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Little Classics Feature: 17 June 2015

45 Years of the Iconic Range Rover

Range Rover launch Cornwall 1970

The iconic go-anywhere Range Rover, which set new standards of luxury for off-roaders, celebrates its 45th birthday today (17th June). So now in its fourth generation and with the classic versions becoming more and more collectable, we take a look back at how it all started.

Range Rover Launch Cornwall 1970

Over the last 45 years Range Rover has delivered a series of industry firsts as it has evolved into the car we know today. In fact the original Classic model was cited as an ‘exemplary work of industrial design’ when it became the first vehicle to be displayed at the world famous Louvre museum in Paris.

Range Rover Launch 1970

The Range Rover story began in the Sixties as Land Rover looked to revolutionise the growing 4x4 leisure market. Production of the first prototype began in 1966 and the finished car was launched to critical acclaim in Cornwall, in 1970 (above).

Range Rover Classic launch

The first generation model, now known as the Classic and originally only available as a two-door, went on sale in 1970 featuring a lightweight aluminium V8 engine, full-time four-wheel drive and all-round disc brakes. Numerous variants and upgrades were introduced during its 25-year lifespan including the addition of a four-door model in 1981 and an automatic gearbox in 1982.

Range Rover classic

Innovations continued at a pace. The first diesel Range Rover arrived in 1986 and in 1989 it became the world’s first 4x4 to feature anti-lock brakes. Then in 1992 it celebrated another SUV first with the introduction of Electronic Traction Control and automatic electronic air suspension.

Range Rover 1970 classic

The Range Rover’s reputation for unrivalled all-terrain capability was cemented by a number of high-profile endurance tests. In 1972 it became the first vehicle to complete an 18,000-mile Trans-America expedition, staged by the British Army, which included the perilous crossing of the Darien Gap in South America. This was followed in 1974 by the successful completion of an epic 7,500-mile trek across the Sahara Desert in 100 days.

Range Rover classic off-road

This reputation was enhanced with victory in the 4x4 class of the 18,750-mile London-Sydney marathon in 1977 and by winning the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally in 1979. Then, in 1985, the diesel-powered Range Rover ‘Bullet’ broke 27 speed records.

The second-generation Range Rover or P38a – so named because it was developed in building 38A in the Solihull factory – arrived in 1994 delivering an even more luxurious interior, greater on-road ability and off-road capability. Since that point, the third generation (L322), launched in 2001, and the fourth generation (L405), launched in 2012, have continued to push the car further in both capability and refinement.

Range Rover Four Generations

Timeline – A Brief History

1966: Work began on the first Range Rover prototype, known as the '100-inch station wagon'

1970: The original two-door Range Rover – known as the Classic – goes on sale

1971: Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical achievement

1972: The Range Rover is the first vehicle to cross the Darien Gap on a British Army Trans America expedition

1974: Range Rover completes west to east Sahara desert expedition – 7,500 miles in 100 days

1977: A modified Range Rover wins the 4x4 class in the London-Sydney Marathon, a gruelling 30,000 km (18,750 miles) event and the longest ever speed-based car rally

1979: A specially modified Range Rover wins the first Paris-Dakar rally (a Range Rover wins again in 1981)

1981: First production four-door Range Rover appears along with the first factory produced limited-edition Range Rover – the 'In Vogue'

1982: Automatic transmission becomes available on Range Rover

1983: Range Rover 5-speed manual gearbox is introduced

1985: The diesel-powered Range Rover 'Bullet' breaks 27 speed records, including a diesel record for averaging more than 100mph for 24 hours

1987: Range Rover launched in North America

1989: Range Rover is the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes

1990: Limited Edition CSK – named after founder Charles Spencer King – is launched as a sportier Range Rover

1992: Range Rover Classic is the world's first 4x4 to be fitted with Electronic Traction Control

1992: Long-wheelbase LSE (known as County LWB in the US) launched

1992: Automatic electronic air suspension introduced, a world first for a 4x4

1994: Second-generation (P38a) Range Rover launched

1996: Range Rover Classic bows out after total production of 317,615 units

1999: Limited Edition Range Rover Linley appears at London Motor Show

2001: Third-generation (L322) Range Rover launched

2002: Half-millionth Range Rover produced at the Solihull plant

2005: Second model line – the Range Rover Sport – launched

2006: Terrain Response and TDV8 diesel introduced

2009: Range Rover features all-new 5.0-litre V8 and 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engines

2010: Range Rover celebrates its 40th anniversary,

2011: Third model line – the Range Rover Evoque – goes on sale

2012: Fourth-generation (L405) Range Rover launched - the world’s first all-aluminium SUV

2013: Long-wheelbase Autobiography Black Edition unveiled at the Los Angeles Motor Show

2014: Long-wheelbase Range Rover Hybrid makes its world debut in China

2015: Range Rover SV Autobiography launched at New York International Auto Show. 6,000,000th Land Rover produced is a Range Rover LWB SE Vogue destined for China. Autobiography designation used to identify flagship models celebrates 21st anniversary


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