In 1971, sport-utility vehicles were still decades away from their current market saturation point. The rugged workhorses were viewed mostly as task-focused conveyances for those whose daily driving habits took them well off the beaten path. A sea change was clearly coming, however. More and more Americans were drawn to Broncos, Blazers, and Wagoneers as vehicles for exploring their vast, open country. Paved roads were optional.
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Fascinating story! Having served in the military during the Viet Nam “conflict”, I recall how dense the jungle could be. I can only imagine the experience of these soldiers getting these Rovers to achieve some marketing guy's vision. Maybe the marketing people should be required to do these things!!
Maybe the marketing people should be required to do these things!!
And maybe engineers should be required to randomly go to dealerships and fix the vehicles they design. As you know, that won't happen either.
I would like to see the same trip done today, but using an American 4x4 fitted out similar to the Land Rover, and see how today's vehicles compare with yesterdays.
GM succeeded with Corvairs 10 years earlier! Though one of them is still out in the swamp, I believe two or three got through the Darien Gap!!! With a lot of help....
So what we’ve learned from this colossal expenditure of manpower and resources is that the Range Rover is essentially useless in the jungle but quite adequate for “less demanding, fully-charted, mostly on-road ride[s].“
It brought back lots of good memories.
In 1971 my brother and I were already keen Land Rover enthusiasts so we were very excited to learn that the British Trans-Americas Expedition would be passing through our home town. Our friend David Rocksborough-Smith (take that Blashford-Snell) was an expert in marketing and PR and arranged a meeting with the team when they were in Vancouver. The visit included a ride in the expedition Range Rovers. I remember being amazed when the young soldier behind the wheel demonstrated the superiority of coil springs by driving into plowed field at about 50 kph. None of my teeth fell out! We followed the progress of the Alaska-Cape Horn trip with great interest as we worked on our own adventure, a five person two Land Rover 18 month trip from Vancouver to the southern tip of South America including a pleasant boat ride from Panama to Colombia in order to avoid the infamous Darien Gap.
Met a Brit living in the Napa Valley who told me a story of using his Land Rover to pull these Range Rovers thru the gap. He had bought hisLand Rover as military surplus and proceeded to drive it around the world. His helping the Range Rovers was just part of the adventure. After the tour of the world via Land Rover he became a bush pilot in Alaska. I was lucky to receive a birthday flight in his Stahl stol, amazing to see where he could put that plane down and get it back into the air.
He still had his Land Rover as of a few years ago, now with a Chevy engine installed.
First time I've visited this site. In the spring/summer of 1971 I was in the final year of my apprenticeship at the Military Engineering eXperimental Establishment, Christchurch, UK, (home of the Bailey Bridge) where I spent my final training in the drawing office. During this period I designed the Aluminium ladders carried by the Range Rovers which apparently Major John Blashford-Snell leader of the expedition later described as invaluable in crossing the Darien Gap.