NO LIST of motoring icons would be complete without the Land Rover. Revealed to the world at the 1948 Amsterdam motor show, the hardy 4×4 has become indelibly associated with both the British countryside and adventurers forging deep into uncharted territory.
But can you name the British engineer that designed the original “go-anywhere vehicle”? Scroll down for the answer …
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The Land Rover Series I was designed in 1947 by Maurice Wilks, engineering director of Rover cars. Inspired by the Willys Jeep used by the American military, Wilks wanted to create an off-road vehicle that could double as a light tractor – essentially a tool as much as a mode of transport.
Having formulated the plan with Spencer Wilks, his brother and Rover’s managing director, Maurice sketched out the body shape for their new car in the sand of Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey, while at the family holiday home.
At its launch, the Land Rover was marketed as “a go-anywhere vehicle, a source of portable power”, the latter being a reference to the fact that external tools and equipment could be connected to the car’s rear power take-off. Watch it at work here pulling down trees:
It couldn’t be described as a comfortable cruiser, but the Series I’s stripped-back, utilitarian design and sure-footedness made it popular with everyone from farmers to the royal family.
About 39,000 were built between 1948 and 1958, many of them shipped overseas for use in remote areas of the British Empire (and beyond), leading to the claim that it was the first vehicle ever seen by a third of the world’s population.
Maurice Wilks was promoted to chairman of Rover after his brother’s retirement in 1962. He died, while still in this position, at his property on Anglesey on September 8, 1963. In this touching video created by Land Rover in 2012 Stephen Wilks, Maurice’s son, recalls the genesis of the Land Rover, and sheds some light on the great engineering mind behind it.