Wednesday, 02 September 2015 15:56

Still turning many heads

Written by 

The saying goes “the only good thing to come out of Birmingham (UK) is the M6 motorway”, but just a few miles down the road in the heart of the Industrial Revolution, is Solihull, the home of the Land Rover.

The company has now notched up 2 million Defenders, and though well short of the production numbers of, say, the Toyota Hi-lux or Ford F Series, it marks the loyal following this quintessentially British brand enjoys worldwide.

In the mid-1940’s Maurice Wilks, chief designer for the Rover Group, got inspired by an ex-WW2 Jeep on his farm in Anglesey, North Wales, during a summer break. While walking on Red Wharf Bay he drew in the sand an idea for a vehicle – a ladder chassis, two driven axles and a PTO drive, an 80-inch wheelbase and straight panels easily produced.

So in 1947, the Series 1 Land Rover went into production at Lode Lane, Solihull, the public seeing it for the first time at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948; window price was 450 pounds. It became an overnight success as a no-nonsense vehicle that appealed to farmers, and to landowners who wanted off-road capability -- easy to drive, service and repair.

Farmers in particular used the PTO in static mode for driving sawbenches, etc and in mobile work for driving mowers and many other implements. 

Configuration ranged from a simple ‘rag-top’ to a fully appointed 12-seat station wagon, powered by fours to thumping V8’s in petrol or diesel. 

The ladder chassis provided a platform for customising into ambulances, fire trucks, snow ploughs and even cherry pickers.

The military bought them in huge numbers; a bespoke build included armour, gun turrets and specialised winches. A batch of 100 ‘Pink Panthers’ -- painted pink – went to the SAS for desert reconnaissance. These options also included forward control and a ‘lightweight air transportable’ version for dropping into campaigns by helicopter.

Company ownership moved in 1994 from the disbanded British Leyland Group to BMW. Ford bought it in 2000 and sold it in 2008 to the current owner, TATA of India. While the vehicles are still primarily built in Solihull, they are also assembled in Spain, Iran, Brazil and Turkey, and are part of a joint venture for building in China with Chery.

For nearly 70 years these vehicles were sold in series I, 2 and 3 and latterly Defender models. The first million milestone was hit in 1976.

More like this

Land Rover range going electric

Jaguar Land Rover has announced a new global strategy that will see the Land Rover brand release six pure electric variants through its Range Rover, Discovery and Defender families, with the first all-electric variant arriving in 2024.

Early pick for car of the year!

As I'm writing this review in early December, I’d like to make a prediction – the new Land Rover Defender should win the New Zealand Car of The Year title.

Sure to blaze a UK trail

News noted last year that the price of the Land Rover Discovery 6 was right up there, perhaps too high to get the vehicle out onto farms. 

Defender designed with NZ in mind

Can-am off-road vehicles' reputation for performance and durability stems from its heritage of building snowmobiles for the Arctic Circle and the wildernesses of Canada.


Deer farmer's roaring success

Southland elk farmer Tom May is no stranger to producing top quality velvet and believes that his Mayfield Elk Farm,…

The beginning - not end!

After seven years, the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) came to an end on 31 March, yet chair Malcolm Bailey…

Machinery & Products

SIAFD wins punters' plaudits

After celebrating its 70th year last month, it looks like the South Island Agricultural Field Days (SIAFD) has hit its…

Opens up blindspots

Traditionally blind spots caused by large buckets or front mounted loads on wheeled loaders have been a major safety concern.

She's one big feeder

Feeder specialists Hustler has released a maxi-sized multi-feeder aimed at large scale farms in New Zealand and further afield.

Roots out problems

Austrian manufacturer Pöttinger has introduced the new Durastar narrow share for its Synkro and Synkro-T, mounted stubble cultivators.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Blue murder

OPINION: Your old mate recently read an off-the-wall suggestion, by some boffin, that deliberately staining meat blue will lead to…

Foot in mouth - again!

OPINION: This old mutt reckons Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor too often suffers from 'foot in mouth' disease.

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter