The first ones wore the light green used on Rover cars, but as part of a new strategy for 1954 customers were able to choose grey or blue. On 3 December 1953, three days after his 80th birthday, an 86in Land Rover UKE 80 was registered in the name of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill KG, OM, CH, MP, and delivered to Chartwell.
1955 Somewhat confusingly a new engine in production for Rover cars was adapted for Land Rovers. It had separate rather than Siamese bores to improve cooling and retained the previous engine’s 1997cc capacity. Land Rovers were now popular for use on many expeditions overseas, and six undergraduates from Oxford and Cambridge traveled from London to Singapore in two short wheelbase Station Wagons.
After crossing the English Channel in Bristol Freighter aircraft, the trip was entirely overland, with the exception of a ferry across the Bosporus and a perilous crossing of the Ganges. Here they were carried across on boats barely bigger than they were. The jungles of Burma (Myanmar) were traversed along remnants of the Stilwell Road built more than 10 years earlier during the Second World War. Both arrived in Singapore in early 1956
after a journey of nearly 18,000 miles. 1956 The 10-seater 107in (271.8cm) wheelbase Station Wagon was introduced. The body had landmark Land Rover features, such as roof-mounted so-called Alpine Lights, and a tropical roof as well as heavy galvanized steel cappings.
To make room for a new diesel engine under development, Land Rover wheelbases were also extended by 2in (2.5cm) to 88in (223cm) and 109in (277cm) by remounting the front spring hanger brackets further forward. The first part of the North Works at Lode Lane, at the western edge of the site, was a 100,000sq ft dispatch center completed in January 1956. Formerly a rectification and trimming block, it later became part of the large section used for the production of the Rover 2000 car, from 1963 to 1977.
The demands of the management on Road Rover’s development continued since it had been expected to be in production for 1957, but doubts about it were increasing in view of the constant need for improving its appearance. Minerva production in Belgium ended when the firm went on to make its own 4×4, the C20. Similarly, Tempo in West Germany ceased production although continued selling British-made Land Rovers.
The British army adopted the Land Rover as its light 4×4 in succession to the Austin Champ and in a landmark case, the Law Lords judged that Land Rovers were “car-type” vehicles. Hitherto when they had used red-dyed commercial fuel, they had been subject to a 30mph speed restriction, an anomaly henceforward rescinded.
Shortly after concluding his relationship with HRH Princess Margaret, Battle of Britain pilot Group Captain Peter Townsend set off around the world alone, in a short wheelbase Station Wagon. His 57,000-mile journey took him from Paris to Singapore, Perth to Sydney, and Vancouver to Buenos Aires. He took a boat around the impassable jungles of the Darien Gap, completing the circumnavigation in 1957 with a drive from Cape Town to Paris, recording his adventures in a book Earth, My Friend.