1970 Range Rover Classic (Generation 1), 1970 Publicity Image, handout, Wales1970
The earliest Range Rover was relatively primitive but the idea of a luxury 4x4 grabbed the public's imagination - there was nothing else like it when it went on sale on June 17, 1970

There is a select group of British cars that are instantly recognisable for their silhouettes alone; the Morris Minor, the Mini, the Jaguar E-Type – and the Range Rover. These are the vehicles that merit that much-abused word “iconic”, although Rover’s head of new vehicle projects, Spen King, claimed that the design for a new 4x4 was merely a stopgap. 

三级成人视频Yet the Louvre museum in Paris described the result of his collaboration with the engineer Gordon Bashford as an “outstanding piece of modern sculpture”.

And 50 years ago, the idea of a luxury off-roader that was capable of 91mph on the road was science fiction to the average Briton. At that time, countless drivers associated the term four-wheel drive with the original, Second World Jeep-like Land-Rover of 1948三级成人视频, which was never renowned for its creature comforts. 

Many drivers would also have experienced the Austin Champ, a 4x4 vehicle so Spartan as to lack doors, during their National Service. By contrast, the new Range Rover featured a heater, a clock and well-upholstered seats at a time when the utilitarian Land-Rover was devoid of winding windows.

Work of art: the Range Rover Mk1 on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris

Nor did the Range Rover have any direct rivals in 1970. The only other upmarket British car with four-wheel drive was the Jensen FF, but that was a Grand Tourer for the jet-set. The Toyota Land Cruiser off-roader was not yet sold in the UK while the debut of Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, which was based on a German army 4x4, lay nine years in the future. There was also the option of importing a Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer (the forerunner of the Jeep Grand Cherokee) from the US, but that might incur the risk of being perceived as “somewhat naff” by one’s peers. 

Solihull-based Land Rover had considered a “Road-Rover” to complement its rugged 4x4 as early as 1951, and by 1964 it gave serious thought to a new off-roader that would compete with the likes of the Ford Bronco in the US export market. The “100-inch Station Wagon” (the figure denoting the wheelbase) would feature a box-section chassis, permanently engaged four-wheel-drive and the V8 engine that Rover had acquired from General Motors. On December 18 in 1968, management formally approved the name Range Rover after rejecting Land Rover Ranger.

Not only was the Range Rover an accomplished off-roader, it provided comfortable road transport too Credit: Nick Dimbleby

The great stylist David Bache undertook some refinements of the Bashford/Snell bodywork, including the grille and enhancing the horizontal crease line along the side of the car. Rover constructed several prototypes, and test cars wore badges reading Velar to deter curiosity of the media. Land Rover subsequently used this name for a modern SUV launched in 2017.

One such prototype Range Rover, registered YVB 151H, belongs to , the world’s largest collection of historically important Land Rovers. 

This is one of the original press launch cars from 1970, now residing in the magnificent Dunsfold Collection of significant Land Rovers

On June 1, 1970 British Leyland invited the press to a trial at the Meudon Hotel in Cornwall. BL had spent so much on launching the Triumph Stag earlier that year it had limited funds for the Range Rover’s promotion. 

Sales commenced on June 17, with prices from £1,998 (today, the cheapest Range Rover will set you back £83,655). Autocar三级成人视频 magazine raved: “What is so good about the Range Rover is the way it carries out its multiple functions, serving equally well as tug, load carrier, cross-country vehicle and, by no means least, as an ordinary car suitable even for commuting in heavy traffic.”

One of the 1969 Range Rover prototypes testing in Morocco

Within months, the waiting list for the Range Rover prompted a black market in new models. The brochure referred to the “seven-days-a-week luxury motor car for all business and domestic purposes”, an image that was emphasised by a guest appearance in The Persuaders!, when in the episode The Morning After Roger Moore and Tony Curtis took part in .

Traffic policing further raised the profile of the Range Rover, and by 1971 it was employed by the forces of Cheshire, Kent, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

Traffic police helped raise the car's profile, especially in rural areas Credit: Mrs M Laing/Shutterstock

In 1976 Car magazine had not “found a vehicle to challenge the Range Rover” while observing the Land Cruiser from Japan was “a nasty piece of work”. 

Such plaudits were despite BL’s neglect and lack of development funding; James Taylor points out in Range Rover First Generation: The Complete Story how Leyland undertook modifications “only when necessary”. It was aftermarket firms that devised many improvements, including four-door versions. As early as 1968 Rover’s sales team regarded the car’s two-door configuration as “a tragedy” but Leyland would not rectify this issue until 1981.

In short, a true classic. Land Rover now restores and sells Mk1s

February 1996 marked the demise of what had become known as the Range Rover Classic, following the launch of the second-generation Range Rover two years earlier, by which time some examples resembled a mobile gin palace. Many enthusiasts prefer the unadorned simplicity of those first models to a “Chelsea tractor” that never ventured off the tarmac.

In the words of that Car article of 44 years ago: “It really is just as happy in the deep mire of a forest as in the King’s Road.” And, to quote Motor magazine of 1975: “It isn’t perfect, but there are so few cars which even begin to compete. We love it!”

Thanks to Gary Pusey and

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