The first Land Rover was designed in 1947, in Wales in the United Kingdom, by Maurice Wilkes as a farm vehicle that could be used for everything from ploughing fields to driving in town. It was based on Willys Jeeps he had seen in action in World War II and in use extensively on farms after the war.
A distinctive feature has been their bodies, constructed of a lightweight rustproof proprietary alloy of aluminium and magnesium called Birmabright. This material was used owing to post war steel shortages and a plentiful supply of post war aircraft aluminium. The early choice of colour was dictated by army surplus supplies of paint. All models until recently featured sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis. Now the Freelander and the Range Rover use a more usual monocoque body construction.
The early vehicles, such as the Series 1, were designed to be field-serviced; advertisements for Rovers have bragged about vehicles driven thousands of miles on banana oil. Now with more complex service requirements this is less of an option. The British Army maintains the use of the 300TDi engined versions rather than the TD5 to retain some servicing simplicity.
Land Rovers, particularly the commercial and military models, became ubiquitous throughout rural areas and in the developing World. The Land Rover featured in the South African movie The Gods Must Be Crazy illustrates the love-hate relationship many owners feel with the earlier Series 1, 2 and 3 vehicles.
Land Rovers have competed in the Paris Dakar Rally as well as being the vehicle used for the Camel Trophy as part of a sponsorship deal. The Land Rover Defender is also used by military forces throughout the world.
In Britain, the Land Rover fell from favour with the farming community with the arrival of less expensive Japanese alternatives, with Diahatsu Fourtracks and Isuzu Troopers becoming a common sight on farms around the country, until rust eventually ended their working lives. However, with subtle improvements to the Defender in the early 1990's, and with the introduction of better more reliable engines in the form of the TDi (especially the 300TDi) and the new five-cylinder TD5, most farms once again have a Land Rover Defender in their yard.