Rover at their local car dealers.
If you are lucky enough to own a Land Rover than you will have an extremely safe means of transport. Road accident data on a model-by-model basis from the UK Department of Transport demonstrate that the Land Rover Defender and Land Rover Discovery are the safest cars on the UK roads. These models were found to be between three times safer than the safest Volvo models, twice as safe (half the death-rate per accident) compared with the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Land Cruiser and only matched by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ. One would assume that Landrover safety tests in Australia would reveal similar results. Let’s also not forget that these machines will go places that other 4X4s can only dream of going!
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