LAND ROVER, THE UNBEATABLE 4X4
by K.&J. Slavin with G. N. Mackie and D. McDine
Motorbooks, 1994 (4th ed.), 368 pages, $39.95
General Service review by Robin Craig
This is the fourth edition of a book that was once considered a definitive history of Land Rover in many ways when it was first published in 1981. Since then the book has undergone a number of reprints and a number of editions which have also been reprinted as well. This is a hard back book, now published in the UK by Haynes Publishing. The UK list retail is 19.99; in North America and Canada that price could vary considerably depending on the dollar. It should be noted that Haynes in the US do not handle this book at all, so make no inquires with them, I did and found this out myself. [Published in the US by Motorbooks at $39.95 -- ed.]
This book does have some very interesting anecdotes and history of the early Land Rovers. James Taylor has given his input on Range Rover and Discovery history, and the information given is good. The same goes for David McDine's part on the military Land Rovers Whats there is worth reading. What I am trying to get at is that there are a large number of big gaps in the book. Years go by without any comment, such as in the Range Rover section where a gap from 1984 to 1988 exists. In addition the text in the Range Rover section says that the vehicle has not been taken on board by military customers, yet the military section contradicts this, and we know that they were used.
The pictures do not do the subject matter or the occasion justice. and the captions contain major errors. An example on page 218 shows what is supposedly a Defender and trailer slung under a Chinook. Closer inspection of this somewhat dark picture shows leaf springs behind the axle, indicating a Series vehicle. Page 215 shows a Multi Role Combat Vehicle, yet the picture on the next page identifies the same variant as a Special Operations Vehicle which is really what it is. There is mention of the Canadian Discovery launch in May of last year with a photo on page 267, which I happened to have attended. Attended by HRH the Princess Royal who presented a refurbished Camel Trophy Discovery to the Cornell Medical Centre, we are told. Well, the Cornell centre is in the US and I know the Princess was not there, believe me.
This book is getting really tired now, and with numerous segments being parachuted in to add onto the original text it is becoming more and more inaccurate each time, as the original text is being left to stand as was without change. The pictures are lack clarity and in a lot of cases are not the best available on that subject. From what I can gather this sorry state of affairs is the product of two main causes. Firstly, Haynes knows that the book, like a lot of Land Rover related merchandise, sells reasonably well. So they feel an update every five or so years is enough to justify another edition of the book. Secondly, the Slavins are really very busy with their own business and according to my sources are given a pittance for their work to get each new edition out. As a result the book is losing credibility over time, and being as this is the fourth edition it needs a real overhaul. The original text needs to be gone over with a fine tooth comb and the picture selection requires close attention.
While this book gives a good background on the Land Rover history it is becoming disjointed and flawed. I would suggest that you think carefully about this one when you consider spending your hard earned buck. The review copy of this book was kindly provided by Haynes UK.
This review is excerpted from Robin Craigs General Service column in the March 1995 Ottawa Valley Land Rovers newsletter, and reprinted with permission. Robin is one of the most knowledgeable Rover experts in North America. The OVLR is one of the continents most active clubs, and their monthly newsletter, ably edited by Dixon Kenner, is the most prolific. To subscribe send Cdn $20 (pro-rated to $10 for half-year) to OVLR,POBox 36055, 1318 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1Y 4V3.
Review by T.F. Mills
Reprinted from the Solihull Society Newsletter, March/April 1995