The 50th anniversary of the entry into service of the Series IIa SAS Pink Panther will be commemorated with what is expected to be the largest-ever gathering of these fascinating vehicles, supported by two surviving examples of the Series One and some of the few surviving later 110 SAS vehicles.
The Pink Panther was born during the late 1960s, as a follow on from the adapted WW11 Jeep and the Series One. The MOD acquired 72 Series IIa 109 Land Rovers for special ops missions and long-distance reconnaissance. Marshalls of Cambridge converted them to SAS desert duty specification, with modifications including heavy-duty springs and chassis, additional fuel tanks to carry 100 gallons, smoke grenade launcher, rifles, machine guns, hand grenades and an anti-tank rocket launcher. The Land Rovers were delivered to the SAS in standard green livery but the SAS had many of them repainted in pink. This might seem an unlikely colour for a military vehicle - especially one in service with the SAS - but it is actually the perfect colour for camouflage in the desert, especially at dawn and dusk when the ground in their theatres of operation takes on a red or pink shade. Thus the ‘Pink Panther’ name was born. Often shortened to ‘Pinkie’ the name was even applied to the vehicles the SAS kept in their original, green colour. Pinkies would remain in service until 1984 when the coil sprung Hi–Cap was introduced as a replacement.
In the late-1970s, Land Rover built around 36 100-inch wheelbase prototypes for evaluation by the French, and later the Swiss, military. Based on various axles adapted for coil springs, petrol 4-cylinder and V8 engine options, with manual and automatic gearbox options and a one-off chassis, and a 24V electrical system, they were produced in a range of configurations, most with twin fuel tanks. Although these vehicles never went into production, the 100-inch wheelbase was felt by many to be the perfect dimension for a Land Rover, and enthusiasts went on to create their own ‘hybrids’ based on modified Range Rover chassis and Land Rover panels.
The 40th anniversary of these exceptionally rare 100-inch prototypes – considered by many to be the best Land Rover that Land Rover never produced – will also be celebrated at Land Rover Legends with what is expected to be the largest-ever gathering.
In the mid-1980s sales of Land Rover’s utility vehicles were in decline, and the company was also facing challenges from new 4x4 vehicles such as the Isuzu Trooper and Mitsubishi Shogun. The company’s response was to develop a new vehicle that would sit between the 90 and 110, and the Range Rover. In 1989 Land Rover unveiled its new Discovery at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The 3-door vehicle, deliberately described this way as part of the programme to differentiate it from the 2-door Range Rover, although both had two doors and a tailgate, actually shared the Range Rover’s chassis and drive train, body frame, and many other components, all of which were clad in a brand-new, trend-setting design that ensured the new vehicle would appeal to a new, younger and ‘lifestyle-oriented’ market. The Discovery was an instant sales success and was quickly followed by the 5-door version that further cemented its appeal as a family vehicle. Land Rover had a winner on its hands and had launched it with perfect timing to ride the wave of the soaring popularity of recreational and lifestyle off-roaders that followed in the early 1990s. Land Rover Legends will celebrate the 30th anniversary of this hugely successful vehicle.
In September 1994 Land Rover launched the second-generation Range Rover - 24 years after the original was introduced. The new car was developed in building P38a of the Solihull factory, and so became known as the P38a. This was undeniably a luxury vehicle with leather upholstery, premium trim and burr walnut rivalling the interiors of upmarket saloon cars, putting the four-wheel drive in front of a new audience. It was a step forward from the first-generation Range Rover not just in terms of luxury, equipment and updated engine but also in its off-road versatility and abilities, with height-adjustable air suspension now standard. Exterior design changes were relatively subtle however, in order not to alienate loyal Range Rover customers, but the new vehicle was well-received by both the press and the buying public. Subsequently, the vehicle developed a reputation for poor reliability, primarily to do with its electrical systems, but over recent years enthusiasts have come to appreciate the design and the impressive capability of the P38a. And most of its electrical gremlins have by now been tamed!
The ultimate show for Land Rover connoisseurs, preservationists, restorers and enthusiasts will also see the announcement of the results of the National Land Rover Awards 2019, the winners of which will be chosen at Land Rover Legends. Nominations for the awards are open at www.landroverlegends.com. Shortlisted vehicles will be invited to be displayed as part of a dedicated indoor exhibition at the Bicester Heritage event where, on Sunday May 26th, a panel of expert judges will select the Winner and Highly Commended entry in each category.
Land Rover Legends is an event for all Land Rovers. In addition to the main exhibits and demonstration vehicles, over a dozen major Land Rover Clubs have booked display space for the event and every Land Rover attending - whether with a club or not - will become a part of the show by being displayed in the dedicated forward-parking area that will be set aside to showcase representatives of the marque.
This year, for the first time, canine companions are welcome to attend the event (regardless of whether or not they arrive in a Land Rover!). So there’s no need to leave well-behaved four-legged friends at home; just pop them on a lead and bring them along.
Other new features for 2019 include on-site camping and Saturday evening entertainment. Camping bookings are coming in thick and fast, and Land Rover fans are advised to book early if they want to make a weekend of it in the atmospheric, inimitable setting of Bicester Heritage. In addition to the fantastic range of very special vehicles on show, Land Rover lovers will find a host of other things to fascinate and tempt them, with top Land Rover restorers, specialists and associated suppliers, plus carefully-selected exhibitors and traders, all positioned in and around Bicester Heritage’s magnificent main exhibition hangar.
For more information or to book tickets please visit: www.landroverlegends.com