Friday, December 13, 2013
Today, everyone knows of the Range Rover series of vehicles and their capacity to be both highly comfortable and highly durable in all types of conditions. The numbers of models that have rolled out over the years escape count, and the process of design, innovation and redesign continues on unabashed.
But where exactly did the Range Rover phenomenon begin? What considerations drove the Land Rover Company to bring out a revolutionary leisure SUV, and what changes were made to suit technological, social and cultural developments? Read ahead for a quick history lesson about the still ongoing Range Rover journey!
The Land Rover company is an old establishment of the UK, having been around for many decades under different names and owners. The brand name ‘Land Rover’ was first used in 1948, and during the 1950’s the reinvigorated Land Rover company began to consider the viability of introducing a classy ‘Range Rover’ type vehicle into the general market.
The idea was pursued with the belief that the car would be called a ‘Road Rover’, but during the 1950’s the project lost momentum and was put on hold for some time. It wasn’t until 1970 that the first, newly named “Range Rover’ was developed by engineers Spencer King and Gordon Bashford, using the potent but relatively light V8 engine and a large, bulky chassis for strength and durability.
This version of the car was only an experimental prototype however, and few members of the public were able to drive it or even knew what it was. The model had covered seats, seatbelts and tinted windows, and was essentially a bread-and-butter type vehicle. It would be a number of years before members of the public got access to the Range Rover en masse, and in that time the design of the vehicle changed considerably.
1980s to early 1990s
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s in the UK, the Range Rover underwent several major revisions and was updated so suit changing customer needs and new technological innovations. Over time, different phases of Range Rover were introduced that included such groundbreaking technologies as automatic windows, small but powerful front headlights, improved seatbelt systems and three speed manual transmission systems.
Between 1983 and 1984, the gear box of the Range Rover was increased from four to five gear shift options, while central locking systems on the car were first introduced and then improved on.
Throughout the late 1980s to 1990, more changes came in the introduction of cassette speaker systems into the Range Rovers, along with heated mirrors, arm rests for the seats, and the introduction of a six-figure odometer. At the same time as all these changes to the Range Rover were being implemented, public interest in buying the vehicle was increasing substantially, and faith in the design features, comfort and reliability of the Range Rover grew with each technological improvement.
Mid 1990s to now
The 1990s saw, among other things, the introduction of power steering to the Range Rover models, and makes such as the Mk1 Series III featured improved central locking systems, suspension features and radio/audio playing capacity. From 1995 until 2002, the Mk2 featured as the flagship of Land Rover in its SUV series and it made some dramatic changes in terms of being larger, plusher and more designed for the needs of middle-class workers than the series’ traditional farming demographic.
The style and comfort of the Mk2 marked a noticeable change in who Land Rover saw as being its key target markets, and although office workers and non-labouring types became more amenable to the vehicle, it nonetheless retained its capacity to assist in performing labour-intensive tasks.
After the Mk2, from 2002 until 2013 we witnessed the unveiling of the Mk3 Range Rover, which was the first release of Land Rover following its takeover by German car giant BMW. The Mk3 went even further down the part of its predecessor, incorporating a smaller engine for want of more comfort and luxury in line with BMW’s guiding philosophy at the time.
This compromise of power for style was corrected with the penultimate generation of Range Rovers that came out only a few years ago, which while remaining comfortable and luxurious also incorporated powerful, turbo-charged V8 engines to beef up the performance of the vehicle in line with its original image and reputation.
Finally, during 2013, new Range Rover models have been redesigned once more to be able to bear and tow greater amounts of weight then before, are in most configurations fitted with highly powerful engines, and are designed so that the weight is evenly proportioned across the top and bottom of the vehicle to improve overall driver control.
So as we can see, the changes and evolutions of the Range Rover series overtime have been many and varied, with some features appealing to specific target groups identified by Land Rover. Overall though, the quality and popularity of the vehicle has withstood the test of time, and people all across the UK, Australia and beyond put faith in Range Rover models being high in quality, high in class and high in work performance.
Sally Bradley is a writer who has a particular love for the unique design and legacy of Range Rover 4WDs. She plans to buy one for herself someday, after saving up some cash!