LAND ROVER: CONVERSIONS & APPLICATIONS SINCE 1948
by Richard de Roos.
Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 1995, 128 pages, $32.95
Land Rover was designed from the start as a multi- purpose vehicle, but none could have guessed what a success it would remain fifty years later let alone the number of tasks it would perform. The main production models have always been issued with an impressive array possible accessories such as winches, roof-racks, towing brackets, and power take-off tools. Yet such applications do not constitute conversions, and they are not the subject of this book.
De Roos has compiled a pictorial celebration of the worlds most versatile vehicle at work as effected by radical modifications. Running the gamut from the more familiar military and emergency vehicles to lesser known rail/road, hovercraft, X-ray unit, hydraulic work platforms, hydraulic oil drills, 28-inch tire forestry rig, and amphibious Rovers (to name but a few), the book is a good introduction to the subject.
Lest the uninitiated stumble on this work, the author wisely opens with a short section (15 pages) on the main production models for comparative purposes, including Range Rover and Discovery. Although the focus is meant to be on the familiar original boxy shape, a few Range Rovers and Discoverys crop up in the conversions. Since they are not known for their versatility as workhorses, short shrift is perhaps justified.
The book is exclusively photo-and-caption format (all black and white except for five models depicted on the front and back covers). The photos themselves are largely from the archives of the companies which created the conversions, and as such represent authoritative and clear documentation.
While the organization allows for the presentation of the greatest possible variety of vehicles, it does not lend itself well to systematic history. The main section on conversions is organized in nineteen alphabetically-arranged subsections according to subsection. This structure is poorly conceived as it scatters armoured vehicles (e.g. Shorland armoured cars). and military use (e.g. ambulances --which also turn up under medical transport, pink panthers, and half- tracks), not to mention fire-fighting, police patrols, rescue and emergencies and road maintenance which are all separated haphazardly from municipal use (which, as it turns out, is a mere two pages of waste disposal vehicles).
Dormobile aficionados will probably be interested in the seven-page section on leisure activities, not so much for the one photo of a Dormobile motor caravan as the Brits call them (a 109 conversion by Martin Walter Ltd introduced in 1962), but for the other lesser known varieties of recreational vehicles/mobile homes. Included are the short-lived Carawagon, circa 1986 and similar to the Dormobile; the Austrian Action Mobil camper shells, mounted on 110 pickups; the Dutch Autarkia Camperunits, mounted on 130 pickups; and a Luton-type coachbuilt unit by E V Engineering.
If your interest is primarily in military or expedition vehicles, you would do well to turn to other experts in these areas such as the military coverage by Bob Morrison, or any of a number of Camel Trophy books. De Roos treatment of these subjects is very cursory by comparison. (There is but one photo, non-action at that, of a Camel Trophy vehicle.)
Notwithstanding the shortcomings, de Roos has produced a welcome addition to any Land Rover library. It is great fun to thumb through and get a chuckle out of the incredible varieties, particularly the two-wheelers, the six- wheelers, the half-tracks, and the fully-tracked on 12 sprocket wheels. De Roos has produced ample documentation that Land Rover is the worlds most versatile vehicle and the foremost 4x4.
Review by T.F. Mills
Reprinted from the Solihull Society Newsletter, September/October 1995