Last month, we hosted Land Rover employees who had been involved in the design, development and manufacture of Range Rovers at Eastnor to celebrate the birth of the car, 40 years ago. Much has changed in the design and specification over the period, but the unique off-road qualities of the Range Rover have remained ahead of the field.
We were lucky to have had much of the original testing take place on our land, often under the watchful eye of Spen King, its famous designer.The coil-sprung suspension was tried out over ruts and ant hills, the gear boxes tested to destruction on a special steep track in one of the woods, subsequently known as Gear Box Hill, and paint work was brushed up against thorn trees to see how badly it would scratch.
At other times, traction and braking were proved on wet grass and ignition systems exposed to deep water wading trials. Some early prototypes were more like Land Rovers in disguise, with V8 engines to take the unsuspecting by surprise when pulling away from traffic lights.
It was an exciting time, and the finished product justified all the effort involved. Range Rovers are still the best 4 x 4s in the world, we think, now with very sophisticated control and management systems and very smart interiors. The days of engaging the red or yellow knob for four-wheel drive are definitely over, although the Land Rover heritage fleet is never far away if you want to be reminded of the old days.
We had a happy day. The Land Rover team enjoyed themselves, drove off road, experienced first-hand the sort of driving conditions their vehicles are designed to tackle and had a good lunch. Anyone else wanting to try should apply through Land Rover Experience.
Note: Spen King sadly died on 26th June, three days before the event: see Telegraph article.
JH-B 30th June 2010