Range Rover Mk.1

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Land Rover

Range Rover Mk. 1

1970 - 1996
United Kingdom
3528 cc
135 bhp
4 spd. man.
Top Speed:
101mph / 162kmh
Number Built:
1 star
Whoever it was at Rover that convinced the powers to be to develop a "high end" Land Rover must have had an accurate crystal ball, the resulting Range Rover proving to be a huge sales success and spawning a love affair for many with the notion of driving a large, expensive fuel guzzling monster capable of obliterating pedestrians and other road users without ever having the intention of taking the vehicle "off road".

Despite several research projects for a luxury Land Rover conducted in the late 1950's, only the 1958 "Road Rover" was to make it to prototype stage. The limited funds assigned to the project however made the car somewhat of a hotch-potch affair, with Rover having to raid the parts bins of Rover sedans that were currently in production.

Indeed the resulting prototype was forced to use the P4 chassis, and resembled the P5 saloon car of the period. To make matters worse, its off-road abilities were limited, and the project died a natural death.

By the mid-1960s the UK military began reducing their orders for the Land Rover, and so Rover set about researching what type of vehicle the general public would like.

The answer came as no suprise, identifying consumer demand for a "recreation and leisure" vehicle combining the rugedness and off road abilities of their Land Rover with the comfort and interior appointments of their passenger sedans.

And so, in 1966, development of a luxury Land Rover re-commenced. At first an 'Interim Station Wagon' provided a stop-gap to cover the falling military sales, and Rover was sure the newly adopted 3.5 liter V8 engine (which Rover had recently purchased from GM in the US and was already being fitted to the P5 and P6) would make the car a sales success.

Before the year was out, the wagon project had grown into a five seat station wagon with P6 standards of comfort, on a 100in chassis that allowed unprecedented wheel travel.

Designers were forced to develop a new gearbox capable of handling the torque of the new V8, a key change being the use of a lockable central differential rather than the dog-clutch mechanism used on the Land Rover. Long travel vertical coil spring suspension was fitted instead of the Land Rovers leaf springs to ensure a more refined ride.

The second prototype featured a 2 door design, primarily in an attempt by Rover to reduce the cost of manufacturing the vehicle, although the resulting seat and seat belt arrangement made any such savings somewhat insignificant. Spen King and Gordon Bashford designed the body and interior, creating their own mock-up, with Rover stylist David Bache "cleaning up" the design with some very subtle surface treatments.

Prototypes 3 to 6 quickly followed, the engineers determined to ensure the final release would leave no stone unturned in their quest to develop the ultimate "town and country" car. Finally, in 1970, some 20 cars were manufactured for the press launch. To call the launch a success would be understating it a little, with public demand for the new vehicle fat exceeding Rover's ability to manufacture the vehicle.

1972 saw the release of the 4-door model, and it quickly out-sold the original 2-door model. Other refinements included a viscous locking centre differential, the world's first off-road ABS system, electronic traction control, and electronically controlled air-adjustable suspension. This air suspension was another first for Range Rover, and replaced the coil suspension at a time when competing vehicles were finally adopting coils.

The Range Rover was a unique vehicle, combining excellent off-road abilities and refined around town manners - it quickly becoming a status-symbol of the affluent that remains to this day. Interestingly, it remains as the only vehicle to have been exhibited in the Louvre as a work of art.

The original P38 style Range Rover was eventually phased out in 1996, and today is most remembered for combining the idea of a 4x4 and luxury boulevard cruiser into one. Many may lament the success of the Rangie, an ever growing groundswell of road users now seeing those that purchase this type of vehicle as adopting a "stuff you" attitude toward their fellow motorists, and the "Toorak Tractor" is fast becoming as politically incorrect as a fart in a lift.

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