It was another insane and crazy day on February 6th with the usual suspects leading the race. Greg Adler of 4 Wheel Parts had a great day going being in the top three, and then leading the race until the last lap. KOH is famous for handing out disappointment, and Adler ran into problems in the rocks, then a couple of mechanical gremlins caused him to fall back, and then it was all she wrote – he was out of the race. But it was an exciting week for all, including the Bestop team on station in Hammertown. Looking forward to Moab in late March.
It was 1947 and the whole of Britain was trying to return to normal life, sifting through the debris left by World War II. The Economy was as battered as the streets of London but times were changing and there was optimism in the air for the first time since the late 30’s
The immediate post-war period saw raw materials strictly rationed to companies building construction or industrial equipment, or products that could be widely exported to earn crucial foreign exchange for the country.
The Rover factory in Coventry, which had produced luxury cars prior to WWII, had been bombed extensively, forcing the company to move into a huge “shadow factory” it had built during the war near Birmingham to construct aircraft. This factory was now empty but starting car production there from scratch would not be financially viable. Plans for a small, economical car known as the M Type were drawn up, and a few prototypes made, but proved to be too expensive to produce.
Rover’s then chief designer Maurice Wilkes, came up with a plan to produce a light agricultural and utility vehicle. So, here’s the part where the US Army Jeep comes into play. Due to the lend-lease program and the large amount of US military units once station and still in England at the time, there was an abundance of left over Ford GPW’s and Willy’s MB’s. So many Jeeps were built during WWII that in America the “$50 Jeep in a crate” was a real thing for a short time.
Maurice purchased a surplus Willy’s MB and used it on his farm in Anglesey in North Wales. During this time, he became quite familiar with the American work horse now dubbed the “Jeep”. He saw it as something that had many uses and purposes. But mostly he saw an economically viable opportunity to provide the UK with a utility vehicle of it’s own design similar in concept to the Willys Jeep but with an emphasis on agricultural use.
So, slide rule, tea cup and cigar in hand, Maurice set to work on designing. With the assistance of Rover’s engineering team led by Arthur Goddard, the first pre-production Land Rovers were being developed by late 1947.
The first prototype had one rather odd yet distinctive feature whereas the steering wheel was mounted in the middle of the vehicle. This vehicle was dubbed the “Center Steer”.
It was built on the Jeep chassis and used the engine and gearbox out of a Rover P3 saloon car. The bodywork was handmade out of an aluminium/magnesium alloy called “Birmabright” since steel was still very closely rationed. Early in pre-production the chassis was used straight from the Jeep and and wasn’t even repainted and the olive green axles shone quite contrastly through the centers of the grey wheels. After all, paint was in still in very short supply and manufacturers had to make use of surplus paints.
Early tests showed this quirky little vehicle to be a very capable yet versatile machine. And much like the first American “civilian” Jeeps, PTO drives from the front of the engine and from the gearbox to the centre and rear of the vehicle allowed it to drive farm machinery, just like a tractor.
Testing included ploughing and several other agricultural tasks. However, as the vehicle was being readied for production, this emphasis on tractor-like usage decreased and the tractor like center steering proved impractical for road use.
Subsequently, the steering wheel was mounted off to the side as normal, the bodywork was simplified to reduce production time and costs and a larger engine was fitted along with a specially designed transfer gearbox to replace the original Jeep unit. The resulting vehicle ended up NOT using a single Jeep component. It became slightly shorter than its American inspiration, but wider, heavier, and faster and then progressed into the very versatile utility vehicle which is still in production today, known as the “Defender”.
So, forged in the crucible of war and honed into an everlasting Icon of everything that truly “British” the Land Rover can trace it roots back to the very vehicle that carried troops and Generals alike into battle, the very American iconic Jeep.
Looking for a new project car? Hagerty Insurance thinks vintage SUVs are the big thing coming as the prices for them creep upward. Yeah, I know. I hate the word vintage. Just say it – old. Old SUVs (which weren’t SUVs back in the day) are going to be the in thing to buy. Hard to believe considering the push for more ‘green’ gas conscious choices, but who doesn’t love an old Scout or Bronco. Along with Toyota Land Cruisers, 1970s and 1980s Jeep models have enjoyed a 93% increase insurance wise. So it looks like we’re in for a whole new group of auto restorers looking new old stock, or better, new parts for old heeps.
We found this review of Bestop from our friends over at 4WD Hardware, and thought we’d share it with you:
Bestop Provides Quality Gear
Bestop is the top producer of Jeep and truck accessories, soft tops, and many other products. For almost six decades, Bestop is the organization that offers equipment necessary in the marketplace that improves the image and performance of various Jeeps, trucks, vans, and sports utility vehicles (SUVs). For the last 50-plus years Bestop has given its customers quality assurance, customer support and logistics.
These are qualities not often seen in contemporary times. Bestop has been able to attain—and SUSTAIN—this degree of brilliance in product quality and customer service through conscientious effort, dedication, strong allegiance, and the ambitious yet cooperative spirit to gain favor with its loyal consumers and potential consumers.
The innovator of the modern Jeep top and the Bikini top, Bestop continues to reap accolades with its loyal customers by listening to their feedback. Bestop then has the administrative and manufacturing personnel on staff to navigate through the positive and negative, and update its parts to make for better performances. The enhancements and refinements provide more efficient, more secure and more comfortable treks along the roads for those who buy the Bestop brand.
The upgrades for 2013 are testament to Bestop’s dedication to its customer base and expanding its popularity to the casual consumer. The improvements include the Super Top NX (STNX) Black Twill and Replace-a-Top (RAT) Black Twill. The STNX is a new Black Twill fabric accompanied with a lifetime limited warranty (the singular soft top that can be purchased with a substantial warranty). The RAT is a Bestop-exclusive Black Twill fabric for the finest only replacement top. Each was created to fit 1997-2013 TJ, JK, and JK Unlimited.
These are just a short sampling of the many quality parts that Bestop has to offer. The organization is always geared towards gaining the dedication and admiration of its consumers. The leader in Jeep and truck accessories looks forward to several more decades of manufacturing fine services for its loyal and future customers. As Bestop’s 2013 catalogue says in its introduction: “If you’ve got questions and feedback, let us know. We’ve been here for almost 60 years. We’ll be here tomorrow.”
Joseph Wright is an SEO Copywriter with Transamerican Auto Parts in Compton, CA. He has been a professional journalist for over 20 years. He lives in Los Angeles.
Bestop sells a lot of product all over Europe: Jeep Wranglers aren’t as common as in the US, but the ones that are there are usually very nicely maintained as “weekend” vehicles. Our European Sales Team is at the European Jeepers Jamboree in Saint Georges France, and Jim Chick, the Bestop sales and marketing director (ie “boss”) flew over to join in the festivities. Here’s his report:
It’s VE Day in France, and it’s a public holiday, so most places are closed. Good to be an American in France on VE Day celebration. Around 11AM, we took to the highways to head north and west to the Calais area and Hesdin – St. Georges area, site of the Euro Jeepers Jamboree.
Taking 6 hours for a 3 hour ride we got both a combination of getting lost and spontaneously stopping. We stopped by “Jeep Village” a restoration and accessory shop just south of town; sure enough they were closed, so left my card behind and will try to circle back before leaving France.
Managing to get us in to some LA style traffic jams going the wrong direction, we had ample time to check out the cars and drivers around us. I vote Citroen as the most improved coming from the old 2CV to sleek and attractive sedans.
We whisked off the off the highway north of Paris to drive through an old town called L’isle de Adam. Narrow brick streets, colorful houses and apartments, split by a river. Beautiful and clean town with a huge stable and arena area.
Our other “what the hell” stop was an Aviation Museum near Beauvais, where we found Michel the owner ecstatic to see le Americans in his cramped, but well done WWII museum. He has rounded up artifacts, pictures, stories, and a couple of planes from that period – the area was a French base, taken over by the German Luftwaffe and liberated by the US so there were lots of engines, landing gear, things you need for aircraft flying and all the personal effects of occupying soldiers left behind in the actions between 1938 and 1945.
Back in our car and moving toward our destination through light rain, and voila: Hesdin. Very pretty town sitting in low area and all the trees topped with gold sunlight as the sun was getting low in the sky.
Checked in at converted “Le Clos de la Prairie” farmhouse Willem set up, about 12 miles inland from the Atlantic coastline.
Northwest France is rotten with beauty, green rolling hills, patched together with huge blankets of yellow blooming fields split here and there by large stands of dense, mature trees. Cue the horse and pheasant just outside the hotel grounds seen off our patio.
Drove to the Jamboree site last night in time for some great steak hoagie, French style. The event site is well-hidden in the French countryside and about 80 “teams” had already arrived and checked in for the week’s events.
Rain showers had mudded the access roads and lots of camping Jeepers from many countries were milling about and hanging out at the bar. Checked in with Willem, who was very busy working the registration area and answering questions. Also ran in to our new customer ASG / Travall’s Paul Rowden and Britta Wood as they were finishing set up of their display for the evening.
Awoke this morning around 6A to roosters crowing, cattle lowing on the far side of the valley and many cheerful bird songs of the crisp, chill dawn. Our horse is taking a sun bath.
Off to breakfast then Jamboree. Will send more pictures and stories from the Jamboree site later today.
10. My Wrangler is bigger than yours and has a better stance.
9. My Wrangler’s ‘J’ sits in the right place in its designation.
8. My Wrangler’s headlights are the correct shape.
7. All the models after mine are for those who need plush interiors and comfort (sorry, JK owners, you’re stuck without another model to point at right now, hang tight though).
6. My Wrangler’s suspension is sprung correctly. Its flex far exceeds yours.
5. My Wrangler’s grille is angled and shaped the right way. It mirrors all that is right with the world.
4. My Wrangler has just the right amount of rattles and noisiness. It helps me connect with the road.
3. My Wrangler sports design improvements on past models making its offroad capabilities and highway drivability far superior.
2. My Wrangler’s cylinders are in the proper alignment to be right with the natural order of engines.
1. My Wrangler is better, nanny nanny boo boo…
That’s the central bonfire at this year’s King of the Hammers
Bestop is there – if you’re there, stop by and say hello.
If you’re not there, you can watch the race and surrounding festivities live on UStream video, by going here:
Here’s the latest schedule:
Live chat will be available all week.
Live streaming video will be available at the following times:
- Sunday February 3rd 7:45AM : King of the Motos presented by FMF Coverage will last all day from 8AM on.
- Tuesday February 5th 7:45AM: Qualifying coverage will be available all day. Happy Hour will be happening at 4PM as it did last year with the biggest names competing.
- Wednesday February 6th 7:45AM: “Qualifying coverage will be available all day. Happy Hour will be happening at 4PM as it did last year with the biggest names competing.
- Thursday February 7th 7:45AM: Smittybilt Every Man Challenge, HCR King of the Hammers UTV Race and Tech/Qualifying in town
- Friday February 8th 7:30 AM : 2013 Griffin King of The Hammers Presented by Nitto Tire
I’m a little late on this but it’s never too late to give some kudos to where it’s deserved. If you’ve ever been to the Hammers you know the sheer, oh, it’s seriously hard to describe. I rode shotgun up Sledgehammer several years ago and it’s a pit of your stomach constant rock garden that has to be seen to believed. Add to that the expansive areas for those who have a need for speed and it’s the perfect place for off-road motorsports. So thanks to those who helped stave off the loss of Johnson Valley…
“Thanks to the efforts of SEMA, the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and a coalition of other land use groups, continued off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to Johnson Valley, California, has been guaranteed for now by the U.S. Congress…”