Wednesday, 02 September 2015 15:56

Still turning many heads

Written by 

The saying goes “the only good thing to come out of Birmingham (UK) is the M6 motorway”, but just a few miles down the road in the heart of the Industrial Revolution, is Solihull, the home of the Land Rover.

The company has now notched up 2 million Defenders, and though well short of the production numbers of, say, the Toyota Hi-lux or Ford F Series, it marks the loyal following this quintessentially British brand enjoys worldwide.

In the mid-1940’s Maurice Wilks, chief designer for the Rover Group, got inspired by an ex-WW2 Jeep on his farm in Anglesey, North Wales, during a summer break. While walking on Red Wharf Bay he drew in the sand an idea for a vehicle – a ladder chassis, two driven axles and a PTO drive, an 80-inch wheelbase and straight panels easily produced.

So in 1947, the Series 1 Land Rover went into production at Lode Lane, Solihull, the public seeing it for the first time at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948; window price was 450 pounds. It became an overnight success as a no-nonsense vehicle that appealed to farmers, and to landowners who wanted off-road capability -- easy to drive, service and repair.

Farmers in particular used the PTO in static mode for driving sawbenches, etc and in mobile work for driving mowers and many other implements. 

Configuration ranged from a simple ‘rag-top’ to a fully appointed 12-seat station wagon, powered by fours to thumping V8’s in petrol or diesel. 

The ladder chassis provided a platform for customising into ambulances, fire trucks, snow ploughs and even cherry pickers.

The military bought them in huge numbers; a bespoke build included armour, gun turrets and specialised winches. A batch of 100 ‘Pink Panthers’ -- painted pink – went to the SAS for desert reconnaissance. These options also included forward control and a ‘lightweight air transportable’ version for dropping into campaigns by helicopter.

Company ownership moved in 1994 from the disbanded British Leyland Group to BMW. Ford bought it in 2000 and sold it in 2008 to the current owner, TATA of India. While the vehicles are still primarily built in Solihull, they are also assembled in Spain, Iran, Brazil and Turkey, and are part of a joint venture for building in China with Chery.

For nearly 70 years these vehicles were sold in series I, 2 and 3 and latterly Defender models. The first million milestone was hit in 1976.

More like this

Land Rover range going electric

Jaguar Land Rover has announced a new global strategy that will see the Land Rover brand release six pure electric variants through its Range Rover, Discovery and Defender families, with the first all-electric variant arriving in 2024.

Early pick for car of the year!

As I'm writing this review in early December, I’d like to make a prediction – the new Land Rover Defender should win the New Zealand Car of The Year title.

Sure to blaze a UK trail

News noted last year that the price of the Land Rover Discovery 6 was right up there, perhaps too high to get the vehicle out onto farms. 

Defender designed with NZ in mind

Can-am off-road vehicles' reputation for performance and durability stems from its heritage of building snowmobiles for the Arctic Circle and the wildernesses of Canada.


Editorial: Fonterra's U-turn

OPINION: Speaking at the Chinese Business Summit in Auckland last week, Fonterra chief exuecutive Miles Hurrell revealed that his phone was running hot over the weekend.

A winner's view

Kingi Smiler, the chair of Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani (WMI), said after winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy he was both elated and relieved and added it was a tough competition being up against Whakatohera Māori Board.

Farm 4 is number one!

A dairy farm near the settlement of Mangakino has won the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori dairy farm for 2024.


Machinery & Products

More horsepower for Puma

Case IH's introduction of AFS Connect, an option for its high horsepower tractor ranges, has now been rolled out across…

EU tractor sales hit the brakes

According to numbers sourced from national authorities, 151,800 tractors were registered across Europe in 2023, of which 26,200 tractors (17%)…

GPS in control

In a move that will make harvesting operations easier, particularly in odd-shaped paddocks, Kuhn has announced that GPS section control…

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

True colours

OPINION: The watermelon party (AKA the Greens) try to portray themselves as an upright, self-righteous, caring bunch of woke, bicycle-riding…

Peace at last?

OPINION: Good news for hunters as Forest & Bird have "paused" legal action against the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation and agreed…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter