Land Rover is a British all-terrain vehicle and Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) manufacturer, based in Gaydon, England, UK. Originally the term Land Rover referred to one specific vehicle, a pioneering civilian all-terrain utility vehicle launched on April 30, 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show, but was later used as a brand for several distinct models, all four-wheel drive. Starting out as part of The Rover Car Company or Rover, Land Rovers were designed and manufactured as a range of four-wheel drive vehicles under a succession of owners, including British Leyland, British Aerospace and BMW. Today, the marque is part of the Premier Automotive Group, a division of the Ford Motor Company, and one of the longest lived SUV brands -- the only brand which is older is the U.S. Jeep, originally trademarked by Willys-Overland Corporation. Land Rover is currently up for joint sale together with Jaguar in June 2007 along with Volvo Cars separately for sale and its immediate future is very uncertain.
Land Rovers are manufactured primarily at the Solihull plant, near Birmingham, England. Production of the "Freelander 2" has moved recently to the Jaguar car factory at Halewood near Liverpool, a former Ford car plant. Defender models are assembled under license in several locations worldwide, including Brazil and Turkey. The former BL/Rover Group technical centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire is home to the Land Rover corporate and R&D headquarters.
The first Land Rover was designed in 1947 in the United Kingdom (on the island of Anglesey in Wales) by Maurice Wilks, chief designer at the British car company Rover on his farm in Newborough, Anglesey. It is said that he was inspired by an American World War II Jeep that he used one summer at his holiday home in Wales. The first Land Rover prototype 'centre steer' was built on a Jeep chassis. A distinctive feature is their bodies, constructed of a lightweight rustproof proprietary alloy of aluminium and magnesium called Birmabright. This material was used owing to post war steel shortages and a plentiful supply of post-war aircraft aluminium. This metal's resistance to corrosion was one of the factors that allowed the vehicle to build up a reputation for longevity in the toughest conditions. The early choice of colour was dictated by military surplus supplies of aircraft cockpit paint, so early vehicles only came in various shades of light green; all models until recently feature sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis.
The early vehicles, such as the Series I, were field-tested at Long Bennington and designed to be field-serviced; advertisements for Rovers cite vehicles driven thousands of miles on banana oil. Now with more complex service requirements this is less of an option. The British Army maintains the use of the mechanically simple 2.5 litre 4 cylinder 300TDi engined versions rather than the electronically controlled 2.5 litre 5 cylinder TD5 to retain some servicing simplicity. This engine also continued in use in some export markets using units built at a Ford plant in Brazil, where Land Rovers were built under license and the engine was also used in Ford pick-up trucks built locally. Production of the TDi engine ended here in 2006, meaning that Land Rover no longer offers it as an option. International Motors of Brazil offer an engine called the 2.8 TGV Power Torque, which is essentially a 2.8-litre version of the 300TDi, with a corresponding increase in power and torque.
Since its purchase by Ford, Land Rover has been closely associated with Jaguar. In many countries they share a common sales and distribution network (including shared dealerships), and some models now share components and production facilities.
Since the 1970s, in remote areas of Africa, South America, Asia and the Australian Outback, the somewhat similar Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Pajero (also known as Shogun in the UK and Montero in other markets) have overtaken the Land Rover as the utility 4x4 of choice, partly because of the better support network and reputation for reliability. In Australia at least, pricing is now actually comparable or in favour of the Land Rover, due to the shorter supply chain. Another reason seems to be the 'leadfoot' factor - the workhorse Toyota models tend to have larger engines than the comparable Land Rover models.
In Britain, the Land Rover fell from favour with the farming community with the arrival of less expensive Japanese alternatives, with Daihatsu Fourtracks, Isuzu Troopers and Mitsubishi Pajeros becoming a common sight on farms around the country, until rust eventually ended their working lives. However, with subtle improvements to the Defender in the early 1990s, and with the introduction of better, more reliable engines in the form of the TDi and the five-cylinder TD5, many farms once again have a Land Rover Defender in their drive.
Since the very beginning all Series and Defender models have been used in a military capacity. Often this has entailed just slightly modifying civilian models (primarily adding military "blackout" lights), but some dedicated military models have also been developed such as the forward control and the lightweight. The Discovery has also been used in small numbers, mostly as liaison vehicles. Two models that have been designed for military use from the ground up are the 101 Forward Control from the early 1970s and the Lightweight or Airportable from the late 1960s. The latter was intended to be transported by helicopter. The famous Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service (United Kingdom) teams were early users in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and their convoys of landrovers and larger military trucks are a sight often seen in the mountain areas of the United Kingdom. Originally RAFMRS Land Rovers had blue bodies and bright yellow tops, to be better seen from above. In 1981, the colour scheme was changed to green with yellow stripes. More recently, vehicles have been painted white, and are issued with fittings similar to civilian UK Mountain Rescue teams. The teams have recently been threatened with replacement of their beloved Land Rovers by Toyota 4 x 4 SUV-style vehicles.
Military modifications include 24 Volt electrics, convoy lights, electronic suppression of the ignition system, blackout curtains and mounts for special equipment and small arms.
Military uses include light utility vehicle, communications platform, weapon platform for recoilless rifles, TOWs or machine guns, ambulances and workshops.
One famous adaptation of Land Rovers to military purposes is the "Pink Panther" models. Approximately 100 Series IIAs were adapted to reconnaissance use by the British special operations forces the SAS. For desert use they were often painted pink, hence the name. The vehicles were fitted with among other gear a sun compass, machine guns, larger fuel tanks and smoke dischargers. Similar adaptations were later made to Series IIIs and 90/110/Defenders.
The 75th Ranger Regiment of the United States Army also adapted twelve versions of the Land Rover that were officially designated the RSOV (Ranger Special Operations Vehicle.)
Series and Defenders have also been uparmoured. The most widespread of these is the Shorts Shorland, built by Shorts Brothers of Belfast. The first of these were delivered in 1965 to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Ireland police force. They were originally 109" models with an armoured body and a turret from the Ferret armoured car. In 1990 there had been more than 1,000 produced. In the 1970s a more conventional armoured Land Rover was built for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Wales called the Hotspur. The Land Rover Tangi was built by the Royal Ulster Constabulary's own vehicle engineering team during the 1990s. The British Army has used various armoured Land Rovers, first in Northern Ireland but also in more recent campaigns. They first added protective panels to Series General Service vehicles (the Vehicle Protection Kit (VPK)). Later they procured the Glover Webb APV and finally the Courtaulds (later NP Aerospace) Composite Armoured Vehicle, commonly known as Snatch. These were originally based on heavy duty V8 110 chassis but some have recently been re-mounted on new chassis from Otokar of Turkey and fitted with diesel engines and air-conditioning for Iraq. Although these now have more in common with the [['Wolf' (Defender XD) Land Rovers that many mistakenly confuse them with, the Snatch and the Wolf are different vehicles.
The most radical conversion of a Land Rover for military purposes was the Centaur halftrack. It was based on a Series III with a V8 engine and a shortened belt drive from the Alvis Scorpion light tank. A small number was manufactured, and they were used by Ghana, among others.
The Land Rover is used by military forces throughout the world. However, it is increasingly being supplemented, and even replaced, by larger vehicles. For instance the Pinzgauer, now built in the UK, is increasingly common in roles previously the preserve of the Land Rover Defender, such as ambulances, artillery tractors and weapons platforms. This is mainly due to the demands of modern warfare- combat vehicles today are generally required to carry much more equipment in the form of weaponry, communications equipment and armour. A 'soft' light 4x4 like the traditional Land Rover simply doesn't have the load capacity or strength of a larger medium-duty vehicle like the Pinzgauer. Even the current generation of Land Rover used by the British Army, the Wolf, have upgraded and strengthened chassis and suspension compared to civilian-spec vehicles.
The use of Land Rovers by the British and Commonwealth military, as well as on long term civilian projects and expeditions, is mainly due to the superior off-road performance of the marque. For example, the short wheelbase version of the Land Rover Defender is capable 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. A distinctive feature of all Land Rover products has been their exceptional axle articulation (the degree to which the wheels have vertical travel, with high amounts allowing them to maintain contact (and traction) with the ground over uneven surfaces), which is currently 7 inches (178mm) at the front axle and 8.25 inches (210mm) at the rear on basic Defender models.
Right from the start in 1948, PTOs (Power take-offs) were integral to the Land Rover concept, enabling farm machinery and many other items to be run with the vehicle stationary. Maurice Wilks was very clear about this, and his original instruction was "...to have power take-offs everywhere!" The 1949 report by the British National Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Scottish Machinery Testing Station described it thus:
"The power take-off is driven through a Hardy-Spicer propeller shaft from the main gearbox output and two interchangeable pinions giving two ratios. The PTO gearbox casing is bolted to the rear chassis cross-member and an 8 in x 8 in belt pulley driven from the PTO shaft through two bevel gears can be bolted to the PTO gearbox casing."
PTOs remained regular options on Series I, II and III Land Rovers up to the demise of the Series Land Rover in 1985. It is still possible to order an agricultural PTO on a Defender as a special order.
One of the other capabilities of the utility Land Rover (the Series/Defender models is that they are available in a huge variety of body styles, ranging from a simple canvas-topped pick-up truck to a 12-seat fully trimmed Station Wagon. Both Land Rover and out-of-house contractors have offered a huge range of conversions and adaptations to the basic vehicle, such as fire engines, excavators, 'cherry picker' hydraulic platforms, ambulances, snowploughs, and 6-wheel drive versions, as well as one-off special builds including amphibious Land Rovers and vehicles fitted with tracks instead of wheels.
Road accident statistics on a model-by-model basis from the UK Department of Transport show that the Land Rover Defender and Land Rover Discovery are the safest cars on British roads (measured in terms of chance of death in two car injury accidents) - between three times safer than the safest Volvo models, twice as safe (half the death-rate per two vehicles injury accident) compared with the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Land Cruiser and only matched by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ.
These statistics do not take into account single vehicle accidents, like rollovers.
In June 2004 Landrover released a comprehensive 25 model range of bicycles to complement the automotive range. The three main ranges are the 'Defender' the 'Discovery' and the 'Freelander'. Each range has its different attributes. The 'Discovery' is an all-rounder bicycle and is suited to a mixture of different terrains. The 'Defender' range is most suited to rugged terrain and off road pursuits, whereas the 'Freelander' Is designed for an urban lifestyle. All bikes are made from lightweight Aluminium and cost from £200-£1000.