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Range Rover’s PR stunt to brave the Darién Gap was a baptism by fire—and swamp
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.
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.