It goes without saying that there are many dozens of books on the ubiquitous British Land Rover. If the Rover is one of those vehicles that tickles your fancy, or even if you’re in the least bit interested, read on fellow crafter of things plastic!
Maurice Wilkes, Rover’s chief engineer is credited with being the pioneer that developed the Land Rover prototype. His WWII era jeep was worn out from working his farm, and he needed a replacement. He and his team at Rover used the Jeep chassis and in three weeks they had a prototype. Granted, its steering wheel was centrally located, but it was of enough interest to move forward. The rest, as they say is history. A planned run of 50 pre-production vehicles was enough to spark interest and half that number were completed by the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. A stop-gap vehicle, concocted as a temporary replacement for a worn-out Jeep, had gleaned interest from the newly independent Indian Army. Rover’s board and eventually the War Office took notice.
The War Office had been following the development of the Nuffield Gutty, which morphed into the Wolseley Mudlark, and finally the Austin Champ. The Champ was introduced in 1952 – it was a fantastic overland vehicle, but was terribly complicated mechanically and field repairs were difficult (Stay tuned for more on that… I bought a 1950 Austin champ this past July!). It wasn’t long before Land Rover met expectations for military trials. For a time both Champs and Land Rovers (in limited numbers) were utilized simultaneously – the Land Rover got baptized in Korea and later the Malayan Emergency. By 1966 the Champ had been phased out of service and the Land Rover was the primary commercial military vehicle utilized by all British forces.
The Land Rover served as the primary military general-purpose vehicle, outclassing both Austin and Humber light utility trucks. The Land Rover grew through 8 marks of the Series I before the Series II was launches in 1961. In 1971 the Series III was developed and became the prominent mark (and saw additional world-wide distribution). Numerous additional vehicles evolved. The Lightweight Rover, the 1 Tonne Forward Control, Airfield Fire and Rescue and many other models evolved out of this successful design first imagined as a replacement farm utility vehicle.
The British Army took on commercial off the shelf vehicles for the first Gulf War, utilizing the Discovery. This mark evolved into the vehicles later used by Special Forces and the US Rangers, also seeing adoption and modification as the Australian Perentie (4 and 6 wheeled versions) before had secured its spot in the annals of British and world-wide military service.
The book is exceedingly well written, organized and caters to vehicle enthusiasts, military vehicle collectors, and especially military modelers. The Pen & Sword Land, Air and Water Craft series of books have been primarily designed as brief introductions to vehicles with a more extensive focus on available models and conversion. The author does a good job highlighting builds of commercially available injected plastic kits, as well as including after market accessories and details sets. Approximately 33 pages are devoted to history and the development of the various series, as well as special variants. There is a clear breakdown of the primary differences between marks and series which is very helpful when modeling a leaf spring or coiled suspension vehicle – and good photos of the vehicles showing these details. The quality of the color photos is excellent, clearly taken with the modeler in mind and showing a wealth of details. There is a brief portion of history devoted to unusual variants also accompanied by fantastic photo reference.
Of the 64 pages, there are 8 pages of color profiles and 24 pages devoted to various builds and kit manufacturers available product. In 1/35 scale, the venerable Italeri Series 3 109” LWB, Tamiya’s Pink Panther and Ambulance, Hobby Boss’ Defender and Accurate Armour’s resin kits all get build coverage – which is not a full build article but a summary of the kit and accessories used – good reference for anyone wanting to know how a kit will fair. Less common full kits – the 1/24 Revell, Dartmoor/Firing Line Light weights and 1 Tonne FWC and too many accessory manufacturers products to mention here all get coverage. All in all this is a great, compact reference work for modelers heading off on a Land Rover safari. It’s not overwhelming, provides good recommendations and fair assessments of products while presenting fantastic reference material to help the modeler get motivated and also providing enough up close detail to be helpful. I have a very substantial library on all things British. Probably several dozen just on variants of the Rover. After a thorough read of the aforementioned tome, I can say without reservation, that if you are looking for a concise, well written overview of the vehicle and its variants, as well as modeling options, then add this one to your library!
Thanks goes out to Pen & Sword for this review copy.
Reviewed by John Rauscher
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