British vehicle maker Land Rover was conceived by the Rover Company in the waning days of World War II. The original SUV, which carried the designation “80” when it started production in 1948, was inspired by the American Willys Jeep that had dominated reconnaissance transportation in the war.
The British military was a big customer for Land Rovers right away, being deployed in India, Africa, Korea and the Suez Canal zone. To this day, Land Rovers are still very big with the military, hunters, ranchers and the well-to-do in Africa, India and Australia.
The iconic Land Rover is the Defender, which is the current-day successor to the 80. It has not been sold in the U.S.
Land Rover in the U.S. has been known as purely a luxury SUV, selling not only leather-lined Land Rovers, but even pricier Range Rovers to the fat-wallet brigade.
Though Land Rovers rival Jeep for off-road and bad-road capability, few American buyers ever deploy the comprehensive off-road system of Land Rovers and Range Rovers on road surfaces more challenging than Rodeo Drive on Black Friday.
Land Rover has had what many would call “ironic” ownership since the mid-1990s when the Rover Group was acquired by German automaker BMW AG. Sir Winston Churchill, who was given one of the original 80s by the Rover Company, surely would have cast a jaundiced eye toward the sale of his beloved Rover to the maker of German Luftwaffe aero engines and German military motorcycles. But one wonders what he would have thought when it then went into the hands of Indian conglomerate TaTa in 2008 after a decade of ownership by Ford Motor.
In fact, TaTa has so far been a very good owner of both Land Rover and Jaguar since acquiring the brands from Ford. Not only has the company brought out a new Evoque model that won Motor Trend “Truck of the Year,” but it is moving deliberately with a Defender concept that the U.S. is likely to see by 2013 or 2014.
To see the entire 2012 lineup, visit Land Rover Las Vegas at 5255 W. Sahara Ave., or online at LRVL.com.