40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope

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The off-road vehicle for Prince Charles and the Pope

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-BMW

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The youngest Range Rover and its origins: The LRX model (left) will be launched in 2011 as the fourth generation. Land Rover’s Defender model started in 1948.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-SUV

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The 1958 Road Rover II concept study was a forerunner of the Range Rover.

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40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-BMW

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The first prototype of the Range Rover came in 1967.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-Land Rover

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In December 1968 the final production version of the Range Rover was presented. At that time, its clear forms were an example of excellent design.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-Land Rover

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The Range Rover stood for off-road elegance, luxury and power. Its 5-liter light-alloy V8 made it a record-breaking 160 km / h.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-BMW

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Very British: Driving up to the luxury hotel in an off-roader was all the rage in 1970.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-Rank

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In a Range Rover converted into a popemobile, Pope John Paul II visited Great Britain in 1982.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-Toyota

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This Range Rover, converted into an expedition car, drove the Panamericana from Alaska to Cape Horn at the end of the 1980s.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-four wheel drive

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The Range Rover Vogue from the late 1980s was the top model in the new four-door line at the time.

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40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-four wheel drive

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the "New Range Rover" came in 1994 under the direction of BMW. It could never convince purists, but still sold well.

Source: SP-X

40 years of Range Rover: The SUV for Prince Charles and the Pope-Rank

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The Range Rover Sport has rounded off the classy all-wheel drive range since 2005.

Source: SP-X

Without him things would look different on our streets. The British Range Rover made the off-road vehicle socially acceptable first: the first climber in a luxury outfit delighted the royals and even the Vatican. Today he has many competitors. But basically they are all just plagiarism.

D.he Range Rover was the first off-roader in 1970. With fine equipment and a cultivated, 135 hp eight-cylinder, the elegant Brit offered the comfort of a classy sedan – combined with the mud and mud talents of classic Land Rovers. Like the workhorses Jeep, Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol or International Harvester, the luxurious and avant-garde four-wheel drive was intended to appeal to customers who are value-oriented, but for the first time also enable stylish journeys through sand, dust and dirt. The Range Rover combined all-wheel drive with the comfort of a luxury sedan on the road.

No wonder that the versatile Range Rover was soon entrusted with state-political tasks. At first it was mainly monarchs and rulers from desert and jungle countries who relied on the representative charisma of the noble all-conqueror, but soon special and one-off productions of the Range Rover were placed in the civil service of various European countries. Britain to this day relies on the protection and safety of the off-road vehicle for the royal family.

So it goes without saying for Prince Charles to use a bulletproof armored Range Rover for the show. Even the Pope showed up in a corresponding Popemobile from Ogle on a visit to Great Britain in 1982. The former Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, Erich Honecker, allowed himself to be stalked in a tailor-made range hunting vehicle in the Schorfheide.

But back to the origins. Production of the Range Rover started in January 1970 and just five months later the off-road vehicle sparked unprecedented worldwide media excitement at the press launch in Cornwall. Land Rover was inundated with customer orders. A real black market arose, on which excessive prices were paid in order to shorten the long delivery times.

As recently as 1976, after 50,000 Range Rovers had been sold, assembly line workers urged management to invest in additional production facilities. In those years the growth seemed limitless, because serious competitors were still not in sight for the posh off-roader. And high prices, such as 23,350 marks when Germany launched in May 1972, only made the noble and fast Range Rover even more desirable – comparable to a Porsche 911 sports car, which was similarly expensive at the time.

The development of the Range Rover as a fine sister model to the purely pragmatic Land Rover only really got going after the third attempt. Before that, between 1953 and 1958 two “Road Rover"-Combination concepts with classic rover car architecture brought almost to series production. Ultimately, the time did not seem ripe for the management of the company under Maurice Wilks. In the 1960s, however, increasingly larger and more luxurious American all-wheel drive vehicles such as Jeep Wagoneer, Ford Bronco or Chevrolet Blazer showed that customer requirements and markets were changing.

When the demand for the indestructible classic Land Rover declined, the first prototype of a new luxury Land Rover was created in 1967 under the direction of Rover engineers Spen King and Gordon Bashford. This so-called 100-inch station wagon was already visually similar to the later production vehicle and was sent for testing with a 3.5-liter light-alloy V8 that Rover had bought from Buick. The powerful engine made the off-roader almost 100 miles (160 km / h) fast, a record at the time. And the clear forms of the off-roader, finally named Range Rover in December 1968, were later presented as an example of excellent design at a trade exhibition in the Louvre in Paris.

Not only the elegant lines underlined the special position of the Range Rover in the market, the station wagon body with two-part tailgate, which was initially only available as a two-door model, emphasized its exceptional position as a fast luxury four-wheeler in a circle of box-shaped four-door off-road four-door vehicles with huge rear doors. So that the range did not fall behind off the beaten track, a sturdy ladder frame chassis, a permanent 4×4 drive with a lockable central differential and – a novelty at the time – four disc brakes were hidden under its stylish dress.

By 1980, the landlord-style off-road vehicle sold so well that Land Rover decided not to sell it in North America and left the technical development of the range to small specialists and coachbuilders. So it was the Swiss noble manufacturer Monteverdi that offered the Range Rover as a four-door model with its own brand emblem from 1980.

BMW takes over the entire Rover group in 1994

As part of the first extensive facelift, a four-door version was finally available from the factory from 1982. To emphasize the luxury status, the top equipment ran under the name Range Rover Vogue. Measures with which the British wanted to keep new competitors such as Mercedes G, Jeep Cherokee and Mitsubishi Pajero at a distance. The Range Rover LSE with a long wheelbase (108 instead of 100 inches), which was introduced ten years later and was particularly popular in the USA, also served this purpose.

There were almost revolutionary changes in 1994: BMW took over the Rover Group and in the same year presented a completely new Range Rover, still clad in elegant but more rounded shapes. Despite the considerable number of units, the “New Range Rover” was not loved by enthusiasts. That is why the predecessor remained on offer as the "Range Rover Classic" until 1996. A total of 317,615 vehicles of the first range rolled off the assembly line.

The Range Rover Mk2 rested on the 108-inch (270 cm) platform of the LSE, which was combined with a new chassis. The engines used were a 4.0-liter or 4.6-liter V8 petrol engine and a 2.5-liter six-cylinder diesel from BMW. With the 224 hp top-of-the-range engine, the Range Rover cracked the 200 km / h mark for the first time under favorable conditions, making it the fastest mass-produced off-road vehicle in the world. The most expensive Land Rover to date made its debut at the London Motor Show in 1999: the Range Rover Linley, a special edition limited to ten units, cost no less than £ 100,000.

Change of ownership from BMW to Ford to Tata

At the turn of the millennium there was another change of ownership at Land Rover: From then on, the off-road vehicle specialist belonged to the Ford Group’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG) along with Jaguar, Aston Martin and Volvo. The completely new Range Rover Mk3 made its debut under the Ford umbrella in 2001, although it was still developed by BMW. The last change of ownership for the time being occurred in 2008 when Land Rover was sold to the Indian Tata Group.

In the meantime the Range Rover had to get used to the fact that it no longer had a unique position within Land Rover. The Range Rover Sport is based on the Discovery, but has been successfully rounding off the classy all-wheel drive range since 2005. The ever tougher competition made this necessary, because the SUV fever had broken out among almost all premium brands. Whether Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porsche or Cadillac, they all now want a juicy piece of the Range Rover cake.

The reason for the British to polish their jewels every year – so that the bar for the competition remains high enough. Not an easy task. And whether the Range Rover is still unchallenged at the top of the luxury SUV, at least in terms of image, will only be shown by the fourth generation of the former trendsetter.

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