The iconic mud plugging hero celebrates 50 long successful years today but the Range Rover we dreamt of half a century ago is a far cry from the swanky ‘head-turning’ workhorse we can barely afford nowadays.
17 June 1970 saw the original 2-door luxury SUV with its raunchy lightweight aluminium V8 engine, permanent 4WD and all-round disc brakes. Its compelling blend of design, refinement and engineering innovation was indeed a breath of ‘not so fresh air’ but the public fell in love instantly.
Over its 50 year lifespan, the Range Rover has achieved many world firsts and completed numerous impressive feats. It was the first SUV to feature a permanent 4WD system when it was launched, and in 1989 was the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes.
Later in 1992, it became the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC) and the now troublesome automatic electronic air suspension. In 2012, the latest generation Range Rover became the world’s first SUV to feature all-aluminium lightweight construction, making it lighter, stronger and more efficient.
It even managed to cross the notorious ‘Darien Gap’ and was the first vehicle to ever be displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, and has even won the Paris-Dakar rally – twice. No other vehicle combines the levels of luxury, comfort and sophistication with off-road capability and on-road performance like Range Rover.
With its ‘clamshell’ bonnet, distinctive floating roof, split tailgate and trademark front fender vents, the Range Rover of today can still trace its roots back to the 1970 original. In its golden anniversary year, it is now the most efficient, connected, luxurious and capable yet.
Long gone are those nostalgic days a classic enthusiastic ‘fettler’ could rattle their exuberant spanner’s and save a few quid servicing the workhorse – enter the new era.
Range Rover Fifty
To celebrate 50 years of a motoring icon status, the limited-run Range Rover Fifty will be restricted to just 1,970 vehicles globally, in recognition of the year the original Range Rover was launched.
Building on the luxuriously appointed Autobiography, the Range Rover Fifty features a number of bespoke exterior accents in Auric Atlas as well as two unique 22-inch wheel designs. The badging features a ‘Fifty’ script created personally by Prof Gerry McGovern OBE, Land Rover’s Chief Creative Officer, which will appear on the exterior of the vehicle and throughout the interior on the unique “1 of 1970” centre console commissioning plaque, headrests, dashboard and illuminated treadplates.
Prof Gerry McGovern OBE, Land Rover Chief Creative Officer, said:
“In the world of luxury vehicles, the Range Rover has always stood apart as peerless and enduring. Its unique and pioneering sensibilities together with an unrivalled engineering approach have been the intrinsic values which our customers have admired since the first of the breed was revealed in 1970.”
1967 Development begins on the ‘100-inch Station Wagon’ – the first Range Rover prototype, on 6 September 1967
1969 Prototypes wear the name ‘Velar’ in an effort to hide the Range Rover’s identity – the name is made up of letters from production-ready badges for the ‘Alvis’ and ‘Rover’ marques though is derived from the Latin ‘velare’ meaning to veil or cover
1970 Two-door Range Rover launches on 17 June – it features a lightweight aluminium V8 engine, permanent 4WD and all-round disc brakes
1971 Range Rover becomes the first vehicle to be displayed at the Louvre museum in Paris, applauded for its ‘exemplary work of industrial design’ – the production model is displayed in the entrance while a ¼ scale model is exhibited inside
1971 Range Rover receives the RAC Dewar award for outstanding technical achievement
1972 The Range Rover is the first vehicle to cross the length of the Americas, including the Darién Gap, an 18,000-mile British Army Trans-America expedition, taking 99 days to cover 250 miles of dense jungle
1974 Range Rover completes the west to east Sahara desert expedition – 7,500 miles in
1977 A modified Range Rover wins the 4×4 class in the London-Sydney Marathon, a gruelling 30,000 km (18,750 miles) event and the longest ever speed-based car rally
1979 A specially modified Range Rover wins the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally (a Range Rover wins again in 1981)
1981 First production four-door is launched – based on a conversion by Swiss company Monteverdi
1981 First factory-produced limited edition Range Rover – the ‘In Vogue’ – is produced, heralding Range Rover’s evolution into a luxury vehicle; the name (Vogue) is later adopted for the top of the range variants
1982 Range Rover production reaches 100,000
1982 The option of automatic transmission is introduced on Range Rover
1982 Specially-commissioned Range Rover is manufactured for Pope John Paul II’s visit to
1983 Range Rover five-speed manual gearbox is introduced
1984 Following the success of the ‘In Vogue’ LE, the Range Rover Vogue is introduced as top of the model’s line-up
1985 The diesel-powered Range Rover ‘Beaver Bullet’ breaks 27-speed records, including a diesel record for averaging more than 100mph for 24 hours
1986 First diesel Range Rover is introduced – a 2.4-litre turbo-charged VM engine; front spoiler added to all except Turbo Diesel variants
1987 Range Rover launches in North America
1988 A Borg-Warner chain-driven transfer box with a viscous coupled centre differential is introduced into the Range Rover’s driveline, providing a significant improvement to the vehicle’s refinement and reinforcing its luxury credentials
1989 Range Rover is the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes, the first in the world designed for optimum performance off- as well as on-road
1989 A caravan of expedition-ready Range Rovers traverse the most demanding portion of the Continental Drive in Colorado, USA which Land Rover christens the ‘Great Divide’
1990 To commemorate the end of the Range Rover two-door, a Limited Edition CSK – named after Range Rover Chief Designer Charles Spencer King (Spen), is launched (200 vehicles produced)
1992 Range Rover Classic is the world’s first 4×4 to be fitted with electronic traction control (ETC) and automatic electronic air suspension – two world firsts!
1992 LWB LSE (known as County LWB in the US) is launched with a drive-in Morocco to showcase the new model and demonstrate the automatic electronic air suspension technology
1993 The Autobiography designation is announced at the London Motor Show (introduced to customers in 1994), limited to 25 vehicles
1994 2nd generation Range Rover (P38A) is launched with a long-wheelbase chassis and re-styled semi-monocoque body plus upgraded electronic air suspension
1996 Range Rover Classic bows out after total production of 317,615 units (two-year production crossover with P38A)
1999 Land Rover creates the most luxurious Range Rover yet with the Limited Edition Range Rover Linley, inspired by furniture designer Lord Linley – only 10 vehicles priced at £100,000 are produced
2001 Third-generation Range Rover (L322) is launched with all-round independent air suspension, demonstrated with drive at RAF Kinloss, Skibo and Novar Estate
2002 Half-millionth Range Rover is built at the Solihull plant
2005 4.4-litre V8 and 4.2-litre V8 supercharged petrol engines added
2005 Second model line – the Range Rover Sport – is launched
2006 Terrain Response® and TDV8 diesel are introduced to the Range Rover
2009 Range Rover features all-new LR-V8 5.0-litre and 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engines and world-first Adaptive Dynamics system to continually optimise body and ride control
2010 Range Rover celebrates its 40th anniversary
2010 Third model line – the Range Rover Evoque – is launched and creates a new vehicle segment, the luxury compact SUV
2011 The Range Rover Autobiography Ultimate Edition is revealed
2011 The new 313PS 4.4-litre LR-TDV8 is introduced to the Range Rover, offering a 14 per cent reduction in CO2 and an improvement in fuel consumption of 18.5 per cent
2012 Fourth-generation Range Rover (L405) is launched on 6 September at the Royal Ballet School, London – the world’s first all-aluminium SUV
2013 Range Rover introduces 340PS 3.0-litre LR-V6 supercharged petrol engine
2013 Second-generation Range Rover Sport (L494) is launched
2013 Range Rover Hybrid prototypes take on the epic Silk Trail to India, travelling 9,950 miles from Solihull to Mumbai as part of their final engineering sign-off
2013 The first Range Rover long wheelbase in 20 years is launched in addition to an exclusive specification – the Range Rover Autobiography Black
2014 A fleet of Range Rovers and a Range Rover Classic travel nearly 1,000 miles along a portion of the original Great Divide route to celebrate 25 years since the expedition
2014 Long-wheelbase Range Rover Hybrid makes its world debut in China
2014 The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport showcase a world-first innovation – All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) and also get Head-Up Display
2015 The 21st anniversary of the Autobiography designation – the pinnacle of the Range Rover model line-up
2015 The most powerful production Range Rover ever debuts at the New York Auto Show – the Range Rover SVAutobiography boasts a 550PS V8 supercharged engine and celebrates 21 years of the Autobiography name
2015 Six millionth production Land Rover is a Range Rover Long Wheelbase Vogue SE and celebrates 45 years of Range Rover
2015 A hybrid-powered Range Rover State Review is used for the first time by Her Majesty The Queen, replacing the previous Range Rover State Review vehicle from 2002
2015 A Range Rover is driven across a specially-commissioned freestanding paper bridge in Suzhou, China – spanning five metres, it is constructed without any glue or bolts
2016 A Range Rover Autobiography tows Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo at its reveal and naming ceremony at the Mojave Air and Space Port, California
2016 Advanced Tow Assist and Intelligent Speed Limiter launch
2017 New Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic; a more driver-focused Range Rover, lowered by 8mm with a powerful 550PS 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine
2017 Land Rover Classic announces ‘Range Rover Reborn’, a new programme providing the unique opportunity to purchase an original and highly collectable two-door Range Rover direct from the original manufacturer
2017 Range Rover Sentinel is announced, based on the Autobiography but designed to withstand penetration by 7.62mm high-velocity incendiary bullets (later version revealed in 2019)
2017 Fourth model line – the Range Rover Velar – is launched
2017 Range Rover P400e PHEV is revealed at the London Design Museum
2017 Range Rover SVAutobiography Long Wheelbase is revealed at LA Auto Show, available with the new PHEV driveline and also an uprated 565PS V8 Supercharged petrol engine
2018 A new 275PS 3.0-litre twin-turbo SDV6 diesel engine replaces the TDV6 3.0-litre unit
2018 Second-generation Range Rover Evoque is launched
2020 Range Rover gets 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and MHEV powertrain, as well as the Range Rover Fifty special edition