Maurice Wilks, who with his brother Spencer, headed up Rover during the period that the UK rebuilt its industry after the Second World War. Maurice a keen farmer recognized the need for a versatile vehicle that could serve as a light weight hard working farm vehicle as well as a road vehicle. He purchased an ex-us army Willys Jeep for use on his farm but using a second hand vehicle with overseas origins really bugged him.
The Jeep could travel on rough terrain but Maurice found it lacked the power to fulfill the role of a light tractor. The brothers agreed that designing a vehicle similar to the Jeep would be a good substitute and could be the ideal vehicle to keep the Rover Company going until the government relaxed the steel supply quotas. Maurice also came up with the name – Land Rover – which has become a global icon.
The project became a Rover priority, and due to the shortage of steel, their choice to use the ‘Birmabright’ aluminum alloy for the bodywork proved to be the right one. Aluminum, which is much lighter and softer than steel, makes it easier to work with and limited the necessity to alter their tooling requirements. An added bonus was that the demand for aluminum alloy for aircraft production had virtually come to a standstill. Furthermore the brothers realised that the alloy while being lightweight was also more resistant to corrosion.
To make the panel work simpler, the body was designed to be made up of three separate units, each of which could be easily and independently unbolted from the basic structure. Cost constraints also influenced the chassis design which would normally have required heavy presses to punch out the chassis members from sheet metal. This was overcome when Rover engineers formulated a system to fabricate the chassis members by welding strips of steel together in a ladder shaped box. This saved both time and money and also formed a stronger and more durable chassis which had not been seen before and would become a Land Rover hallmark for the next 60 years.