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The Land Rover wheelbase

The Land Rover wheelbase

The freewheel allowed them to run faster than the rears on corners. The disadvantage was that four-wheel drive needed to be as effective coming down hills as going up, so engine braking on early Land Rovers was transmitted through the rear wheels only.

1951 Using a Rover luxury car engine with overhead inlet valves and side exhausts, something it had in common with contemporary Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, had been part of the stop-gap programme of the early days. The nature of the design and the production process made it necessary to use existing components, and it seemed pointless to introduce a new engine for something of which only a few hundred might be sold. Now that the Land Rover had taken on a life of its own a larger-bore 1997cc replaced the 1595cc engine.

Power increased by only 2bhp (1.5kW), but torque went up to 101lbft (136Nm) developed at only 1500 rpm, against 80lbft (108Nm) at 2000 rpm of the earlier earlier one.

1952 The success of the Land Rover led Minerva SA of Mortsel Antwerp, makers of armoured cars since 1914 and high quality touring cars in the 1920s, to take out a licence for its production. A second overseas manufacturing contract was signed with German manufacturer Tempo, to make Land Rovers with a locally manufactured steel body and a revised chassis, for the West German Border Police.

Rover had to acknowledge that it now owed its survival as a manufacturer to the remarkable vehicle, which saw service not only on the quiet farms for which it had been intended, but also in every desert, jungle, swamp, mountain and trouble spot throughout the civilised and uncivilised world. The failure of the 1949 Station Wagon, as a result of the purchase tax regulations despite an encouraging reception by the press and dealers, brought a new resolve to look at the market again, and a programme was put in hand for what was tentatively called the Road Rover, a large estate car with rear wheel drive only.

Various proposals reached running prototype stage but none achieved production because they were bulky, heavy, and grew unwieldy during development. Nevertheless the following autumn would see the introduction of the 86in wheelbase so-called utility Station Wagon. 1953 In April the board was told: “After discussion it was agreed that Mr Wilks’ proposal that the Road Rover be put into production be approved.” Development work continued

. A large estate car on a P4 passenger car chassis, the first versions had a Rover car-like grille, and later ones a chunky appearance heavily influenced by a contemporary Chevrolet with a deeply curved windscreen. None of the Road Rovers produced over the years had any of the subtle touches Rover designer David Bache was applying to mainstream car models. One prototype was referred to unflatteringly, as The Greenhouse.

To improve the load space area, the first series Land Rover’s wheelbase was extended to 86in although the payload was unchanged. The first long wheelbase Land Rover, with a 107in (271cm) wheelbase was introduced with a 6ft (182.9cm) load bed with a truck cab and was known as the Pick Up. On October 1, Minerva began manufacture of 10,000 Land Rovers for the Belgian military, using components shipped from Solihull, and a local steel body with distinctive sloping front wings. Belgian police, army, navy and air forces hoarded them, sometimes for years, before using them. 1954 Land Rovers could now be bought in other than green.


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