Land Rover: Luxury Meets Offroad

Land Rover has been in business for more than sixty years and, although they were not the first company to specialize in rugged, off-roaders (that distinction goes to Jeep), they were certainly the first to turn them into luxury SUVs. The first Land Rover was released in 1948 by the UK automaker Rover and was designed by Maurice Wilks to serve as a domestic replacement for the US Army’s WWII Jeep and was, in fact, first produced using a Jeep’s chassis. The key difference between the so-called Center Steer Land Rover and the US-built Jeep was the former’s increased body size. The first Land Rovers were armored using a special alloy termed Birmabright due to the shortage in steel during the post-war years which gave the vehicle increased durability and corrosion resistance.

Ecce Range Rover

The Series 1 was the first Land Rover to be released and sported four-wheel, optional doors and a canvas roof and, just like its inspiration the Jeep, it was built for off road excursions. Due to the success of the Series 1 the Series II rolled off the production line in 1958 as a more powerful and versatile replacement available in two or four doors or even as a 2-door pickup. The Series IIA was soon to follow with a roaring 2.25L diesel engine and came in soft-top and hard-top wagon configurations. With the acquisition of the company by Leyland Motors, the next and most famous vehicle to be fielded under the Land Rover was the iconic Range Rover which hit the streets and country roads in 1970.

The British Are Coming

The 80s began with the company changing hands once more as British Aerospace took the helm and finally brought the brand to American shores by 1987. The first vehicle to hit US streets was the Range Rover with the Discovery arriving only a short two years later. Sales were strong but the brand had yet to become synonymous with luxury as the 80s wore into the 90s but that was all about to change with Land Rover’s acquisition by BMW in 1995. The next model to be released was the Freelander (which would become the LR2) was well received but of even more note during this period was Ford’s purchase of the brand in 2000.

Land Rover in the Second Millennium

The second millennium marked a time of turmoil not just for automakers around the world but for the Land Rover as well. As a result of the Great Recession of 2008 Ford was forced to sell the company to Indian car make Tata, a strange choice indeed for a marque that sells only luxury SUVs and does not make any vehicles or parts outside of this narrow segment. Nonetheless, Land Rover still manages to excel at what it does: producing rugged yet refined vehicles that are as comfortable being driven by a valet on Park Ave as they are by a rancher in Montana’s Big Sky country.

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