The iconic Range Rover turns 40 this month so the British automaker has published a brief history with numerous facts and details on how the world’s first off-roader came to life and the numerous improvements and innovations developed over time.
The first Range Rover also known as the Classic went on sale in 1970 followed by the second generation P38a which went on sale in 1994. The second model line, the Range Rover Sport which was introduced in 2005, was also a great success as it was the company’s biggest selling vehicle worldwide in 2007.
Over the years the Range Rover has appealed celebrities, princes, politicians, rock starts, soccer players, fashion models and many more and on the list of owners there are figures like the Queen of England, Prince Charles, Paul McCartney, Brice Willis, Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Beckham, Miley Cyrus and others.
Gaydon, Warwickshire, 1 June 2010 – The Range Rover
will celebrate its 40th birthday on 17 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 4×4 and was a milestone in the development of
the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle).
"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.
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 around the world, 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 gods to rock climbers, from
footballers to farmers, 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 – known as the Classic – goes on
|1971||Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical
|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 4×4 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 100mph for 24 hours
|1987||Range Rover launched in North America|
|1989||Range Rover is the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock
|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 4×4 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
|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 4×4 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
The growing 4×4 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 4×4 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 potential.
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 gutsy 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
"The Range Rover turned out to be quite a different vehicle. The goal
was to launch a 4×4 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 4×4 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 4×4 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. (See ‘Technology’
section for more information.)
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 4×4 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
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 hadn’t 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 17 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
"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."
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
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 90mph’.
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 100mph 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 4×4
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
wasn’t 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
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
’70s, 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 ’80s, 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 4×4 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
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
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 125mph 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 off-road
Third-generation Range Rover, the L322
The latest Range Rover represented a big jump. Launched in 2001, it
scaled new heights in the 4×4 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 4×4 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
At the car’s launch, the head of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (of
which Land Rover formed part), 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."
‘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 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
"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
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 shape."
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 visibility.
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
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 shape.
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
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
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
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 4×4 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 4×4 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
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 4×4 had them although a few large American off-roaders had front
"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: 96mph top
speed made it the fastest, and quickest accelerating, 4×4 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 156bhp 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 4×4. The
centre diff could be locked for enhanced off-road prowess.
The full-time 4×4 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 lightweight corrosion-resistant
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 ’80s. The project was eventually canned when
development costs escalated.
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 4×4 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
Electronic Traction Control
The Range Rover does not simply rely on its mechanical excellence for
superb traction. It has also been the 4×4 pioneer in electronic
controls. In 1992, the Range Rover Classic was the world’s first 4×4 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 4×4 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 off-road benefits).
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 conceived. 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 wings, door skins and lower
tailgate were all aluminium.
The third, and current, generation Range Rover continues to use
aluminium extensively, for the bonnet, front wings 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
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 4×4 may be regarded as a ‘soft roader’, Land
Rover’s promotional team soon set about an agenda to prove the car’s
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
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 Ténéré 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
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
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 globe.
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
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 techniques.
A limited edition of 400 ‘Great Divide Edition’ Range Rovers were
produced in 1990-1, all painted the same Alpine White as the expedition
A specially modified Range Rover won the first Paris-Dakar rally in
1979 driven by Frenchmen Alain Génestier 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
A Range Rover won the 4×4 class in the 1977 London-Sydney Marathon,
driven by Australian rally driver and TV presenter 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 100mph for 24 hours.
The Range Rover ‘Bullet’ used an Italian-built VM engine, a more highly
tuned version of the production diesel motor.
Sometimes called the ‘4×4 Olympics’, the Camel Trophy was a sporting
contest emphasising adventure and exploration. Range Rovers were used
for the 1981, 1982 and 1987 events. The 1981 event crossed the
Indonesian island of Sumatra mostly through tropical jungle, the 1982
event was held in Papua New Guinea, while the 1987 challenge – using new
VM-powered diesel models – saw the first-ever north-south vehicle
crossing of Madagascar, a journey of 1,400 miles. The vehicles were
heavily modified with roll-over cages, stronger under-body protection,
winches, engine snorkels (which, in the diesel engine’s case, allowed
the vehicle to run when submerged) and navigation and communication
‘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 ’80s, 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
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 the latest wares from Jaeger and Lancôme, 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 many markets.
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 1981.
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
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
From princes to politicians, from rock gods to rock climbers, from
footballers to fashion models, the Range Rover has always appealed to
celebrity owners. They have included:
- The Queen, who had one of the very first production Classics. She
has also owned second- and third-generation models
- Prince Charles, who has had his latest Range Rover converted to run
- Princess Anne
- Prince Andrew
- Prince Rainier of Monaco, owner of an early Classic
- President Bongo of Gabon, one of the first Classic customers
- Johnny Cash, the country music legend, whose Classic appeared in a
French production of The Jungle Book. It was matt black
embellished all over with brightly coloured hand-painted jungle plants
- James Bond. Range Rovers have appeared in many 007 films, but in Quantum
of Solace, James Bond (Daniel Craig) drove a Range Rover Sport in
the Bolivian desert
- Peter Sellers. The British comedian was one of many celebrities in
the ’70s and ’80s who drove customised Wood and Pickett-modified Range
Rovers. They were more luxuriously specified than the contemporary Range
Rover, and were precursors of the Range Rover Vogue model
- Madonna. Her wedding car at Skibo Castle in Scotland was a
second-generation Range Rover. She and Guy Ritchie also owned a Range
- Pope John Paul II. The Pontiff’s ‘popemobile’ was a converted
Classic, featuring bullet proof glass
- Billy Connolly, comedian and Range Rover Classic owner
- Paul McCartney, ex-Beatle and Classic owner
- Bruce Springsteen, rock god, and The Boss
- David Gower had a special edition CSK Range Rover. He now has a new
- Michael Phelps, winner of 14 Olympic gold medals, and perhaps the
greatest swimmer of all time
- Jane Fonda, actress and Classic owner
- Michael J Fox, actor and Classic driver
- Rod Stewart, pop star
- Jennifer Aniston, actress, best known as Rachel in Friends
- Michael Jackson had a number of Range Rovers, including a Classic.
When he died, the Jackson family travelled to the funeral in a convoy of
10 black Range Rovers
- Bruce Willis, star of Die Hard, a Classic and
third-generation Range Rover
- Jack Nicholson, actor
- Midge Ure, Ultravox frontman, owner of ‘tatty old Range Rover’ (a
- Mike Tyson, retired boxer and former world heavyweight champ
- Jeremy Clarkson. The Top Gearstar owns a Range Rover and
recently proclaimed it ‘best car in the world’ in The Sunday Times
- The Sultan of Brunei. One-time ‘richest man in the world’ has many
Range Rovers, including a custom-made gold-plated model for official
- David Beckham, frequently photographed behind the wheel of his Range
Rover Sport. Range Rovers are also owned by other eminent footballers
including John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Jermaine Defoe
- Meg Ryan, actress
- Richard Branson, Virgin boss and owner of second- and
- Britney Spears, singer
- Angelina Jolie, actress. In the first Lara Croft Tomb Raider
movie, she drove a Land Rover Defender
- Miley Cyrus, star of Hannah Montana
- Pamela Anderson, actress
- Greg Norman, golfer
- Mel Gibson, actor
- Michael Douglas, actor
- Ryan Sheckler, skateboarder and MTV reality show star
- Michael Jordan, basketball legend
- Lauren Conrad, TV star and fashion designer
- Pete Wentz, musician and bassist for Fall Out Boy
- Keira Knightley, actress
- Nicole Kidman, Australian actress
- Tom Cruise, actor
- Hilary Duff, actress, best known in TV series Lizzie McGuire,
- Kobe Bryant, basketball star
- Eva Longoria, TV star, best known for Desperate Housewives
- Rachel Bilson, actress, star of TV teen drama The OC
- Kiefer Sutherland, actor, son of Donald, and star of TV series 24
- Bow Wow, rapper and actor
- Gwen Stefani, singer and fashion designer
- Dr Mae Jemison, former astronaut
- Lee Pearson, Paralympic athlete, winner of nine gold medals in
- Anthony Pitt, Australian fashion designer, who started his Academee
brand from the lounge of his Bondi Beach flat
- Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio
- Sonya Kraus, German TV presenter, former ballerina and fashion
…and many more
40 year of Range Rover video :