On June 17, 2020, it was fifty years ago that the term “luxury all-terrain vehicle” gained momentum. Then the Range Rover was presented to the car press. Also to the surprise of the British manufacturers themselves, the adoration of the Range Rover quickly took shape. The niche product was quickly loved, and the luxury SUV market was a challenge for many manufacturers.
The Range Rover's story goes back further than the launch date. During the 60s, Rover technical director Charles Spencer King came up with the idea of combining the comfort and handling of a Rover sedan with the off-road skills of a Land Rover. Rover saw that the niche market for luxury off-road vehicles grew. The Ford Bronco and the Jeep Wagoneer were proof of this in the United States. At the same time, it meant that King and his companion Gordon Bashford had to work on a serious counterpart to have a good chance in this market. This was done.
Prelude to 4WD
The original Road Rover concept formed the basis of what became the Range Rover. An important difference was that the Road Rover did not have four-wheel drive in store, but had to transfer the drive forces via two wheels. However, competitors from the United States had four-wheel drive. Bashford and King decided that this Rover niche for the road and terrain also got this drive form.
Range Rover germinated development, prototypes were built (also under the name Road Rover). Gradually, the outlines of what the Range Rover would become became increasingly visible. It was clear that the Buick V8 was chosen for the motorization, which would later also appear in the Rover P5B. The 3.5 liter engine that had just arrived at home was ideal for the design and usage philosophy of the car. Furthermore, one would use a ladder chassis, rigid axles, disc brakes all round and coil springs.
Permanent all-wheel drive
With the Land Rover, Rover had long proven to be able to build particularly off-road vehicles. However, the Range Rover received a significantly different application than the Land Rover. It had an engageable 4WD, the Range Rover had permanent four-wheel drive with a transfer box that allowed the correct gear ratios to be adjusted to the driving / terrain conditions. The permanent four-wheel drive - so King and Bashford thought - was necessary to manage the V8 engine's large driving forces and high torque.
Bache retouches and VELAR
Working with Rover's styling department, King and Bashford developed the body of the 100 ”station wagon, and that was really the foundation of what would become the final Range Rover. David Bache had been called in for this, and he refined the contours of King and Bashford. The Bache retouches were the basis for the production versions. Before the first production Range Rovers came off the production line, the project was extensively tested. The 26 copies drove their test rounds under the camouflage name VELAR. It not only stood for the Latin term "cover", but also for V Eight Land Rover.
Soon status symbol, hardly off-road
The testing period was excellent, and the Range Rover was fine-tuned in the run-up to production with the approval of parent British Leyland (now Rover owner). In 1969 the first Range Rover was built, in June 1970 the Range Rover got its official presentation. The three-door SUV - with that high body and the divisible tailgate - was appreciated. Candidates soon filled the waiting lists. Ultimately, it was the buyers who gave Rover an extra insight. They hardly used the car off-road, but praised the high seating position, the tough appearance, the driving capabilities and the new form of use. Thanks to buyers, the Range Rover did not become a luxury off-road vehicle, but a status symbol with the option to use it off-road.
And so the Range Rover itself defined the content and the size of its target group. Conceived and made by excellent constructors, and adopted by a different and wider buyer audience than previously thought. Because many a luxury sedan or station wagon driver was in the market for this 100 ”SUV
. It became the example for many manufacturers, who did not implement the Range Rover concept until years later, or rather the principles of a luxury SUV. And today the builders are also reaping a lot of benefits. And that is not least done by the producer of the Land Rover and Range Rover models. Also, because the original Range Rover is still considered an innovative style icon of its time.