Of all the changes wrought, the most significant was a more powerful diesel engine option, with an identical capacity, bore and stroke to its petrol sibling. It was an important turning point for the company, for today diesel power dominates the Land Rover workhorses in Britain and other European markets.
By the 1960s, the Land Rover’s role was also changing. What had started life as an agricultural vehicle based upon a military design had come full circle and was now in demand on the fields of conflict as well as the fields of hay. The British Army had bought its first Land Rovers (fitted with powerful Rolls-Royce engines) in 1949. By 1956 it was the standard lightweight 4x4 utility vehicle in the services, and other countries quickly followed suit.
Another agricultural development that was to prove significant for the military was the introduction of the first Forward Control Land Rover, launched in September 1962. It had been designed to answer the demand for a greater payload, which the company addressed by shunting the cab forward and upward. The drop-side vehicle, based upon the 109-inch chassis, had an enormous 30 cwt (1.5 tons) payload, but it was not an immediate success because it was desperately under-powered.
In fact, it was only offered with a petrol engine because the lackluster diesel unit had proved a distinct embarrassment during trials. Despite the Series IIA Forward Control’s many shortcomings, Solihull’s engineers persisted with the concept. Aided by a 2.6-liter six-cylinder engine developed for Rover saloons, they stretched the chassis by a further inch to accommodate it and, in September 1966, re-launched it as the Series IIB Forward Control.
It did arouse some interest within military circles, but it was not until 1975, when the much more powerful 101-inch One Tonne was produced with a 3.5-liter V8 petrol engine, that the Forward Control concept really look off. But it was still a rarity: only 2,500 were ever built and most were sold to the British military (although 58 went to Luxembourg and, it is rumored, six were bought by the notorious Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin). The commonest of these rare beasts was the GS (General Service) variant, with a canvas top. Less common were the Ambulance versions, with full body (these make excellent camper conversions!). There were also Radio and Vampire bodies, and the 101 came with 12 or 24-volt electrics. All had the aerodynamics of a barn door, and an insatiable thirst for petrol, thanks to that lusty V8 engine.
There are not many jobs-for-life these days, but it has been my luck to have had one of them. Land Rover has been my career; I have loved every minute of it, so I am delighted to introduce a newly updated edition of a book that details what has been, in effect, my life’s work. Fittingly it celebrates 65 years of Land Rover and my half-century with the company, describing every phase, every up-and-down and every important product to bear the name.
The story of a stop-gap model that became a worldwide success has been told in hundreds of books, some written not only about one model or series, but just about one particular car. The Land Rover File covers the entire span in one work of reference that answers most of the questions people ask. Departments and executives inside Land Rover rely on what Eric Dymock and his researchers have chronicled. As an independent author, we may not agree with him on absolutely everything, but we use this book as a working document and I commend it as objective, truthful, packed with good pictures and down-to-earth detail.