Land Rover Timeline

  • 1860s   J.K. Starley sets up business in Coventry.
    Starley starts to manufacture sewing machines in the Coventry area.
  • 1884   Rover 'Safety' cycles are introduced.
    Starley introduces early tricycles and bicycles, using the name 'Rover' for the very first time. The Rover 'Safety' tricycle is followed by the Rover 'Safety' bicycle. The Rover 'Safety' was a forerunner of the modern pedal bicycle, and the name 'Rover' continues to mean 'bike' in Poland.
  • 1888   Rover Electric Carriage developed.
    Starley creates Coventry's first 'car' - an electric tricycle which is never developed beyond the prototype stage.
  • 1896   Company becomes Rover Cycle Company Limited.
    The Rover name is well established, and the company is renamed.
  • 1904   Rover stars to build its first car.
  • 1906   Production switches to cars only.
    Bicycle production stops, and the company is renamed to Rover Company Limited.
  • 1920s-30s   Growth and Depression.
    By 1920, Rover has established itself as one of Britain's important car manufacturers. Growth levelled out during the 1920s, and Rover suffers badly from the Depression in the 1930s.
  • 1933   Spencer Wilks becomes Managing Director.
    Wilks starts to turn Rover around, and specialised in the production of prestige vehicles. Wilks also introduced a variety of systems to reduce work-in-progress - a forerunner of modern operations management principles. Spencer Wilks also appoints his brother, Maurice, to the design department.
  • 1937-1945   Rover factories work on War Effort.
    The Rover factories at Acocks Green and Solihull become a part of the Government's Shadow Factories scheme and build a variety of war parts including engines for aircraft and tanks. After the end of World War 2, demand continues for the Rolls Royce V12 Meteor tank engines, which continue to be manufactured at Acocks Green. Solihull begins to prepare to manufacture cars again with plans to manufacture 20,000 cars per year. With a war-crippled economy, the Government demands products for exports and continues to control steel allocations due to short supplies. Rover is forced to drop their ambitious plans.
  • 1946   Maurice Wilks' Jeep needs replacing.
    Maurice Wilks had a farm on Anglesey that made use of a beaten-up war surplus Willys Jeep. He found this Jeep useful for a variety of practical farm uses. Nearing the end of its life, Maurice was considering a replacement. No British alternative existed, and parts for a new Willys Jeep were hard to get at that time. What spares were available, had to be purchased as bulk war surplus stock. This problem identified a gap in the market for a farm vehicle that was smaller than a tractor but was more versatile, and was rugged without being cumbersome.
  • September 1947   The 'Land Rover' project was made official.
    Board Meeting minutes describe it as "the all-purpose vehicle on the lines of the Willys-Overland post-war Jeep was the most desirable" using the P3 engine, gearbox, and back axle.
    In reality the first prototypes were already running, with design work starting in spring 1947.
  • April 1948   Land Rover appears at Amsterdam Motor Show.
    Development of the Land Rover progressed quickly. The P6 engine proved to be too small, and a 1.6 litre engine is fitted instead. Two prototype 80-inch wheelbase Land Rovers are exhibited at the Amsterdam Motor Show. The new vehicle is greeted with enthusiasm, and was eaten up by the motoring press.
  • 1951   Land Rovers out-sell all other Rover vehicles 2 to 1.
  • 1954   86" and 107" Land Rovers introduced.
    During the 1950s, the wheelbase expands to 86" and larger engines are fitted. A long wheelbase 107" vehicle is introduced with a station wagon body. A diesel option is also introduced at about the same time.
  • 1958   Series II introduced.
    The Series II introduces the familiar barrel-sided body to the Land Rover range. The 4 cylinder 2,286cc engine is also introduced. Wheelbase options are 88in and 109in. Synchromesh is added to the top two gears.
  • 1961   Series IIA is introduced.
    This provided a diesel engine with a 2,286cc capacity to match the petrol option.
  • 1962   12-seater Station Wagon, and Series IIA Forward Control introduced.
    A 12-seater station wagon body is introduced for tax reasons. Fitting 12 adults into this vehicle was a tight squeeze.
    The first Forward Control vehicle is introduced. Intended as a robust load carrier, this positioned the cab above the engine.
  • 1966   Series IIB Forward Control is introduced.
    Due to required chassis strengthening, the IIA Forward Control is too heavy for the 4 cylinder petrol engine; and a 6 cylinder petrol engine is fitted. Heavy duty axles and larger tyres are also fitted. A diesel option was also available. The 6 cylinder petrol engine becomes an option on the standard 109" Land Rover from 1967.
  • 1967   Rover and Leyland merge.
    Rover and Leyland merge, with Leyland becoming the majority partner.
  • 1968   1 ton model introduced.
    Heavy duty '1 ton' version of the standard Series IIA 109" (3/4 ton) is introduced.
  • 1970   Range Rover launched.
    The Range Rover improves on the off-road capabilities of the Land Rover, whilst introducing the comforts and styling normally found on cars. Coil springs are introduced for the first time.
  • 1971   Series III launched.
    Replacing the Series IIA, the Series III included a number of refinements such as synchromesh on all high-box gears. Externally, it looks very similar to the classic IIA except for the grille and headlights.
  • 1972   Forward Control 101"
    A V8-powered Forward Control is introduced and sells well to the military. Unfortunately, it proves too utilitarian for civilian markets, and it remains a military-only vehicle.
  • 1976   One Millionth Land Rover is produced.
  • 1979   Stage One 109" V8 introduced.
    A new development programme begins to bear fruit with a V8-engined 109" Land Rover dubbed the "Stage One". Essentially a Series III, this had a grille flush with the wings to allow room for the larger engine.
  • 1983-84   90" and 110" vehicles launched.
    The venerable Series III is replaced by the 90" (1984) and 110" (1983) Land Rovers. These introduce modern styling, and coil springs. A 130in extra-long wheelbase version is also produced.
  • 1988  British Aerospace take over the Rover Group.
  • 1990  Discovery launched.
    The Discovery was aimed at the new family 4x4 market, but still had enviable off-road abilities.
  • 1990   90" and 110" vehicles rebranded as 'Defender'.
    In parallel to the launch of the Discovery, the 90" and 110" Land Rovers are rebranded under the 'Defender' name to reflect their use be defence forces. Rebranding is accompanied with a new 200TDi diesel engine option, with the 300TDi option following in 1993.
  • 1994  British Aerospace sell the Rover Group to BMW.
  • 1994  New Shape P38 Range Rover introduced.
    The Range Rover is completely re-modelled. The modern P38 Range Rover is aimed more at the on-road luxury SUV market, but is still a good off-road performer - unlike the bulk the competition.
  • 1996  Classic Range Rover ceases production.
    Production of the 'Classic' Range Rover continued in parallel to the P38, but finally cease in 1996.
  • 1997  Freelander introduced.
    The much rumoured CB40 project is revealed to the press as the Freelander. Designed to compete against small 4x4s such as the Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4, the Freelander departed from standard Land Rover design technologies, with a monocoque body and independent strut suspension. The Freelander quickly becomes Europe's best selling 4x4.
  • 1998  Discovery Series 2 launched.
    Remodelled Discovery Series 2, codename 'Tempest' is launched.
  • 2000  BMW sell Land Rover to Ford.
    BMW splits the Rover Group into two, selling Land Rover to Ford. The car division is sold to the British Phoenix management group.
  • 2002  Range Rover Mk III launched.
    The second major redesign of the Range Rover, is launched.
  • 2004  Discovery 3 launched.
    Discovery 3 is launched with a significant re-styling.