The book “Calculus Affair” starts with a bang. Lot of thunder and lightening and things breaking in hands, especially the whiskey glasses of Captain Haddock and Joylon Wagg, from the Rock Bottom Insurance company. Tintin and Captain Haddock heard gunshots. When Prof Calculus came home from his walk they found bullet holes in his hat, the Prof was obviously oblivious of the fact. A body was found on the Marlinspike Estate and the Police was called. The Police came in a Land Rover Series 1, which was the vehicle of choice of many a law enforcement agencies.
The Land Rover Series 1 was manufactured by the British Company Rover. These vehicles were inspired by the Willys Jeep. Rover was a luxury car maker before war. However, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, there was hardly any demand for such cars. Further, the government was rationing material to companies that built construction and industrial equipment. The Land Rover was conceived by the Chief Designer of Rover, Mr Maurice Wilks as a light agricultural and utility vehicle. There was a gap in the market between tractors which offered a power take off (PTO) and the Jeep which offered road mobility. Maurice Wilks attempted to fill this gap by adding a PTO to a vehicle which could be used on road. It was a cross between a Light Utility Truck and a tractor similar to the Unimog which was developed in Germany.
Incidentally the first prototypes had a steering wheel mounted in the center aka tractor, or later on the exotic McLaren F1. The body was made from an alloy of Aluminum and Magnesium because steel was rationed. The chassis was taken from a Jeep and the engine from the Rover P3. The Prototype had a PTO in the front, rear and centre and was even tested for ploughing fields. However, with progress of development, all the Jeep components were replaced and the ploughing and other field functions were removed while the steering was shifted to one side. The resultant vehicle did not use any Jeep components, it was shorter than the jeep but broader and heavier. The distinct shape of the vehicle was a result of the effort to minimise use of rationed material, ease of working with Aluminum and simple tooling in the factory. As the cheapest paint available was military surplus paint, initially these cars were mostly available in various shades of green.
Rover had designed the vehicle as an interim measure to sell and export them for improving cash flow before it went back to producing premium cars. The production was planned to be stopped after two to three years. However, the vehicle was such a success that it was branded as a separate brand. By 1951, Land Rovers were out-selling Rover road cars by a factor of two to one. Something that was not fully anticipated at launch, was the fact that the Land Rover was adaptable to a huge range of markets other than farmers. It was soon being used by police forces, armed services, building contractors, rescue services, electricity boards, and expeditions.Ironically, today the Land Rover brand survives while the Rover brand is long dead. In 1992, Land Rover had claimed that 70% of all Land Rovers ever built were still in use.
Coming to the Series 1. These cars were manufactured from 1948 to 1958. They were offered as:-
- 2-door Off Road Vehicles.
- 4-door Off Road Vehicles.
- 2-door Pickups.
All the above models were further offered in Short Wheel Base (80, 86 and 88 inches or 2032, 2184 and2235 mm) and Long Wheel Bases (107 and 109 inches or 2718 and 2769mm). These cars were offered with a number of engine options over the decade of production, these included a 1,593 cc (97.4 Cu-inch) inline 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 50 BHP at 4,000 rpm and 108 N-m (80 lb-ft) of Torque at 2,000 rpm. A 1,997 cc 4-cylinder inline petrol engine producing 52 BHP at 4,000 rpm and 137 N-m (101 lb-ft) of torques at 1,500 rpm. In the final years a 2,052 cc 4-cylinder inline diesel engine with Over Head Valves. These were one of the first high speed diesels produced for road use and generated 55 BHP at 3,500 rpm and 118 N-m (87 lb-ft) of torque at 2,000 rpm.
The power was generally transmitted to the rear wheels through a four speed Rover gearbox. However, the initial vehicles had a permanent four wheel drive with a free wheeling front wheel. Power was transmitted to the front wheel only in case of loss of grip in the rear wheels. Later models had a selectable four wheel drive with transfer case to provide all wheel drive capability with high and low gearing. They had a live front axle, with semi-elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers. The rear axle were also live and the suspension set was similar with semi-elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers. Stopping power was provided by drum brakes on all wheels.
Initially these cars were classified as commercial vehicles to escape purchase tax imposed on private vehicles. But this limited their maximum speed to 30 mph (48 km/h) on British Roads while they were capable of doing between 90 and 100 km/h depending on the engine option. However, in 1950 Land Rover was reclassified as a “Multi Purpose Vehicle” – the most favourite terminology in India. It was classified as a commercial vehicle only when used for commercial purposes. Land Rover attempted a Luxury SUV in 1949 called the Land Rover Tickford which had bodies built by Tickford Coach Builders who built bodies for Rolls Royce and Lagonda. They had bodies built on wooden frame, leather seats, heater and single piece laminated wind screen. However, they were not successful as they were taxed as private vehicles and the wood based bodies were very expensive.
The Series I was followed by the Series II and III vehicles before it was renamed as the Defender. Production of this series of Land Rovers was stopped in Feb 2016, 68 years after it was introduced.