1961 The Swiss army adopted the Land Rover. A revised range known as the Land Rover Series IIA was launched. The capacity of the diesel was increased to 2286cc, in line with the petrol unit, raising power to 62bhp (46kW). 1962 The Series IIA 109in Forward Control version was introduced.
The Forward Control, like its American counterpart introduced by the American Jeep company, was designed to appeal to customers demanding a bigger payload. Despite the Forward Control’s radically different appearance, Rover claimed it had a lot in common with standard Land Rovers. As well as the 4-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, a car-derived, 6-cylinder, 2.6-litre overhead inlet side exhaust valve engine was offered to help power the large vehicle.
Spencer Wilks retired and was succeeded by William Martin-Hurst. Santana Land Rover began to export; its production reached a point where the Spanish market was being well catered for, and it began shipping to Colombia and other parts of South America.
1963 On a fact-finding tour to discuss the production of a marine version of the Land Rover engine for fishing boats in the Far East, Martin-Hurst visited Mercury Marine’s experimental department at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
The new managing director had joined Rover in 1960 as executive director for the production and progressed swiftly. His call was to Carl Kiekhaefer, head of Mercury and on the shop floor, he spotted a compact aluminum V8 being made ready for one of Mercury’s boats.
This was a Buick, taken out of production after only three years in the Buick Special, Pontiac Tempest, and Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass. General Motors had abandoned it after contriving thin-walled iron castings for V8 blocks, which were almost as light, and a good deal cheaper than the elegant die-cast aluminum unit at Mercury Marine. Martin-Hurst knew of difficulties with the development of the Rover 3 Litre saloon and was concerned about programmes taking shape for the later 1960s.
The sales department had misgivings about a large 4-cylinder engine in the proposed P6 saloon and a 6-cylinder was too long to fit the space available. The board was informed that: “Engineering was investigating the merits of a 5-cylinder 2½ liter, with a view to possible use in P6”. But it presented as many difficulties as it solved, so when Martin-Hurst caught sight of the little redundant aluminum Buick, he was interested.
It was only half an inch longer than the 4-cylinder for the projected P6 and would leave space to spare GM made three-quarters of a million 3.5 liter V8s before forsaking it, together with a 5.0 liter, large-bore cast iron unit of similar design. Martin-Hurst learned that the 3.5 liters weighed only 12lb (5.4kg) more than the P6 four-cylinder, and it would be lighter and 8in (20.3cm) shorter than Rover’s proposed 6-cylinder.
Kiekhaefer agreed to air-freight an engine to England, while Martin-Hurst hastened to the New York Motor Show to get in touch with General Motors. He sought to negotiate terms of a license to make it. The question of whether it could be manufactured to Rover standards of silence and refinement could wait.