University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

A Very British SUV: How Land Rover Used Sport, Competition and Notions of Adventure to Reinvent the Utility Four Wheel Drive

Hazell, Paul (2012) A Very British SUV: How Land Rover Used Sport, Competition and Notions of Adventure to Reinvent the Utility Four Wheel Drive. In: Design History Society conference 2012: The Material Culture of Sport, Brighton. (Unpublished)

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This paper examines the uses of the Land Rover in sporting activities. It explores how these activities were used to promote and expand the brand as well as the changing (and at times contradictory) customer sensibilities, which significantly impacted both the brand and ultimately the design of vehicles themselves.

The Land Rover, originally envisaged as a ‘stop gap’ product for agriculture shortly after the Second World War, rapidly became established as the archetypal four-wheel-drive utility vehicle employed in a bewildering number of diverse roles. One such role to emerge in the 1950s was its use for expeditions, ‘adventure’ and the pursuit of sporting activities. Events such as the London to Singapore ‘First Overland’ expedition of the mid ‘50s, the ‘Darien Gap’ expedition of the ‘70s through to the ‘Camel Trophy’ of the ‘80s were milestones in its ‘sporting’ use. But there was also its use in amateur ‘off- road’ competition such as ‘trialling’ and its supporting role for the ‘country set’ through its use in hunting, shooting and equine sports.

It has been said that Land Rover capitalised on the colonial notions of African adventures as well as masculine ideas of ‘off-roading’ to sell its products. However these themes were absorbed quite late in the products identity with the history of the brand being more nuanced and at times contradictory than the vehicles iconic status would now suggest. It can be argued that Rover (the original manufacturer) played ‘catch-up’ with the uses buyers were putting the vehicle to and then retrospectively built a brand identity on these emerging ‘value complexes’.

This lead to a change in the value complexes associated with the vehicle and in time, spawned the proto-SUV the ‘Range Rover’ and, later, other models such as the ‘Discovery’, ‘Freelander’ and ‘Range Rover Sport’.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Sport, adventure, branding, four-wheel drive, enabling, Land Rover
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
Copyright Info: Paul Hazell 2012
Depositing User: Paul Hazell
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2012 10:41
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2021 09:23

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