1949 The first Land Rovers

“It is a vehicle intended to bash over fields in far-flung parts of the empire on unmetalled tracks. So why should it be built with the same care as a Rover 60? Surely something more agricultural would be better and cheaper.” In October a Tickford-bodied Station Wagon was introduced to try and broaden the Land Rover’s appeal and in December Rover chairman E Ransom Harrison told shareholders that judging from the volume of inquiries and orders, this vehicle will be something very much more than an additional source of production. It may yet equal, or even exceed our car output.”

1949 The first Land Rovers were exported to the USA with modifications to comply with local regulations. One of the virtues of simple design proved to be its adaptable nature. Once again the American civilian Jeep CJ2A was a role model with Power Take-Off (PTO) attachments. A shaft was added to the transfer gearbox for operating a winch, a small electrical generator, or a belt-drive for farming machinery.

The Land Rover Mobile Welder of 1949 (£825) was one of the first attempts to sell a specialist model, and although sales were slow, it showed the way for a succession of Land Rover fire engines, camper vans, snowplows, police and military vehicles, small armored cars, ambulances, riot control vehicles, overhead cable repair platforms, pick-up trucks, mobile workshops, and personnel carriers. There was a Land Rover with an air compressor selling at £996 and in October 1948 a Station Wagon but it was not a success. An excursion into the leisure market, it was assembled by Tickford and had a body made of aluminum panels on a coach built the wood frame.

The well-proportioned seven-seater had a metal cover over the bonnet-mounted spare wheel, but sales proved disappointing and only 641 were made. As a passenger car, it attracted purchase tax, making it twice the price of an ordinary open-bodied Land Rover. Yet it was not forgotten. The market may not have been ready for it in 1948, but Rover remained convinced that a well-equipped, and even luxurious all-purpose vehicle would be made in due course. Production in 1948–49 was 5,709 Rover cars and 8,000 Land Rovers.

1950 Changes to Land Rover were kept to the minimum but some evolution proved necessary for the revised 80-inch. Larger more powerful headlamps were needed and now shone through apertures in the grille, rather than the protective mesh. A hardtop was optional. A minor change to the gearbox brought it into line with the Rover P4 saloon, and the four-wheel-drive system was changed to a selectable type, using a simple dog clutch in the transfer gearbox. Drive to the front axle in high range was engaged by pressing down on a lever topped by a yellow knob, low range selected by pulling another red-topped lever rearwards. Selecting low range automatically engaged four-wheel drive.

The first 40,000 production examples of 1948–1950 had a four-wheel drive without a central differential, and with commendable resource Rover fell back on another item in its inventory, and put a freewheel in the front drive to get rid of tire scrub. So although the four-wheel drive was permanent in the sense that it was permanently engaged, it was temporary in suffering the front wheels to run at a different speed when necessary.

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