Range Rover Turns 40
17th June, 2010
The Range Rover celebrates its 40th 'birthday' today (17th June
- The Range Rover was the world's first fully capable luxury 4x4
- There have been three generations of Range Rover: the original (Classic) in 1970, second-generation (P38a)
in 1994 and third-generation (L322) in 2001
- Second model line "Range Rover Sport" launched in 2005 became Land Rover's biggest selling vehicle
worldwide in 2007
- Third model line to be revealed at Paris Motor Show later this year
"Land Rover has a unique history of product innovation. But the Range Rover probably remains the most
historically significant vehicle we have ever launched. It is one of the most important vehicles in the history
of motoring." ..... Phil Popham, Land Rover Managing Director.
The Range Rover celebrates its 40th birthday today (17th June, 2010). One of the most significant vehicles
in the history of motoring, the Range Rover was the world's first vehicle as good on-road as off-road. It was
the first fully capable luxury 4x4 and was a milestone in the development of the SUV (Sport Utility
There have been three generations of Range Rover. The original, now known as the Classic, went on sale in
1970 and continued in production, with numerous upgrades and a multiplicity of variants, for just over 25
The second-generation vehicle, known as the P38a, went on sale in 1994 and was replaced in 2001 by the
current model. The continuing success of the Range Rover ensured that other premium makers jumped into the
booming luxury SUV market. The latest version has enjoyed higher annual sales than any previous models and
continues to be popular around the world. Sold globally, from London to Los Angeles, Sydney to Shanghai, Turin
to Tokyo, the Range Rover remains the ultimate choice for the luxury SUV customer.
"The Range Rover is really four vehicles in one," says managing director Phil Popham. "It's a
seven-days-a-week luxury motor car; a leisure vehicle that will range far and wide on the highways and noways
of the world; a high performance car for long distance travel; and a working cross-country vehicle."
From princes to politicians, from rock performers to rock climbers, the Range Rover has always appealed
to a diverse group of customers.
A second model line, the Range Rover Sport, was launched in 2005, aimed at more sports-oriented
driver-focused customers. It has been a great success, and in 2007 was Land Rover's biggest selling vehicle
Later this year, a further member of the Range Rover family will be added, taking the portfolio to three
model lines. The new vehicle will be smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient, tying in perfectly with the
Range Rover brand's commitment to environmental sustainability. Yet it will be no less premium, no less
luxurious, and no less special than the other Range Rover models.
A Brief History
1966 Work began on the first Range Rover prototype, known as the '100-inch station wagon'
1970 The original two-door Range Rover now known as the Classic goes on sale
1971 Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical achievement
1972 The Range Rover is the first vehicle to cross the Darien Gap on a British Army Trans-America expedition
1974 Range Rover completes west to east Sahara desert expedition - 7,500 miles in 100 days
1977 A modified Range Rover wins the 4x4 class in the London-Sydney Marathon, a gruelling 30,000 km (18,750
miles) event and the longest ever speed-based car rally
1979 A specially modified Range Rover wins the first Paris-Dakar rally (a Range Rover wins again in 1981)
1981 First production four-door Range Rover appears along with the first factory-produced limited-edition
Range Rover - the 'In Vogue'
1982 Automatic transmission becomes available on Range Rover
1983 Range Rover 5-speed manual gearbox is introduced
1985 The diesel-powered Range Rover 'Bullet' breaks 27 speed records, including a diesel record for
averaging more than 100 mph for 24 hours
1987 Range Rover launched in North America
1989 Range Rover is the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes
1990 Limited Edition CSK - named after founder Charles Spencer King - is launched as a sportier Range Rover
1992 Range Rover Classic is the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC)
1992 Long-wheelbase LSE (known as County LWB in the US) launched
1992 Automatic electronic air suspension introduced, a world first for a 4x4
1994 Second-generation (P38a) Range Rover goes on sale
1996 Range Rover Classic bows out after total production of 317,615 units
1999 Limited Edition Range Rover Linley appears at London Motor Show
2001 All-New Range Rover (L322) launched
2002 Half-millionth Range Rover produced at the Solihull plant
2005 Second model line the Range Rover Sport launched
2006 Terrain Response and TDV8 diesel introduced
2009 Range Rover features all-new LR-V8 5.0 and 5.0 supercharged petrol engines and technology updates
2010 Range Rover celebrates its 40th anniversary
2010 All-New compact Range Rover to be revealed at Paris Motor Show
History in detail:
"The idea was to combine the comfort and on-road ability of a Rover saloon with the off-road ability
of a Land Rover. Nobody was doing it." Charles Spencer 'Spen' King the 'father' of the Range Rover.
The inspiration came from the Rover car company's engineering chief for new vehicle projects. Charles
Spencer 'Spen' King worked mostly on Rover cars, not on Land Rover (at the time, Rover's 4x4 wing). Yet Land
Rover was in his blood. His uncles were the Wilks brothers Spencer and Maurice who jointly founded Land
Rover in 1948.
"The idea was to combine the comfort and on-road ability of a Rover saloon with the off-road ability
of a Land Rover," says King. "Nobody was doing it at the time. It seemed worth a try and Land Rover
needed a new product."
The growing 4x4 leisure market
In the mid '60s, Rover engineers visited America to garner ideas on how to boost the company's sales in
the US. Dealers there confirmed that a market for 4x4 leisure vehicles was growing. Appealing to those who
liked towing, camping and led an outdoor life, but also wanted a vehicle with freeway and urban-driving
There were a few big-capacity vehicles, all American. The Jeep Wagoneer, Ford Bronco and International
Harvester Scout were spacious, easy-driving station wagons that had selectable four-wheel drive to give
some off-road potential, and powerful engines to give reasonable on-road performance. In Europe, there was
no such car. Land Rover engineers evaluated these American vehicles. They offered an interesting mix of
abilities. But, in reality, they were nothing like as capable as a Land Rover in the rough, or as relaxing
and accomplished as a normal saloon on-road.
"The Range Rover turned out to be quite a different vehicle. The goal was to launch a 4x4 with similar
comfort and on-road capability. At the same time, I really thought it must be possible to offer much greater
comfort than a Land Rover without sacrificing the off-road ability," says King. "Then the V8 engine
came along [which Rover bought from General Motors]. It all came together and nobody stopped us from doing
it. Our American importers also told us that the 4x4 leisure market was going to be big."
It took Land Rover another 17 years (until 1987) before the Range Rover was launched in North America,
due to the initial success of the vehicle elsewhere in Europe. "I don't think there was any real urgency
to get into America. The US's unique new safety and emissions legislation were too expensive to
engineer," he added.
The 100-inch station wagon
Work on the first prototype Range Rover, then known as the '100-inch station wagon', began in 1966.
"It was going to be a premium leisure vehicle, but not really a luxury vehicle," says former project
engineer Geof Miller. "It was also intended to be technically adventurous. Spen was convinced the
vehicle must have car-like coil springs front and rear for on-road ride comfort, and no other 4x4 offered
them. It needed very long travel suspension for off-road suppleness." Other technical novelties would
include an aluminium body (like the Land Rover), an all-aluminium engine and disc brakes all round.
At the time, Land Rovers were enjoying record popularity. Many within Land Rover doubted the need for
such a vehicle, and questioned the demand. Among the doubters was Land Rover's chief engineer, Tom Barton,
a key figure in the development of the first Land Rover and a former railway engineer. He steadfastly
maintained that the best suspension system for an off-road vehicle was leaf springs, as used by nearly all
4x4s of the time (a few American large 4x4s had front coils). The fact that the driving force behind the
new Range Rover was Rover's car division, not the Land Rover 4x4 division, further alienated Barton and
some other Land Rover 'diehards'.
A Land Rover for the price of a Rover saloon
Land Rover's sales people were also worried. "How can we sell a Land Rover for the price of a Rover
2000 saloon? That was their worry," says Geof Miller. "They weren't really sure exactly what the
vehicle was, or who it would appeal to. That's always the challenge with a new type of car."
According to Spen King, target customers were 'senior officers in the army, head guys on building sites,
well-off farmers, that sort of person'. It appealed to all those people and many more. "To be frank,
it appealed to all sorts of people who we hadnt expected," adds Miller.
Only 10 prototypes were built before the first production vehicle came down the Solihull production
line. Early prototypes carried 'Velar' badges, jointly from the Spanish 'velar' (to look after, to watch
over) and the Italian 'velare' (to veil, to cover). The actual Range Rover name was coined by stylist
Tony Poole, after other model names among them Panther and Leopard were rejected.
Four vehicles in one
The Range Rover was announced to the world's media on 17th June, 1970 (the press launch was in
Cornwall, with the off-road testing in tin mines near St Agnes). The first Range Rover sales brochure
spoke about 'the most versatile motor car in the world', and the 'interfusing of Rover car comfort with
Land Rover strength and four-wheel drive mobility'.
"The Range Rover is really four vehicles in one," says managing director Phil Popham. "It's
a seven-days-a-week luxury motor car; a leisure vehicle that will range far and wide on the highways and
noways of the world; a high performance car for long distance travel; and a working cross-country
The Range Rover could do all these things. No other car in the world could even get close to that
blend of abilities.
At launch, the target audience had also been more carefully considered. The brochure said they were:
'Business and professional people with a leaning towards the great outdoors, who want a purpose-built
vehicle instead of an adapted one, the real thing instead of a compromise'.
A car 'for all seasons'
The press kit called the car 'the Range Rover Station Wagon' (though the station wagon tag was soon
dropped), and said it was 'equally at home on a ranch in Texas as on the fast lane of a motorway in
Europe'. It was also called the car 'for all seasons', a catchy promotional tag that stuck.
Early marketing material highlighted the car's towing capacity 'Harnessed to a trailer, caravan,
boat or horse-box, the Range Rover is a tower of strength that takes all the normal stresses and
strains, doubts and worries out of this kind of operation'. It emphasised the vehicle's highway
capability, unique among 4x4s: 'On main roads and motorways, the Range Rover can cruise at speeds of
up to 90 mph'.
Much was made of its ability of 'roughing it in luxury': 'One has only to experience the thrill of
driving straight off the road and across a rough field with no slackening of speed and little change
in the car's ride characteristics to realise that the Range Rover is a very special kind of vehicle'.
Roger Crathorne, later head of the Land Rover Experience, was a Range Rover engineer during the first
model's development. "I remember the first time I drove a prototype at the MIRA test track in
England. It was brilliant. I remember doing 100 mph on the track. I thought: 'This vehicle is
extraordinary comfortable, fast, a brilliant and spacious touring car'. Just as impressive was its
off-road ability, which was much better than any contemporary Land Rover. The reason was axle
articulation, on account of those coil springs. It had double the articulation of a normal Land Rover
and, as a result, was more comfortable and more capable over rough terrain."
The world's first luxury 4x4
The Range Rover went on to be the world's first luxury all-terrain vehicle. But, although that first
Range Rover had a luxury car ride and premium saloon performance, it certainly did not have the
trimmings of a luxury car. That came quite a few years later.
The first Range Rover was a relatively spartan vehicle inside, with vinyl seat trim and vinyl and
moulded rubber flooring to make it easy to hose out. There was no wood, or leather, or even carpet.
"It certainly wasnt a luxury vehicle, at least not initially," says Spen King. "In many
ways, it was quite basic."
Adds Geof Miller: "The 'basic' interior was a sop to the Land Rover people (as opposed to the
Rover car engineers) who wanted a simple hose-out interior. Sales were excellent. There was a black
market almost straight away, as demand exceeded supply. Yet we knew that the interior was too basic.
There were moves, almost immediately, to up-spec the vehicle, including improved trim. Carpet came
quite quickly. It started on the transmission tunnel, where it also had the happy effect of
quietening transmission whine. The boot area which had been bare metal on prototypes was soon
trimmed, including a cover for the tool kit. This was partly because of feedback from Buckingham
Palace. The tools were exposed in the boot and a man from the palace said a corgi could get
Two doors only
The original Range Rover had two doors only, and there was no automatic transmission option
although one of the early Land Rover-based prototypes had a Borg Warner three-speed automatic shift.
Geof Miller stayed on the Range Rover project after its launch, and soon identified a four-door
body as essential. Eighteen months after launch, a four-door prototype with hatchback rear end
was built. Management, however, mothballed the car. A production four-door wasn't launched until
1981. Automatic transmission didn't become an option until 1982. Both were essential to any US
success, where sales began in 1987.
The Classic lasts for 25 years
That first Range Rover was so far ahead of its time that it lasted in production, and sold well,
for more than 25 years. Initially, in the 1970s, the vehicle changed little. It was a bleak decade
for the UK motor industry, with the three-day week and general political unrest. There was precious
little development cash, and, besides, the Range Rover was selling well. Why change it?
Cash-strapped British Leyland, Land Rover's then owners, spent development money elsewhere.
By the 1980s, the pace of development picked up, mostly to make the vehicle more luxurious.
Cabin trim was regularly upgraded, and carpet, leather upholstery and wood trim elevated the Range
Rover into a viable alternative to luxury saloon cars the first 4x4 to do so.
The 3.5 litre aluminium V8 was enlarged to 3.9 litres in 1989, and then to 4.2 litres in 1992,
improving performance and refinement. The three-speed Chrysler automatic gearbox first available
in 1982 was replaced by a smoother and more efficient ZF four-speed in 1985, further broadening
A long wheelbase version, the LSE, featuring height adjustable electronic suspension came out
in 1992, a few years before the launch of the next Range Rover. The electronic suspension was also
optional on the normal 100-inch wheelbase model.
Second-generation Range Rover, the P38a
The next generation Range Rover, now often known as the 'P38a' (because it was developed in
building 38A in the Solihull factory), dialled up luxury, on-road ability and off-road versatility.
It was an evolutionary design, 'retaining many of the key design features of the classic model',
according to the press kit. Burr walnut and leather upholstery were used extensively, to underscore
the car's luxury credentials, and its desire to win over owners of conventional luxury cars.
Three engines were offered, including a BMW 2.5 six-cylinder turbo diesel which offered
considerably better performance than the old Classic diesel and both 3.9 and 4.6 versions of the
aluminium Rover V8. The 4.6 gave a top speed of 125 mph and 0-60 acceleration in 9.3 seconds, the
fastest production Range Rover to date.
The height adjustable suspension, which made its debut at the twilight of the Classic's life,
was further developed for the P38a and was offered as standard, improving both ride comfort and
Third-generation Range Rover, the L322
The latest Range Rover represented a big jump. Launched in 2001, it scaled new heights in the
4x4 sector in both luxury and on- and off-road capability. CEO Bob Dover called it, 'the world's
most capable vehicle, with the greatest breadth of ability of any car ever made'.
Among the new features were the stiffer monocoque body (replacing the traditional 4x4 ladder
frame) and the fully independent suspension with interconnected air springs (nearly all 4x4s had,
and many still have, rigid axles). The interior was also widely lauded as the finest of any car
At the car's launch, the head of Ford's Premier Automotive Group (of which Land Rover formed
part at the time), Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, said: "The new Range Rover is truly extraordinary. Its
unique combination of go-anywhere skill and luxury means its closest rivals aren't other 4x4s but
the finest luxury saloons in the world."
'Its not difficult to see why it was so successful. Like the current version, the original
Range Rover is such a simple and iconic shape'
The shape of a Range Rover is instantly recognisable. "You can describe a Range Rover with
three or four lines on a piece of paper," says former design director Geoff Upex, responsible
for the current model. "A child could draw the basic shape, so it's instantly recognisable in
the same way as a Mini or a Porsche 911 or a Volkswagen Beetle."
"There are four or five elements that make up a Range Rover design: the simplicity of the
side elevation, the relationship of the glass to the body, the floating roof and the castellated
bonnet. The same is true of the inside of the car. It was designed so that people sit as far out
as possible and have the best view. They can see out down the bonnet and see all corners of the
vehicle. So it's about command driving. It's also a very nice place to be. I have driven many
different vehicles. Nothing quite gives that same sense of well-being as being inside a Range
Current design director Gerry McGovern adds: "It's not difficult to see why it was so
successful. Like the current version, the original Range Rover is such a simple and iconic
Those iconic details are all there for a reason, for the Range Rover is a highly functional
vehicle. The bonnet castellations improve the driver's ability to see the corners of the car.
They're helpful in congested city driving, in parking, and when driving off-road. The
'floating' roof is partly an upshot of those comparatively thin pillars, to improve
On the very early production Range Rovers, the roof pillars were body coloured. It was not
possible to manufacture these pressings with a suitable quality finish, so the pillars were
soon covered in a black 'pseudo-hide' finish. The hide boosted the 'floating roof' effect.
The comparatively flat sides, and lack of 'tumblehome' curvature, allow driver and passenger
to sit as far out as possible, improving visibility. Those relatively flat sides also improve
the driver's ability to judge vehicle width, important for manoeuvrability on- and off-road.
Even though it's become a design classic a model was displayed inside the Louvre in Paris,
while an actual vehicle was simultaneously shown just outside Spen King claims that 'we
probably only spent about 0.001 per cent of our time on the appearance'. Like many design
greats, form followed function. The superb functionality led to a simple style and a simple
The concept and basic shape flat sides, thin roof pillars, short overhangs, all dimensions
including wheelbase, upright nose and tail was determined by engineers, principally King and
chassis engineer Gordon Bashford. The initial press kit didn't even talk about 'design'.
The design, for King's concept, came from David Bache, Rover's design boss. Bache's design
CV is impressive Rover SD1, Rover P5 and P6, Series II Land Rover. But the Range Rover Classic
was his finest hour.
He tidied up the King/Bashford proposal, adding his design ideas to the inherent functionality.
In particular, he changed the grille and headlamps, and the tail lamps. He also altered the window
surrounds and side swage lines. They were not major details, but they made a huge difference to
the car's presence and aesthetic appeal.
Nowadays, of course, the design department has an early and important voice in a new car's
development. "Back then, it didn't," says design director Gerry McGovern. "The design
department gave 'style' to the engineering department's vision. It was a fundamentally different
The second-generation Range Rover
The Range Rover's design has remained evolutionary. "The original vehicle was such a
classic, that it made sense to retain the basic shape and keep the car's classic design cues,"
says design director Gerry McGovern.
The second-generation vehicle, the P38a, was a 'clean sheet' design, but it soon became clear
to the design team that they radically changed the style at their peril. 'They were very conscious
that Range Rover customers are an extremely loyal group, and over the years market research has
shown that they would be reluctant to accept major changes in exterior design', said the original
P38a press kit.
The key qualities they protected, as explained at launch, were: the command driving position,
the floating roof (caused by the black, rather than body colour, roof pillars), the deep glass
area and low waistline, wrap-over bonnet (including 'castle features' on front edge), distinctive
rear 'E' pillar, two-piece tailgate (the lower part of which was widely used as a viewing
platform), the straight feature lines (no wedge or step in side styling) and the close wheel cuts
(to improve stance).
The third-generation model
All the classic Range Rover design cues continued with the third-generation model launched in
2001. The new car was bigger and more spacious. It also included eye-catching modern 'jewellery',
including distinctive head- and tail-lamps and 'Brunel' finish power vents on the flanks.
This model was a more integrated 'purer' design than the P38a. Although subsequently upgraded
with improved lights, grille, wheels and many other changes, the essential shape has stayed the
same, and remains one of the most modern and desirable designs in the luxury 4x4 sector.
The interior saw a big improvement over its predecessor. The design team took inspiration from
products as diverse as audio equipment, ocean-going yachts, first-class airline seating, fine
furniture and jewellery. This was combined with the classic 'wood and leather' Range Rover
experience. The result brought new levels of luxury to the Range Rover, and to the 4x4 market. It
was subsequently described, by a number of commentators, as the finest cabin in motoring.
'We thought it was time to improve comfort, versatility and performance'
The key quality that gave the Range Rover its luxury road car feel, and its awesome off-road
ability, was the long travel coil springs. No other 4x4 had them although a few large American
off-roaders had front coils.
"I always thought a Land Rover could be a lot better," says Spen King. "We thought
it was time to improve comfort, versatility and performance." The new suspension was a key
part of that improvement.
King insisted the first Range Rover should use coil springs, although it was a move resisted
by Land Rover's engineering department, who generally favoured leaf springs because of their
proven strength and durability. In fact, the coils used in the early Range Rovers were the same
as those on the Rover 2000 P6 saloon, although the rates were different. Their long travel
nature also made for fantastic axle articulation, a big advantage off-road. A rear
self-levelling unit maintained handling and ride quality irrespective of load, and helped make
the Range Rover an awesome tow vehicle.
The Range Rover was also the first off-road vehicle to use disc brakes front and rear, for
improved braking power at speed. These were necessary because of the vehicle's considerable
performance: 96 mph top speed made it the fastest, and quickest accelerating, 4x4 on the road.
The brakes were operated by a dual-line system, to avoid brake failure should one brake line
be damaged. The park brake, as with a Land Rover, operated on the transmission.
Aluminium V8 to boost power and torque
The performance came from the 'brawny' aluminium 3.5 litre 156 bhp V8, a modified version
of a Buick/General Motors design. The engine, also used in a Rover saloon, was ideally suited
to the Range Rover: it was light, powerful, torquey and mechanically simple. It was allied to
a four-speed manual gearbox. The two-speed transfer gearbox gave, in effect, eight speeds. A
centre differential allowed for permanent four-wheel drive. Again, this was unique. All other
production 4x4s of the time, including the contemporary Land Rover, had selectable 4x4. The
centre diff could be locked for enhanced off-road prowess.
The full-time 4x4 ensured that the torque could be equally split between front and rear
axles, and also crucially meant that those axles could be lighter than was typically the case
with selectable 4x4s. There was no need for a massively strong (and heavy) rear axle, which
would have damaged ride comfort.
The chassis was a strong box-section. Apart from the bonnet and boot, all body panels were
made from light weight corrosion-resistant aluminium.
The first diesel Range Rover
The Range Rover was one of the world's first luxury cars to offer a diesel engine. The original
plan was for Land Rover to develop its own diesel V8, based on the petrol aluminium V8.
Co-engineered with diesel experts Perkins, the engine programme codenamed Iceberg was due to
go on sale in the early 1980s. The project was eventually canned when development costs
Instead, Land Rover bought an engine from Italian diesel specialists VM. This 2.4 litre unit
did not give sparkling performance 0-60 mph time was over 18 seconds but it did win buyers
in the increasing diesel-biased mainland European market when it went on sale in 1986, and paved
the way for much better performing diesel engines. The latest TDV8 engine, for instance, has
similar performance to the contemporary V8 petrol engine yet 30 per cent better economy.
ABS Anti-Lock Brakes
The Range Rover was the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes. Land Rover
engineers had been working on developing ABS for five years. The problem was that slippery
surfaces and bumpy rocky ground upset early prototypes. A solution was found, and ABS was
offered as standard on the top-line model from 1989, and was optional on lower-trim versions.
Electronic Traction Control
The Range Rover does not simply rely on its mechanical excellence for superb traction. It has
also been the 4x4 pioneer in electronic controls. In 1992, the Range Rover Classic was the world's
first 4x4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC). Initially fitted on the rear axle
only, but soon after extended to all four wheels, ETC gave a big boost to the vehicle's off-road
ability, by transferring torque to the wheel offering the most grip. It also improved on-road safety.
The third-generation Range Rover's suite of electronic chassis and braking aids included Dynamic
Stability Control (DSC), Hill Descent Control (HDC) a Land Rover invention, Electronic Brakeforce
Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA).
Electronic Air Suspension
The Range Rover was the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with automatic electronic air suspension
(EAS). In 1992, the EAS system was fitted to the Range Rover Classic, at the same time that the
long-wheelbase (LSE) version was offered. Five ride height settings could be dialled: access (the
lowest setting), low, standard, high and extended (for maximum ground clearance with associated
Electronic Air Suspension was standard on the second- and third-generation Range Rovers.
Aluminium offers many advantages over conventional steel, as used for the bodywork for the vast
majority of cars. It is lighter, rust-resistant, more recyclable and more durable. The Land Rover,
of course, had aluminium bodywork partly because of its intrinsic advantages, but mostly because
there was more aluminium available than steel in post-war Britain, when the first Land Rover was
made. Most of it was leftover from the wartime aircraft industry.
So it was no surprise that the Range Rover was originally specified with an all-aluminium body.
It had become a Land Rover hallmark. For production, all the panels were aluminium, except for
bonnet and tailgate. The bonnet had been redesigned, from the early prototypes, partly to
incorporate those distinctive (and useful) corner castellations. It proved too difficult to press
accurately in aluminium. So steel was used instead.
Aluminium continued to be used extensively in the second-generation Range Rover, when it
debuted in 1994. Front guards, door skins and lower tailgate were all aluminium.
The third, and current, generation Range Rover continues to use aluminium extensively, for the
bonnet, front guards and doors. The doors not only have aluminium outer skins but are entirely
made from aluminium (the previous model had aluminium panels over a steel frame). This saves 40
TFT 'virtual' instruments and 'dual-view' centre screen
The 2010 Range Rover featured revolutionary TFT (thin film transistor) 'virtual' instruments.
It was the most thorough automotive application yet of this new technology. The new
instrumentation improves clarity and versatility: instrument displays can change, depending on
the situation or on safety requirements. For instance, major warning signs can momentarily
replace dials, satellite navigation instructions can temporarily supplant a less important
display when approaching a crucial junction. Numbers are magnified as the speedometer sweeps
around the dial, improving legibility.
At the same time, the Range Rover became the first car with a 'dual-view' centre screen, which
allows driver and passenger to watch the same screen but see different images. The driver can be
checking satellite navigation instructions while the passenger can be watching a DVD. It all
depends on the angle at which the screen is viewed.
'To the local people who knew about the Darien Gap our scheme was complete madness, but they
were too polite to say'
Conscious that a premium 4x4 may be regarded as a 'soft roader', Land Rover's promotional
team soon set about an agenda to prove the car's off-road credentials.
Like its little 'brother', the Land Rover, the Range Rover was soon crossing deserts,
climbing mountains, wading rivers and traversing swamps. That luxury touch in no way diminished
the car's adventurous spirit.
Across the Sahara as a prototype
Even before the car went on sale, the Range Rover completed an arduous crossing of the Sahara
driven by project engineer Geof Miller, Roger Crathorne (an engineer on the Range Rover project)
and other test drivers and technicians. The trip took place from October to December 1969, six
months or so before the vehicle went on sale.
Two vehicles were used, prototypes five and six, both with 'Velar' badges (but otherwise
precious little disguise to thwart 'spy' photographers). The trip was primarily a hot weather
testing exercise, although off-road sand performance was also evaluated. A promotional film was
also made. When the cameras started to roll, the Velar badges were replaced with 'Range Rover'.
The journey began in northern Algeria, on the fringe of the Sahara. The two vehicles went
into the Tιnιrι Desert in Niger, before heading back into Algeria, and then south again deep
into the Sahara. A lot of development work was also done on tyres and brakes. Dunes tested the
vehicle's ability on sand, which proved to be excellent. The vehicles crossed the Hoggar
mountains before reaching Tamanrasset, the oasis town virtually in the middle of the Sahara.
Then, they followed old trade routes to the Moroccan border. The adventure finished at
Casablanca, where the vehicles were shipped back to the UK.
As a result of that Saharan test the first, but by no means the last crossing of the Sahara,
by Range Rover the door dust seals were redesigned (dust ingress was terrible in Algeria) and
the fuel tank was given an extra skin, to protect against stone damage. The engines and
transmissions coped faultlessly with the heat.
Crossing the Darien Gap
To emphasise the Range Rover's blend of speed and ruggedness, there was a plan to enter the
new vehicle in the 1970 World Cup rally from London to Mexico City via South America. The cars
could not be readied in time.
Instead, the PR people were attracted by a proposal from Captain Gavin Thompson to use Range
Rovers for a British Army expedition to drive from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. The
key test would be the crossing of impenetrable swampland between Panama and Colombia called the
Darien Gap. Two left-hand drive Swiss-specification vehicles were prepared.
The expedition was led by Major John Blashford-Snell and began in December 1971. It got off
to a bad start. Not far from the start, one of the cars crashed into a stationary truck. The
other Range Rover towed it 1,000 miles to Vancouver, where it was repaired.
As predicted, the real challenge was crossing the Darien Gap. Just before the crossing, a
reception was held for the team members. Blashford-Snell noted that, to the local people who
knew about the Gap, 'our scheme was complete madness, but they were too polite to say'.
The crossing took 99 days an average of just three miles a day and involved pushing,
winching, coaxing, rafting and building makeshift bridges, as the cars cut a swathe through the
jungle. Only one team member stayed with the cars the whole way. Everyone else had to be taken
away, for medical treatment, at some stage. There were broken bones, jungle sores, diarrhoea,
hornet stings and snakebites. One of the Range Rovers fell off a raft, and the whole vehicle
was submerged. After the engine dried out, it kept going. The total Trans-America journey took
seven months and covered 18,000 miles.
The New York Times described it as the 'world's last great adventure' and Prince
Charles said it was 'mad but marvellous'. In 1979, adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, described
by the Guinness Book of Records as the 'world's greatest living explorer', and a band
of friends and fellow thrill-seekers set off from Greenwich, London in a small icebreaker,
the Benjamin Bowring. Their goal? The world's first circumpolar journey around the
The route took them from Greenwich by sea to France, where they journeyed overland across
Europe, then across North Africa, including a crossing of the Sahara, to Abidjan on the Ivory
Coast. There, the Benjamin Bowring was waiting for them, to resume the journey by sea.
They sailed to the Antarctic, which they crossed by skidoo, then sailed north up the Pacific,
before heading through the North West passage to the Arctic.
A Range Rover, and two Land Rovers, were used for the north-south crossing of the Sahara.
Great Divide Expedition
In 1989, Range Rover of North America as the US-based company was then known organised
the first-ever off-road journey by car along the Great Divide. This mountainous region follows
the peaks of the Rockies, and is easily the most prominent continental divide in North America.
The two-week 1,000-mile journey, done by a fleet of white four-door automatic transmission
Range Rovers, went from Encampment, Wyoming to near Chama in New Mexico, using unpaved tracks
and four-wheel drive trails originally carved out by Indians and early miners. The adventure
was done in conjunction with the US Forest Service's Tread Lightly programme, a national
education campaign that encouraged environmentally responsible and safe off-road driving
A limited edition of 400 'Great Divide Edition' Range Rovers were produced in 1990-1, all
painted the same Alpine White as the expedition vehicles.
A specially modified Range Rover won the first Paris-Dakar rally in 1979 driven by Frenchmen
Alain Gιnestier and Joseph Terbiaut. A Range Rover won again in 1981.
The Paris-Dakar is a rally-raid in which modified off-road vehicles and motorcycles race
across Europe and North Africa. The event crosses the Sahara, where the event is won or lost.
Recent 'Dakar' rallies have been run in South America, following political problems driving
through North Africa.
A Range Rover won the 4x4 class in the 1977 London-Sydney Marathon, driven by Australian
rally driver Evan Green. The Australian-modified vehicle used a 4.4 litre version of the alloy
V8 engine and came 11th overall in the gruelling 30,000 km (18,750 miles) event, the longest
ever speed-based car rally.
Land Speed Record
In 1985, a diesel-powered Range Rover broke 27 speed records, including a diesel record for
averaging more than 100 mph for 24 hours. The Range Rover 'Bullet' used an Italian-built VM
engine, a more highly tuned version of the production diesel motor.
'The In Vogue hinted at the need for a more luxurious Range Rover, while the CSK alluded
to a sportier future'
The amazing versatility of the Range Rover meant there have been many extraordinary 'special
edition' models, all aiming for a niche in the broad Range Rover customer base. Early specials
were developed by outside companies and reflected Land Rover's slowness to develop its best
seller (there were few major factory changes through the '70s). So nimble minded specialists
such as Switzerland's Monteverdi often got in there first.
In the 1980s, there was a wave of factory-produced special editions. Many tested new sectors
for the Range Rover. The 'In Vogue', for instance, hinted at the need for a more luxurious
specification, while the CSK alluded to a sportier future.
There have been scores of memorable limited-edition Range Rovers, from luxury Westminster,
to sporty Vitesse to adventure-oriented Rhinoceros (complete with wooden carving of a rhino,
done by African tribesmen). But these are probably the most memorable and significant:
The Monteverdi Four Door
The production four-door Range Rover didn't go on sale until 1981 although a prototype had
actually been built as early as 1971. There was clearly a market for a car with rear doors, and
coachbuilders weren't slow to spot it.
The Swiss company Monteverdi produced the most convincing four-door design, and it went on
sale in 1980. Land Rover engineers collaborated. The production four-door Range Rover was, in
fact, based closely on the Monteverdi model.
The 'In Vogue'
The 'In Vogue' was the first factory-produced limited-edition Range Rover. It was based on a
specially prepared and well-equipped vehicle loaned to Vogue magazine, which acted as a
prop for a fashion shoot celebrating some of the latest wares, which took place in Biarritz,
France, in 1981.
The 'In Vogue' that resulted was based on the photographic car. It had special pale blue
metallic paintwork, a more luxurious interior including wooden trim and full carpeting, air
conditioning and a picnic hamper. One thousand were built, and were priced at an £800 premium.
The 'In Vogue' set the marker for the car's move upmarket, which was subsequently cemented by
the production Vogue model. This became the model name for the most luxurious Range Rover in
Two specially modified Range Rovers were built for Pope John Paul II during his six-day
visit to the UK in 1982. The pope rode in a special rear display area protected by bullet-proof
glass. These high-security vehicles were built following the failed assassination attempt in
The limited edition CSK just 200 were made was named after Range Rover founder Charles
Spencer King. It was the first new two-door Range Rover in several years, yet its significance
went well beyond that. The CSK, launched in 1990, was a sportier Range Rover. Just as the 'In
Vogue' began the route down the luxury path, so the CSK opened the door to a new sportier
future, as epitomised 15 years later by the Range Rover Sport.
The CSK came with suspension anti-roll bars the first Range Rover thus equipped. This
sharpened the on-road handling, reducing the body roll that had been a characteristic of
early Range Rovers. The CSK was an acknowledgement that sharp on-road performance would be
crucial to the future success of the Range Rover.
The Vogue was a move upmarket for Range Rover. But the limited edition Linley just 10 were
made was on another plane altogether: the price was £100,000.
Inspired by furniture designer Lord Linley, the 1999 Range Rover Linley featured lustrous
all-black paintwork. Inside, all the trim was in black leather and the woodwork was piano black
ebony veneer. Even the steering wheel was in black wood. The thick-pile carpet was also black.
It was the first Range Rover (and one of the first luxury cars) to feature satellite navigation;
it also had a TV.
The first Linley model was sold to a Land Rover dealer in Wales. Within hours of its arrival,
it was stolen from outside the workshop and never seen again.
The Holland and Holland
The famous London-based gunsmiths collaborated on this limited edition version of the series
two model. Another upmarket vehicle, the Holland and Holland came in special dark green paint,
brown leather upholstery with cream piping, part-green alloys, and had a DVD and TV. They sold
for £65,000. Four hundred were made (300 of which went to North America) and all came with the
top-spec 4.6 V8 engine.
Armoured Range Rover
The Range Rover has long been a popular car with politicians and leading industrialists. It
has served as official transport for many heads of state, including British prime ministers.
The latest model was officially developed, by Land Rover Special Vehicles, into an armoured
vehicle (before that, many private specialists produced their own modified Range Rovers). The
'official' armoured vehicle, first launched in 2007, is certified for European B6 ballistic