University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

The Making of a Design Icon: The Utility Land Rover

Hazell, Paul (2017) The Making of a Design Icon: The Utility Land Rover. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

Text (PhD Thesis)
The Making of a Design Icon- The Utility Land Rover (P Hazell - post viva).pdf - Submitted Version

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The utility Land Rover, launched in 1948, was designed to meet the assumed needs of agriculture and to address the British government’s imposed export imperative. These very particular circumstances nevertheless yielded long-term success for the vehicle, leading to 67 years of continuous production. How then did a vehicle frequently characterised as a ‘stopgap’ product, intended to overcome the commercial constraints of the post-war British motor industry, go from humble workhorse to long-lived mythologised automotive icon? This research examines the factors leading to its prolonged production, the petrification of the design, as well as the changing value complexes associated with the utility Land Rover over time. It also deconstructs, by case study, the notion of iconisation with regard to technical artefacts and the significance of the vehicles reputation to the later hugely successful Land Rover corporate brand.

A hybrid methodological model developed as part of the research and drawing from actor network theory (ANT), elements of the social construction of technology (SCOT) as well as ‘informational capital’ is employed. This is then utilised to identify and integrate the factors that led to the utility Land Rover’s longevity and its later frequent characterisation as an automotive icon. Furthermore, this innovative hybrid model seeks to make an original contribution to design history methodology by combining existing methodologies in an information flow diagram that facilitates the intergraded analysis of diverse factors affecting the development and nature of technical artefacts, particularly those that are long-lived.

This thesis thereby demonstrates that the history of the utility Land Rover is one of persistence: operationally, culturally and temporally. Although anachronistic in many ways by the time production ended, the vehicle’s ability to remain relevant for seven decades was largely rooted in its versatility, both in terms of application but also through interpretive flexibility and its significance to relevant social groups. Findings also reveal that the process of iconisation requires either physical or cultural longevity of the artefact and is largely a democratised process reached by consensus, although the term ‘iconic’ has been progressively devalued through habituated use in the media.

The research undertaken also highlights and seeks to address the limited design history research regarding automotive design particularly with regard to utility, the potential for engaging with enthusiasts and examining subjectivity in design historical scholarship, as well as the largely neglected topic of the design history of the car in developing countries.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A Pdf file of the PhD thesis can be downloaded from this WRaP record.

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the
University’s requirement for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy. University of Worcester, 2017.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: British motor industry, four-wheel drive, Land Rover
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Paul Hazell
Date Deposited: 12 May 2021 09:09
Last Modified: 12 May 2021 09:09

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