Sunday, January 19, 2014
Most of us, most of the time, go looking for waves on four wheels. Whilst I'd certainly love to arrive at a remote surf spot by boat, bike or boots more often, the reality is that more often than not I find myself throwing my surfboards in or on a car and driving. I almost always wish that I was going in a Land Rover. Big but not really big enough to easily transport surfboards inside, expensive and thirsty for fuel, they're probably not the most practical option but the day-dreamer in me loves the idea of driving along miles of deserted beach scanning the waves for a perfect set-up, fording rivers and settling down to sleep in a roof tent at the end of the day.
Developed in 1947 by the Rover car company in an attempt to skirt post-war materials rationing and make up for the drop in sales of it's luxury cars, the Land Rover was designed to be a light agricultural and utility vehicle, something of a cross between a light truck and a tractor. Intended only for a short production run of two or three years until the luxury car market had recovered, Land Rover developed into its own successful brand and in 1992 Land Rover claimed that 70% of vehicles produced were still in use. The original Series I was designed to minimise the need for materials that were still rationed following WWII (such as steel), and to use simple production techniques and tooling; the bodywork was handmade from an aluminium/magnesium alloy (called Birmabright) which is still used today due to it's light weight and resistance to corrosion, and flat panels and constant radius curves were used to make it simpler to cut and form by hand around simple jigs. The chassis was welded from box-section steel for ease, and the first vehicles off the production line were all offered in a single colour option of military green because the only paint that the company could get hold of was army surplus.
Perhaps it's because of their iconic design and the fact that each successive model has remained true to their original utilitarian function that Land Rovers are still so desirable. It's certainly not for their top speed or road tax band. But having seen one of these boxes on four-wheels as the workhorse carrying so many epic overland expeditions (on the search for surf or not) across deserts, over mountains and through jungles, it would be difficult to put any other vehicle at the top of your dream kit-list when planning a trip that you want to title an expedition.