The Land Rover was developed after the Second World War at a time when Britain was still rebuilding after six years of conflict. It was Britain's first production four-wheel drive utility vehicle. The Land Rover was designed to cope with the toughest terrain across the world. Series I Land Rovers instantly became popular, used by farmers and the military. It is estimated that two-thirds of all vehicles produced are still in use. Production of the Series II followed and Series III production continued until 1985. The current Land Rover Defender is a direct descendent of the original Land Rover Series I.
After the Second World War there were few customers for luxury cars produced by the Rover Company. British industry was restricted by war damage and material shortages. Rover's chief designer and general manager, Maurice Wilks and his brother Spencer Wilks, developed plans for an off-road utility vehicle.
Their inspiration came from the American Willys Jeep, used by the US Army during the Second World War. The design was simple yet strong. Production of the Series I started in 1948.
The Series I was unveiled to the public at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948. The cost for a new Series I Land Rover was £450. The first version was a 2-door model with a canvas-covered rear. Improvements were made to the design during ten years of production. These included a longer wheelbase (and length) and larger 2.0 litre petrol and diesel engines. Over 211,000 Series I's were produced.
The Series II model was introduced in 1958. The final Series III remained in production from 1971 to 1985, testimony to the durability of the Land Rover's design.