Development began on September 6, 1967. Then, in 1969, prototypes were tested in Morocco. They were badged ‘Velar’ (using spare letters from the Alvis and Rover brands) to hide the Range Rover’s identity.
The Range Rover was launched on June 17, 1970 and displayed at the London Motor Show.
The original press material included this cutaway, showing the engineering layout. It had a lightweight aluminium V8 engine, permanent 4WD and all-round disc brakes.
A shot from the production line at Land Rover's Solihull factory in 1970.
The first car off the production line was this, YVB 153H in 'Tuscan Blue'.
A shot from the original marketing material shows the Range Rover's multifaceted appeal — it was always sold as a serious off-roader as much as a luxury cruiser.
Caravanners could be confident the Range Rover was up to the task of enabling their high end British summer holidays.
Showing even more class in this publicity shot, and that horse boxes are no problem for the Range Rover.
Four-wheel drive, locking diffs and a powerful engine all needed for slipways. They might want to wait for the tide to come in a bit, though.
This was what really changed the game — the Range Rover was a comfortable, spacious family car that didn't have to get muddy at all.
The interior was highly luxurious in comparison to the rugged Land Rover. Though this version would be pretty simple to wipe down.
This one, however... Carpet? In a 4x4? Blimey. This trim option was called Bahama Gold, and rather fetching it was, too.
The press launch in 1970 took place in Cornwall and included some pretty tough off-roading.
In 1971, the Range Rover became the first vehicle to be displayed at the Louvre museum in Paris, applauded for its ‘exemplary work of industrial design’.
Two years after launch, the Range Rover became the first vehicle to cross the length of the Americas, including the 'impassable' Darién Gap. (See video below)
The 18,000-mile British Army Trans-America expedition included 99 days of back-breaking effort to cover 250 miles of dense jungle.
Another ultimate test of endurance, a specially modified Range Rover won the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally in 1979. A Range Rover would win again in 1981.
The first limited edition Range Rover of 1981 was called the 'In Vogue', following a collaboration with Vogue magazine.
The interior of the 'In Vogue' was suitably plush. 'Vogue' later became the Range Rover's top trim level.
Popemobiles are never pretty, and the Range Rover version specially-commissioned for John Paul II’s visit to the UK in 1982 was no exception.
In 1985 the diesel-powered 'Beaver Bullet' broke 27 speed records, including one for averaging more than 100mph for 24 hours. The first diesel production car was introduced the following year.
Range Rovers were adapted for use by the emergency services, include the AA...
... the fire brigade ...
... the police ...
... and the ambulance service.
The Camel Trophy involved Land Rovers and Range Rovers tackling the ‘Olympics of 4x4’, and involved competitors driving, kayaking, climbing and hiking. Locations included the Amazon, the Far East, Australasia, Africa and Siberia.
To mark the end of the two-door in 1990, 200 special edition Range Rover CSKs were produced. The model was named after chief designer Charles Spencer King (Spen). The second-generation Range Rover was introduced four years later.

Range Rover at 50 gallery: The original luxury 4x4 in pictures

A look back at its early days

TODAY marks the 50th birthday of a British icon and trendsetter: the Range Rover. Originally conceived as a way to go anywhere in style, it was sold as combining “the luxury and comfort of the world famous Rover saloon car range, outstanding acceleration and handling characteristics, together with the ruggedness, durability and cross country versatility of the renowned Land-Rover.”

Powered by a 3.5-litre Rover V8 developing 156bhp, married to a four-speed manual gearbox and transfer box (offering eight forward gears and two reverse ratios), the 1970 Range Rover could “be driven off a road and across a field at speeds between 40-50mph without the occupants feeling any undue change in movement.”

A locking centre differential allowed good traction on mud, snow and ice, and coil spring suspension all round meant decent on-road manners.

It proved a big hit with wealthy farmers and city bankers alike, and changed the motoring landscape.

In its 50th anniversary press release, Land Rover highlighted the model’s technical innovations over the last five decades:

“Over its 50 year lifespan, the Range Rover has achieved many world firsts and completed numerous impressive feats. It was the first SUV to feature a permanent 4WD system when it was launched, and in 1989 was the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes. Later in 1992 it became the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC) and automatic electronic air suspension – ensuring the refined driving feel Range Rover is so famous for, both on and off-road. In 2012, the latest generation Range Rover became the world’s first SUV to feature an all-aluminium lightweight construction, making it lighter, stronger and more efficient.”

We’ve dug out some of the shots of the first generation model from the Land Rover archive, including the original publicity images, its appearance at the Louvre (proof of the Range Rover’s status as an icon, if you needed it), and some of the special editions that helped sustain the Mk1 model for an astounding 24 years, before the second generation arrived. See out gallery above.

And below are some of the films produced by Land Rover over the years, including its arduous traversing of the “impassable” Darien Gap. Happy Birthday, Range Rover.


Video: A car for all reasons

This original marketing film shows the versatility of the 1970 Range Rover. It includes driving on rock, sand… and the school run.

Video: Crossing the Darién Gap

In 1972, the Range Rover became the first vehicle to cross the length of the Americas, including the Darién Gap, an 18,000-mile British Army Trans-America expedition. It included a gruelling 99 days to cover just 250 miles of dense jungle.

Video: 40th anniversary reflections

Ten years ago, Land Rover produced this film with Roger Crathorne, who at that point was part of the communications team but in 1970 was an engineer working on the original Range Rover. Here he recalls producing film and photos in Wales that showed off the car’s durability, and compares the classic trailblazer with the 2010 model.

Video: Range Rover in a nutshell

This more recent marketing film, from 2015, is a decent summary of the Range Rover over its first 45 years. It’s designed to sell the fourth generation car but features some interesting facts and lovely historical footage.

Range Rover gets a limited edition for its 50th birthday

Twin test: New Bentley Bentayga SUV v Range Rover SVAutobiography

2017 Range Rover gets new tech and sporty SVAutobiography Dynamic version