Some ground breaking ideas have to bide their time before being launched. Plans for a ‘Road Rover’ had been kicked around at Land Rover since the end of the 1840s. They progressed from putting a station wagon body on early Land Rovers to a custom designed three door estate. But in the early 1860s, a Land Rover market researcher in the USA uncovered a developing market for 4×4 leisure vehicles. In 1986 the project known as the ‘100in, Station Wagon got under way. A number of coincidences directed its development into a unique vehicle, including its arrival in the time to take advantage of Rover’s Powerful new GM derived V8 engine. This meant the car had to have permanent four wheel drive (unlike the standard Land Rovers) to divide the power between the front and rear axles, a move which helped to create its unique driving characteristics. The remarkable stylings also come about by near accident. Engineering chief Spen King created his own razor edged prototype, which Rover Stylist David Bache then cleaned up with some very subtle surface treatments. The result was a timelessly classic shape. The Range Rover was launched in 1970 and soon became a status symbol, as well as a ruggedly useful tool. More than anything, drivers loved the elevated driving position.
Development was slow, Land Rover taking many years to develop a five door model, and the crude dashboard was only replaced in the last two years of the car’s life. But it also became more and more luxurious as it established itself as a rival to executive cars, and it became very popular in the USA and the Middle East. However, it was plagued by unreliability, a result of under investment in the basic concept.