The Land Rover
Country Life UK|October 20, 2021
Britain's greatest Masterpieces
Maurice Wilks

THE Land Rover is such a sturdy and enduring British symbol that it’s per-haps little surprise it makes a brief appearance in one of our better war films, Ice Cold in Alex (1958), starring John Mills and Sylvia Syms. The only problem, as many have gleefully pointed out, is that the film’s action is set in 1942, fully six years before the first vehicles rolled out onto the market.

There is, however, a wartime link in the story behind its creation. In 1947, Maurice Wilks, technical director of the Rover car company, took possession of an ex-US Army Willys Jeep, one of America’s first mass-produced military vehicles. Wilks found the four-wheel drive very useful for heavy jobs around his home near Leamington Spa, such as clearing fallen trees brought down in the gales of one of the hardest British winters on record. However, accessing spare parts was an issue. Wilks remarked that if he was incapable of designing something comparable to the Jeep, he was in the wrong job. He also recognised that there was a gap in the market for a utilitarian farmer’s vehicle of this type that could be sold on the valuable export market, so he began sketching out ideas for his own version.

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