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British automotive and aeronautical engineer, Maurice Wilks, is credited with building the first Land Rover, a model based on the chassis of the American Jeep vehicles used during World War II. Wilks had been using an Army-surplus Jeep on his farm in North Wales, finding it an ideal vehicle for getting around.
Yet, Wilks wasn't satisfied as he wanted a vehicle that blended the best attributes of a light truck with a tractor, so he used a Jeep chassis to develop what became the Land Rover's first vehicle. That initial model, known as the Series I, incorporated power take-off drives as found in tractors and introduced styling that was more prosaic than pleasing.
Growth was gradual for Land Rover as the Rover Company first lengthened the size of the Series I and also introduced the Tickford Station Wagon with its wooden-frame bodywork. Other models, including a pickup truck, were also built. During that time, refinements to the SUV's 4x4 system made it an even more capable off-roader.
Over the next two decades the Rover Company continued to roll out updated Series II and III editions. In 1970, Land Rover introduced Range Rover, a series of top-of-the-line models that are treated as a sub-brand to this day. Those new, high-end models maintained the ruggedness of Land Rover, but added such refinements as leather and wood trim.
It wasn't until 1987 that Land Rover established a beachhead in the U.S., selling its first Range Rover model. That vehicle, initially powered by a 3.5-liter V8 engine, was the lone model until 1993 when the Land Rover Defender 110 followed. The Defender was a continuation of a line of vehicles based on the original Series I model. That first Defender was replaced by the Defender 90 then canceled after three years due to U.S. emissions restrictions. In 1995 the Discovery line was introduced, with the Discovery II following soon thereafter.
Early in the new century, the smallest and least costly Land Rover made its debut. The Freelander, also known as the LR2, rolled out and has since been joined by the Land Rover Discovery Sport. A compact Range Rover Evoque model was introduced in 2011.
Today's Land Rover line is composed of LR2, LR4 and Discovery Sport models. The Range Rover line includes the Evoque, Sport and the classic full-size Range Rover.
Land Rover's competitors include select Jeep models as well as SUVs produced by premium manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Lincoln, Volvo, Porsche, Lexus and Infiniti.
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