The original Land Rover isn’t just a motoring icon, it’s one of the Queen’s all-time favorite vehicles.
Over the years Land Rovers have ferried the Queen at countless ceremonial events and she’s been pictured at the wheel of scores of them, but the royal relationship with the brand goes back to 1948.
It was then that the Queen’s father, King George VI, was presented with the 100th production Land Rover. As marketing ploys go, it was a work of genius, because it gave Land Rover the kind of exposure that money can’t buy. The 4×4 also fitted in well with the Royal family’s love of outdoor pursuits.
Car of the people
The association paid dividends for the Windsors because the Land Rover was a car of the people, marketed as the “go anywhere” option “for the farmer, the countryman and general industrial use.”
In short, the Land Rover is classless — there are very few vehicles that are accepted anywhere.
In 1951, the then-Princess Elizabeth was pictured standing in an open-top Land Rover as she deputized for her father presenting the King’s Color to the Royal Air Force in London’s Hyde Park.
The Queen took delivery of her first Land Rover shortly before coming to the throne in 1952 and has used them ever since. Although the Queen is not required to possess a driving license by law, she learned to drive in 1945 when she was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) where she trained as a mechanic and military truck driver.
Land Rover supplied the first bespoke ‘State Review’ car for a six-month, 71,000 kilometer (44,000-mile) royal tour of the Commonwealth in 1953. It featured an elevated viewing area at the rear so the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh could easily be seen by the cheering crowds.
Another example of a unique Land Rover built for the Queen was in 1978. A Series 3 was created featuring a number of modifications, including a ‘traffic light’ system which she used from the rear to tell the driver when she wanted to stop, slow down or continue the journey.
By royal appointment…
Along with Jaguar, Land Rover is the only automotive manufacturer to hold all three Royal Warrants from Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
As Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Executive Officer explains, Jaguar and Land Rover were each granted their first Royal Warrants in 1951, a year before the Queen ascended the throne.
He added: “The association of our vehicles with the Royal family is appreciated by our customers around the world, from the United States to China. So we recognize the Royal Warrants as an important contributor to the company’s accelerating global growth.”
The Land Rover has also proved to be a hit with other royals. For instance, Diana, Princess of Wales, watched the Grand National from the bonnet of a Land Rover in 1982. The Prince and Princess of Wales waved to well-wishers as they were driven along a beach in Australia in 1988, while Zara Phillips unveiled a limited edition Land Rover at the 2007 British Red Cross Ball. Other famous Land Rover owners include Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, Sean Connery and Paul McCartney.
In 1990, the classic Land Rover was relaunched as the Land Rover Defender, but in January 2016 the final car rolled off the production line at Solihull in the West Midlands after 68 years — a victim of tougher emissions and safety laws.
The good news is that of the two million examples that were built, an estimated 75% have survived.