The Collector is a weekly series produced in association with Gear Patrol, where we discuss the car, and Gear Patrol discusses the essential gear inspired by the car. (Click here to see the rest of The Collector Series on Petrolicious.)
Perhaps the highest praise that could possibly be paid to the iconic Land Rover, is that sixty-six years on, it remains in production (now the Land Rover Defender) and yet was only intended as a stop-gap product for Rover. Following World War II, Rover needed a vehicle that they could export and build in large enough numbers to utilize their highly-skilled workforce. When a new car proved too expensive to manufacture, with questionable exportability, Rover turned their attention to a vehicle that would be useful in agricultural settings (almost like a tractor) but could also function as transportation.
The Land Rover was the result. It used as many Rover parts as possible and featured simple (read: cheap to manufacture) bodywork to decrease cost. But the flat bodywork is appropriate to the spartan vehicle and its intended uses. As development continued, the Land Rover made concessions to its intended service as a road-going vehicle and in the process lost some of its more tractor-based accoutrements including a central driver's seat.
So how did the "stop-gap" Land Rover do? Well, in its first year it exceeded sales estimates by about sixty percent. It was effectively an instant hit. And while the first generation was criticized for having too short a wheelbase (making it tough to haul larger payloads), subsequent improvements have addressed its initial shortcomings. The fact that it remains in production and competitive in the segment is a tribute to its great design, a fact not lost on the UK's armed forces.
If you're shopping for one of these, there are many things to consider including its intended use. But if you're interested in originality and history, then the Series 1 is a must. After all, it spawned the brand and launched a segment in many countries, as well as helped countless farmers and adventurers, because it is one of the most capable vehicles in history.
Thank you to owner Jason Chamberlain for allowing us to photograph his 1955 Land Rover Series 1.
In 1956 Land Rover saw fit to improve upon their first attempt at a station wagon (made with an arcane wooden structure) by producing an all metal version, simply known as the “Station Wagon”. It came in two versions. One with three doors, an 86-inch chassis length and seating for seven. The second was even more impressive with five doors, a seriously long 107-inch chassis and capacity for ten people. Of course, if your nine friends who decide to tag along are looking for DVD entertainment, seat belts or cupholders, they’re better off waiting to get picked up in a Honda Odyssey. They just won’t feel quite as special.
Written by Amos Kwon of Gear Patrol