Thank Frankel it's Friday: 70 years of Land Rover love

12th January 2018
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

I am aware of how pathetic this is going to sound, but it’s true and I’m going to tell it like it is. There are many things to look forward to at Christmas but I imagine few anticipate going to get the tree with quite the same relish as me.


For me, this is a long-established ritual involving me, my old Series III Land Rover, and Dino, one of far too many animals who share the Frankel household. He is a Labrador, and as thick and charming as only a member of his breed can be.

There are plenty of places to get trees locally, but we end up driving for over an hour into the middle of a Welsh forest where I’ll pay an amount of money I am too ashamed to put into print for the most beautiful tree I’ll see all Christmas. The lad can sit where he wants in the car but chooses the centre seat in the front, right next to me so that if I want to change gear, I actually have to put my arm around him to do so. Stupid though he is, I think he knows this. On the way back he has no choice but to sit there because the entire rest of the car is full of the biggest tree it is possible to get into a Land Rover, and so long as you’re prepared to bend it to make it fit, a fairly impressive plant can be yours. And I am. He sits there, staring eagerly out the windscreen, quivering slightly with the excitement of it all and making slightly strange noises. He is very easy to please.

I say all this now not because it was Christmas a few weeks back, but because this year marks the 70th anniversary of our only homegrown, thoroughbred SUV manufacturer and therefore the greatest ever off-roader, and of all the entirely unimportant cars in my small accumulation, it is the Land Rover that means the most to me, and not just because I passed my test in it. It is also the only car I drive that does things none of the others can do. Not only could you not get the tree in any other, you couldn’t even get to where I get the tree from in any other. And if we’re blessed with a white Christmas as we were this year, I can count on it to get me where I need to go. In fact, in the 35 years since I passed my test, it has never failed to reach a destination and never got stuck due to adverse weather. Indeed it has been my occasional joy to use it to help pull more modern 4x4s out of the ditches into which they have fallen.


Everyone who has owned a Series Land Rover or a Defender has stories to tell. They are just those kind of cars. You don’t need to plan a great adventure and then buy one to make it happen: just get the car and the adventures will come to you.

I, for one, cannot wait to see how Land Rover goes about capturing this spirit with the all-new Defender we’ll see later this year – and capture it Land Rover must. In recent years we have seen two new Land Rover products – the Discovery and Discovery Sport – and both subscribe to exactly the same design language now seen in the entire Range Rover range – and I really do think the Defender must break this trend. I understand it’s not very practical to do a body-on-chassis design anymore, and that the car must somehow appeal to those peculiar people who choose only to drive Defenders in town, but the reason they do that is that the car has an authenticity you cannot fake or synthesise. The original Land Rover was designed in no small part to be a mobile generator, something you could park in a field and use to power agricultural machinery all day long, though I accept there’s probably not much demand for that these days. But the point is they were all substance and no style which is, of course, why they have such rugged beauty and are so attractive to fashionistas today.

I don’t doubt the new Defender will be incredible off-road, better in every way than the last. But it needs also to be a choice for everyone from farmers and the military to outback doctors and safari guides on the Serengeti. For it is they, and not wealthy bankers negotiating the urban jungle, who will keep the spirit of the original alive.

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