Range Rover has been named one of the top British cars of all time by Classic & Sport Car magazine and it’s hard to argue with it.
But, how did Range Rover come to be?
In this article we take a look at the history of the SUV and 4×4 manufacturer, from its conception to the present day.
When was the first Range Rover built?
Range Rover is one of the youngest of the British marques and was launched in 1970.
However, the idea for a larger Land Rover Series first originated in 1951. It was shelved in 1958 and remained untouched until 1966 when engineers set to work on a new model.
The first Range Rover prototype was built in 1967 and finalised in 1969. The Range Rover had a different front grille and headlight configuration. In the year of 1969-1970, 26 Velar engineering development vehicles were built and road registered.
The name Velar comes from the Italian ‘velare’ which means to veil or cover. It was a Range Rover engineer that coined this name as a decoy when registering pre-production Range Rovers. There were about 40 of these pre-production Range Rovers and they are still accounted for.
But anyway, the Range Rover was launched in 1970 and was even shown in the Louvre in Paris as an “exemplary work of industrial design”. Not many cars you can say that about.
When was the British Trans-Americas Expedition?
In 1972, specifically modified Range Rovers were used for the British Trans-Americas Expedition. This was the first vehicle-based expedition to travel the Americas north-to-south.
These modified Range Rovers are now on display in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
When were Range Rovers sold in the USA?
Between the years of 1974 and 1987, Land Rover vehicles were only sold through the grey market.
A grey import vehicle is a vehicle that (either new or used) is legally imported from another country in a way other than through their official distribution system. The import of grey market vehicles (or parallel import) is actually largely banned in the United States now (and in Vietnam, but that’s a story for another day).
Anyway, Land Rover began selling Range Rovers officially in the US in March 1987. Because it was the only model available in the US, marketing was all in the name of Range Rover until 1993. It was in 1993 that the Defender 110 was launched and the launch of the Land Rover Discovery was imminent. After that the company was marketed under Land Rover Discovery.
The Range Rover Classic
Interestingly, the Range Rover was not meant to become a luxury vehicle. Compared to other SUV’s such as Jeep, the first Range Rover was fairly basic. Although more up-market than Land Rover, it was designed to be more convenient than to be a status symbol. For example, it had vinyl seats and a plastic dashboard that could be washed down easily. It also had power steering and permanent four-wheel drive.
The original Range Rover was powered by Rover V8 engines and diesel engines. They only introduced their own diesel engines in the Range Rover when they first launched the Range Rover Discovery.
When did BMW acquire Range Rover?
The second generation Range Rover was launched in 1994, and it was around this time that BMW bought the Rover Group, meaning they also acquired Land Rover and subsequently Range Rover.
It was because of this that the second generation Range Rover also came with an option of a BMW six-cylinder turbo diesel engine. The new model also came with more equipment and premium trims, signalling the start of Range Rovers venture into the more luxury SUV market. This also placed it above the Land Rover Discovery to compete with the growing SUV market.
It was also the first model to feature sat-nav as an optional extra.
The Third Generation Range Rover
The Third Generation Range Rover moved the marque even further up-market as it shared its components with the BMW 7 Series.
It also dropped the manual transmission, leaving only automatics available. However, the 7 Series electronic system was phased out during the development stages and instead it was replaced with the electronics from the BMW 5 Series.
When was Jaguar Land Rover Created?
Jaguar Land Rover is a subsidiary of automaker Tata Motors and was created in 2008. It’s main focus, as you can probably guess, was the production of Jaguars and Land Rovers (and Range Rovers).
The two marques came together under British Leyland first of all back in 1968 and then were both owned by BMW. Ford later acquired Land Rover after the Rover Group split.
While it hadn’t quite been plain sailing for either marque, after the formation of Jaguar Land Rover sales went from strength to strength despite the 2008 financial crash and the recession that followed.
When was the Range Rover Sport created?
Photos of the Range Rover Sport were released on November 2004. The new model was to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show during the same year.
The Range Rover Sport is a production car that stemmed from the Range Stormer concept vehicle. The Range Stormer was showcased at the same Auto Show in 2004. The Sport is actually an adapted Discovery, with Range Rover exterior and interior styling and a smaller luggage capacity.
It was priced at the upper end of the Discovery models but still became the best-selling model of the Land Rover products. Of course, this success has continued with the launch of their second version that was released in 2014.
When was the Range Rover Evoque created?
We couldn’t write an article on the history of Range Rover without mentioning the Range Rover Evoque. A popular sight on British roads, the Range Rover Evoque has become quite the status symbol. It went into production in 2011 and is almost identical to the Land Rover LRX concept car.
In 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show, Land Rover unveiled a convertible Range Rover Evoque, which we know proved just as popular.
And that brings us to the present day. Only a few weeks ago did Range Rover announce that they were bringing the Velar back, a car that fits between the Sport and the Evoque. You can read more about the Range Rover Velar here. While Range Rover have had a short history, it’s been fruitful and successful. So successful in fact, that it’s cemented itself as one of the great British car brands, and we can’t really see that changing any time soon. If you’re interested in the latest Range Rovers, you can use our search function to check for the latest deals.