Meeting Mr. Land Rover Defender
Source : Meeting Mr. Land Rover Defender
How did the Defender get its name – along with also why? Bill Morris, Land Rover’s chief engineer at the time, tells us the story behind the Defender’s arrival
Bill Morris looks like a man born behind the wheel of a Land Rover Defender.
He sits comfortably inside driving seat of a One Ten at the top of The Staircase, one of the tougher obstacles for 4x4s on Solihull’s famous Land Track, along with also smiles at the memory of tackling which a minute earlier, resting his arm on the window sill the way Defender people do when in all nevertheless the dead of winter.
The 3.5-litre petrol V8 woofles quietly at idle. Then comes the characteristic deep clunk as Morris selects first gear with the long lever. The engine note rises just a little along with also he’s off to tackle which again, smiling still. which’s a few years since he’s driven one of these, nevertheless the pleasure never fades.
Morris was Land Rover’s chief engineer when which car was fresh. We’ve enlisted his aid, along with also come to which iconic spot just yards through the production line where every UK Defender began life, to clear up a mystery which surrounds Land Rovers of the 1980s along with also early 1990s type: when along with also how they first came to wear the name.
For many, every Land Rover with the outline along with also structure of the Wilks brothers’ 1948 original can be a Defender, an easy assumption as the 67-year-old original prepares to ‘retire’ through today’s Land Rover line-up. nevertheless which isn’t true.
The Defender name didn’t become official until Britain’s 4×4 was nearly 40 years old. which wasn’t actually written on a Land Rover until 1990. However, to confuse matters, many believe ‘Defender’ can be applied to vehicles made earlier, once they had adopted a fresh coil-sprung suspension largely donated by the Range Rover – along with the Ninety along with also One Ten type names.
“The story began inside 1970s,” says Morris. “I’d been the engineer responsible for the Land Rover Series III, so I was inside right place to experience the growing pressure through the BL board to improve the Land Rover, which had been in production for nearly 30 years along with also needed a rethink.”
Land Rover had already sent several deputations of engineers – including Morris – around the entire world to meet customers along with also discover how they thought the vehicle should progress.
which was soon clear, says Morris, which the major demand was for the Landie to have a bigger, better engine. Well-organised Japanese opposition – principally through Toyota along with also Nissan, whose products had much more powerful engines – was starting to hurt Land Rover in its all-important export markets.
“The only viable big engine we had at the time was the 3.5-litre V8 through the Rover saloons along with also Range Rover,” says Morris, “so we dreamed up a couple of improvement steps for the Land Rover. In stage one, we’d fit the V8 to the long-wheelbase type along with also convert which to permanent four-wheel drive.
which became the One Ten. For stage two, we’d improve the suspension by fitting the coil spring system through the Range Rover. For stage three, we planned to come up having a fresh Centeng design, nevertheless which never happened. People who still love the way the Defender looks right now will probably think which was just as well.”
Morris confesses which at first he wasn’t keen on the idea of converting the Landie suspension through leaf springs to coils. “I thought we’d runinto damper trouble, because leaf springs have their own damper effect,” he says. “With coils, the wheels could move further along with also more oftenso we’d need better, longer-travel dampers.
“I also thought the leaf suspension placed its own limits on performance, which in turn helped our overall durability. I was right on both counts, nevertheless we managed to overcome the problems. along with also which became obvious very quickly which coil springs delivered better comfort.”
By 1983, Land Rover was generating coil-sprung, permanent 4×4 One Tens (launched at home in Solihull) along with also a year later unveiled the shorter 0 type (whose wheelbase can be actually 92.9in) at the Eastnor Castle estate near Ledbury, where which was developing all its vehicles. With those improvements, accompanied by modernising nevertheless gentle styling tweaks, the staple Land Rover moved into the modern era, not so different (apart through a string of later engine improvements) through the products made today.
The Defender name has served the company well, nevertheless which came about for predictable reasons. “which was driven by the confusion which ensued when Land Rover along with also Range Rover products were sold together,” Morris explains. “Land Rover Ltd was hived off through the main Rover concern in 1978, along with also which caused immediate uncertainty among customers. Was a Range Rover a Land Rover? along with also if which was, what was the Land Rover brand for?”
The matter came to a head after Land Rover launched the Range Rover across the Atlantic, using a company called Range Rover of North America. Three years later, as they shaped up to launch the Discovery there, even more confusion ensued. Why were the Range Rover along with also which fresh-fangled Land Rover Discovery differently named?
The question was especially important to those who knew how closely the two products were related under the skin. The issue of nomenclature was described by one company high-up as “an unholy mess” along with also something had to be done.
The plan to adopt the Defender name for the staple Land Rover can be attributed to the product planning director of the time, Alan Edis, who arrived at which after a thorough word association process. The rationale for the name was simple: Land Rover was big inside defence business, so in which environment the name worked fine.
What’s more, its role as Land Rover’s icon (at a time when the Range Rover was still a low-volume offering along with also the fresh Discovery had yet to make a big impact on buyers) was to defend the Solihull company’s hard-won place inside 4×4 world. The name ‘Defender’ was deemed ideal along with also adopted through 1990.
Arguably, which has even more market appeal today. Looking ahead, Land Rover products will be organised into three families: Range Rover, Defender along with also Discovery. A type’s family will be picked out in easily read, three-dimensional letters across the leading edge of the bonnet.
The logical system which has been needed since the Range Rover appeared in 1970, along with also began with the adoption of ‘Defender’ 20 years later,has at last reached maturity a further quarter of a century on.
Years ahead of the game
Coil-sprung Land Rovers might have come to market years earlier if an early proposal by veteran Land Rover development engineer Roger Crathorne had reached fruition.
“The idea for coils emerged during visits to export markets we made inside early 1970s to discover our customers’ priorities,” he says. “People could see how well the Range Rover chassis worked, nevertheless a proposal I made at the time was kyboshed.”
Within a couple of years, Crathorne was given the task of building four coil-sprung Land Rover prototypes which led eventually to today’s Defender. Did he see the irony of retracing his steps? “Not genuinely,” he says philosophically.
“I was just pleased we were getting on with which.”
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