Classic Range Rover

purely to highlight the potential...

In time, further engineering prototypes were constructed, which showcased the car-like long-travel suspension and allowed back-to-back trials with regular Land Rovers. And by that stage, everyone in the company who had sampled il knew thai King was on to something.

the development

Developing the Range Rover was a process entirely reliant on the brilliance of King, plus fellow engineers Geoff Miller, Gordon Bashford and Land Rover genius Tom Barton - the latter also strongly against the idea of coil springs until he tried Kings prototype and thereafter committed himself totally to the project.

Only with such commitment would the new model emerge. And although it's barely believable nowadays, just ten proper prototypes were built prior to the start of production. The styling, though, was virtually determined right from the beginning, largely influenced by Kings initial development hack. The canny engineer had ensured the design department had given him their absolute must-haves when creating the test cars, which would make shaping llie pioducliun vehicles a whole lot easier.

Land Rover stalwart Roger Crawthorne was charged with much of the initial development work, and early on it was decided to make the new vchiclc a permanent four-wheel drive. But as King was determined not to use the heavy axles favoured by Barloii, a way had lo be found lo besL distribute the load between them - and an equal drive split was the obvious answer, made possible through a smart centre differential.

Endowing the new model with permanent all-wheel drive would also give it an important image boost over the standard Land Rover models, which at that stage didn't have this feature (despite having done so in their earlier years). It would be a real coup for what was to become the Range Rover, as it gave the development team a chance to create a vehicle of unrivalled ability.

Initially, converted 88-inch Land Rovers were used for testing, before the company switched to the legendary 'Velar cars - identical to the production Range Rover in all but name, and even wearing 'Velar' badges to confuse any passing photographers. And all were exhaustively driven, with Crawthorne achieving miracles in developing a model for worldwide consumption, with the kind of abilities no Land

Rover had ever achieved before.

With the testing under way - at such diverse destinations as Eastnor Castle and North Africa - chief designer David Bache was working on turning the design from engineering prototype into production reality. Thanks to King's foresight, however, this was a swift process that saw amazingly few fundamental changes made to the hard-wrorked development hacks.

Such fortune, coupled with the committed team, proved imperative as production neared: Rover was by now owned by British Leyland, which was so wowed by the new model, management wanted it on sale as soon as possible. Or, preferably, yesterday. No problem, said the engineers: just don't expect cold weather testing to be complete until a year after the Range Rover has gone on sale...

So rapid was the entire process, prototype number 11 actually came off the production line for real, and that's the car that's now on display at the Heritage Moior Centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire. In short, its construction signalled the production birth of the Range Rover.

the significance

For so many reasons, the Range Rover was a momentous new model, being swift, comfortable, classy, good looking and genuinely unlike anything else on the roads of Britain at the time. Those who had lost faith in British cars were thrilled; coming at the turn of the decade, il was a greal way lo start llie 1970s full of hope.

Adoption of the ex-GM V8 engine ensured the Range Rover had a decent turn of speed t J.

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