From sturdy acorns mighty oaks may grow – and that’s certainly what happened in the case of Land Rover. For the inspired Series 1 was the forerunner of a vehicle type that would reach its zenith half a century later when the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) became the transport of choice for millions.
Back in the aftermath of World War ІІ the British economy was wrecked and rationing ruled, Rover’s Coventry factory had been bombed and materials for consumer goods (especially cars) were in short supply. But dispensation was available for useful products, especially anything with export potential, and chef designer Maurice Wilkes used that to advantage. A surplus wartime Willys Jeep chassis and Rover Р3 car engine went into a prototype that was a cross between light truck and tractor, with the РТО (power take off) feature that allowed it to drive farm machinery.
This satisfied the ‘useful’ requirement and production began in 1948. Better still, buyers paid no purchase tax as this was a ‘commercial’ — even though the machine launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show had become less tractor-like. The clever four-wheel drive stopgap before normal car manufacture resumed was so well received that the proposed two-year production run never ended, with the Land Rover outselling revived Rover road cars.
The original Series І was so basic that window panels and a roof of metal or canvas were optional extras, but various improvements were made before the major revamp that saw the introduction of the Series II a decade later. Larger engines were fitted (including a diesel) and long and short wheelbase variants appeared.
But the essential character remained the same and it’s not hard to find a series I for some off-road fun-nearly three-quarters of these robust workers are still chugging on.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1948 (until 1958)
1,595 or 1,997 сс Straight Four petrol; 1,997 сс Straight Four diesel
Up to 65 mph (2 Liter models)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Nobody at Rover ever actually said it, but the message must have been glaringly obvious to buyers of early Series 1 Land Rovers – you can have any color you Iike as Iong as its Army-surplus green.