Announced in 1948, the Land Rover was devised by the Rover Car Company as a low volume workhorse for rural use, a multipurpose, four wheel drive vehicle cast in the mould of the wartime Jeep. Rover thought they might sell 50 a week, yet, within a year, they were making more Land Rovers than Rover cars with 70 percent of the output going abroad. The first ‘Land Rover’ prototype was a cross between a car and a tractor, with its single, central seat and no roof. The Rover board, sensing a winner, gave it the go ahead in September 1947 and, within a year, pilot production models had been built; it was formally launched at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show, priced at $500. Power came from a four cylinder 1.6 liter engine from the Rover 60 car, and the bodywork of the Land Rover was made almost entirely from aluminium. This was more rust resistant and also somewhat easier to obtain. At first the Land Rover had a curious four wheel drive system with no central differential and a free wheeling device in the front section of the drive to reduce tyre scrub. This was fine for going up hills, but not so good for coming down, where the wheels were turning at different speeds.
In 1950 a cure was provided by a dogleg clutch, giving the driver two or four wheel drive. Putting the Land Rover into production required little investment because it used so many off the shelf parts. The only major Land Rover item for which Rover had to ‘tool up’ was the power transfer box. By 1954, 100, 000 examples had been built.