Range Rover celebrates its 50th anniversary

David Williams
·3 min read
<p>As the final driver in place, I was under pressure not to wreck the show</p> (Handout)

As the final driver in place, I was under pressure not to wreck the show

(Handout)

Fifty years ago a new name rumbled onto the motoring scene - Range Rover - to deliver a luxurious, more road-focused version of the famously rugged, go-anywhere Land Rover.

Today it’s a household name and nowhere is the marque more popular than in London, where its blend of prestige, ruggedness and practicality has earned this motoring icon a loyal following.

To mark the big anniversary, parent company Land Rover organised a celebration with a difference - and invited the Evening Standard along to take part.

Land Rover tracked down 50 historic Range Rovers marking key moments in the evolution of the brand and - along with a selection from the firm’s own car collection - invited their owners to Goodwood for a birthday party with a difference.

Included in the haul of one-off Range Rovers were vehicles that, over the years, had been converted into ambulances, police patrol cars, rescue vehicles, even rally cars.

<p>Included in the haul of one-off Range Rovers were vehicles that, over the years, had been converted into ambulances, police patrol cars, rescue vehicles, even rally cars</p>Handout

Included in the haul of one-off Range Rovers were vehicles that, over the years, had been converted into ambulances, police patrol cars, rescue vehicles, even rally cars

Handout

Others converging on the Goodwood estate for the official celebrations included original classic Range Rovers, a six-wheel-drive fire engine, two plug-in hybrid models, a drivable chassis without bodywork from 1969 (once used by engineers for research purposes). There was even a brand-new £111,195 limited edition ‘Range Rover Fifty’, number one of a run of 1,970 being produced specially to mark the year’s celebrations.

Bringing up the rear in the very latest Range Rover Evoque D180 - resplendent in bronze metallic paint, black contrast roof and burnished copper bonnet louvres - was the Evening Standard.

<p>The Range Rover Evoque D180</p>Handout

The Range Rover Evoque D180

Handout

I had two important roles. The first was to line up with the other 49 Range Rovers and drive around the historic Goodwood motor circuit - all 3.8 kilometres of it - for a commemorative lap of honour.

The next part - the highlight of the celebrations - proved much trickier. Under the glare of an aerial drone, film-crews and umpteen photographers, we were split into two groups in a massive, grassy field.

Twenty-six of us were ordered to form a giant, precisely-choreographed, 120-foot ‘5’ - after racing to our positions in our Range Rovers from a standing start. The remaining 24 were ordered to drive at speed in formation to form a big, moving zero - adjacent to the ‘5’.

Armed with a mind-numbingly complex 17-page sheaf of instructions and walkie-talkies linking us to a professional choreographer, we underwent three hours of practice before we perfected the process - and the cameras were ready to roll on the dramatic, dynamic ’50’ formation.

As the final driver in place - charged with completing the ‘tail’ of the ‘5’ at a tricky angle and ordered to swoop in at speed to complete the spectacle - I was under pressure not to wreck the show.

If you squint, you can see ‘my’ bronze Evoque - at an angle - right at the end of the 5. I was just ahead of two Range Rover ambassadors, former international rugby league and rugby union footballer Jason Robinson in an L405, and just behind retired English rugby union player Lewis Moody in a Sport SVR.

Other Range Rovers taking part in the unique anniversary film spanned all four generations of the marque and included the Beaver Bullet, which broke 27 speed records in 1985, a Trans-American Expedition example which crossed the all-but-impassable Darien Gap in 1971 and a 2004 example used by Greater Manchester police.

None were as nimble as the diminutive, and comparatively humble Range Rover Evoque but I like to think it was the icing on the (birthday) cake for the film – and accompanying photos. You can see the results for yourself.

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