The Prototype Road Rover Ahead Of Its Time

It is difficult to count the ways that the Range Rover astonished people following its launch in 1969, to the point that its slogan of “A Car for All Reasons” was not mere marketing but a sign of its universal appeal.

It effectively invented the modern market for sports utility vehicles, and engine rebuilds of the long-lasting classic models remain hugely popular to this day, given that it was better on the road than most saloon cars and good enough off of it to win the fearsome Paris-Dakar Rally in 1979.

In some respects, the success of the Range Rover away from agricultural and industrial use was surprising, but the intention to create a car suitable for families and aristocrats began almost as early as the launch of the original Jeep-like Land Rover in 1948.

The Rover Company, up until this point far better known for a line of executive saloon cars that understandably sold badly immediately after the Second World War, were happy about the Land Rover’s success but believed that as soon as the economy improved, people would stop buying the decidedly spartan Land Rover.

This turned out not to be true, but the idea of creating a more comfortable road-appropriate version of the Land Rover was nonetheless a very good idea.

The first attempt, the 80-inch Station Wagon, was sold in 1948, but with just 641 units produced it was a tremendous, costly failure that was expensive to buy due to its classification as a car rather than a commercial vehicle.

However, in 1951, they tried again with the Road Rover, a Land Rover-styled car that used the Rover P4 chassis and rear-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive.

The success of the Land Rover meant that progress was slow, but by 1955, a Series II-based Road Rover was prototyped, looking far more like an estate car and far closer to what the eventual 1969 Range Rover would look like.

However, 1955 sales forecasts, the prototype’s complexity, and concerns about reputation and competition both within and outside of Rover would delay the model for decades, although this would serendipitously mean they had access to the powerful Rover V8 engine

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