The Series 1 Land Rover was to compete with the famed American Willys Jeep and robust farm tractors. Photo Gallery
The future for four-wheel drives looks bleak, says one of the engineers responsible for perhaps the most iconic of all off-roaders.
Arthur Goddard, 91, who was chief engineer of the first Land Rovers from 1947 to 1972, believes 4WDs will become victims of their size, fuel consumption and safety issues.
"They would use about 25 per cent more fuel than they need what with the wheels, weight and gears, plus driving the other two wheels loses a lot of efficiency," he says. "Their chassis is too stiff and they don't absorb a crash as well as a car with crumple zones.
"Cars will be a lot smaller in the future. There really is no reason to have an engine any bigger than one litre."
Goddard believes the future for Land Rover is in the coming front-wheel-drive version of the Range Rover #aacEvoque compact SUV.
"The days of big 4WDs are numbered." Goddard was "discovered" by a Series 1 Land Rover owner working nearby in Brisbane, leading to the publication of a book last year about his engineering feats, called They Found Our Engineer, written by Michael Bishop.
He has now been welcomed into the Series Land Owners (SLOW) historical 4WD club as founding patron. Goddard never thought such a fuss would be made over him when he was working on the first model in 1947.
"Our biggest challenge was to produce a suitable vehicle for agriculture and the army," he says. "We never thought anyone would be daft enough to use a 4WD with such bad fuel economy to take the kids to school.
"My family all have 4WDs. I'm the only one with a proper car," says the proud Hyundai Excel owner who has never owned one of his own products. Goddard says the challenge for the Series 1 Land Rover was to compete with the famed American Willys Jeep and robust farm tractors.
He boasts that it was lighter and rustproof with its advanced aluminium body, had a 50 per cent stiffer box-section steel chassis, featured a four-speed gearbox rather than three and had a more efficient engine.
Series models have leaf-sprung suspension, can be started with a front hand crank and could fit farming machinery to the rear, such as thrashers, ploughs and slashers.
"I knew nothing about military or agriculture, just about cars," he says. "I drove number three off the line to the Amsterdam motor show in '48 and everyone was really enthusiastic.
"The British Army ordered 1000 vehicles. I shouldn't think they are selling too many to the farmers and armies nowadays."
Goddard returned to the UK last year and drove some of the new models. "They are very fine vehicles, but they are more of a car these days," he says.
Series 1 Land Rover
Price New: $665
Price Now: about $10,000-$20,000
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine, 37kW
Transmission: 4-speed, 2-speed transfer box
Did you know: In 1992 Land Rover claimed that 70 per cent of all their vehicles were still in use.
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