As a sobering reminder that not everything we read, see and hear should always be taken as gospel, through decades of mistaken motoring myths and misleading marketing flim-flam, today many enthusiasts now incorrectly believe, for example, that Mercedes invented the internal combustion engine. It didn’t, it was Benz in 1886, a separate vehicle maker that didn’t merge with Daimler until 1926 to form Mercedes-Benz, with Mercedes itself not founded until 1901.
Mercedes-Benz is also frequently (but wrongly) credited with introducing a number of other innovative automotive firsts. It is often quoted as launching the world’s first direct fuel injection system (in its 1954 300 SL gullwing coupe), but with this technology already first used by the smaller German marque Goliath over two years earlier in its long-forgotten 1952 GP700 saloon (with the injected Gutbrod Superior 600 launched just weeks later). Mercedes is also incorrectly claimed to have invented the car passenger safety cell (Saab actually being the first in 1947), as well as introducing supplementary safety restraint airbags (in truth this being Oldsmobile in 1973).
Motoring misconceptions don’t just apply to Mercedes-Benz though. Many assume BMC’S legendary Issigonis Austin-Morris Mini to be the first front-wheel-drive (FWD) car to be fitted with a transversely mounted engine. Contrary to popular belief however, not only was the Mini not the world’s first small FWD car (Coventry’s BSA beating BMC to this by a full 30 years with its economy 1929 FWD three- and four-wheelers, with Citroën, DKW, Adler, Amilcar and various other manufacturers also getting in on the FWD act far sooner) but, as if you needing reminding, the Mini was also not the first front-drive car with a transversely-mounted engine configuration either, the New York-based Christie of 1909 being introduced 50 years earlier!
Other commonplace motoring inaccuracies include Porsche introducing the first removeable roof panel for its 1966 911 Targa (the low-volume Vignale Fiat 1200 Wonderful of 1957 accurately claiming this one, ahead of the production 1961 Triumph TR4, 1965 Toyota Sports 800 and eventual Porsche 911 Targa), plus Volkswagen ‘inventing’ the first hot hatch with its 1976 production Golf GTI (behind the 1971 Autobianchi, A112 Abarth, 1974 Simca 1100 Ti and 1975 Renault 5 Alpine/Gordini).
One of the most commonly-held (but incorrect) motoring beliefs though has to be that Rover introduced the world’s first ‘civilised’ on-road/off-road ‘SUV’ 50 years ago with the 1970 Range Rover.
Although a very significant and important sector-defining off-roader, the original Range Rover of 1970 did not single-handedly invent the 4x4 ‘SUV’, with this now-popular Sports Utility Vehicle tag being an American invention, not appearing in popular parlance in the USA until the late 1990s.
Before the original Range Rover first stunned the motoring world half a century ago, other versatile 4x4 tin-topped estate cars/station wagons already existed, most being presented by North American producers, with Jeep (first through Willys, then Kaiser-Jeep and AMC) stacking a fair claim to be the true ancestor to the more civilised/less utilitarian 4x4 SUVs that now dominant today’s new car market. Here are four other early 4x4 SUVs that helped to shape the Range Rover and its existence.