By John Quilter
This article has been transferred from the old MAR Online area on the zeteo website in order to ensure that the most relevant content remains available to MAR Online readers. Any references to cost or availability will be out of date at this point in time. Please note that this was written sometime before the Land Rover Defender production ceased.
Over the decades Land Rover has been a supplier of vehicles to the military, primarily the British Army. The original Land Rover of 1948 was in fact a UK effort to produce their version of the ubiquitous US Jeep from World War II. The subject of this article is a purpose built military Land Rover known as the 101 for its wheelbase in inches. It was a forward control vehicle using a detuned version of the aluminum 3.5 litre V8 that Rover had acquired the rights to manufacture in the mid-1960s after Buick and Oldsmobile had decided their cars had grown too large for a 3.5 litre engine.
Rover developed a prototype of this forward control vehicle in 1968 but pre-production vehicles did not start to be made until 1972, a fairly long gestation period. It entered service with the British Army in 1975 and production continued until 1978 by which time 2,600 had been made. Fifty 101 vehicles were acquired by the Australian military and used to tow Rapier missile carriers. One experiment that did not prove successful was a two wheeled trailer powered by a prop shaft connected to the main vehicle’s power take off. The vehicle featured an unique centre mounted Nokken winch which could be used to pull the vehicle out of difficulty from multiple directions. The 101 was used in many guises: general cargo carrier, ambulance, and radio carrier. There were both left and right hand drive versions all of which used a four speed manual gearbox with a two speed transfer box. It weighed 4242lbs unladen and its width was 6 foot and half an inch. It used huge 9.00 X 16 tyres.
In the late 1990s the 101s were decommissioned by the British Army and many came into private hands and clubs grew for enthusiasts. As is sometimes the case some of these had very low usage with the Army. It is said that when the Ministry of Defence contract had been completed Land Rover offered to produce more but the MoD declined the offer. Later, in the 1980s when some of the initial batch needed replacement they went back to Land Rover for more but found that the tooling had been destroyed so no more were produced. The MoD bought some Defenders and Pinzgauer vehicles instead. With the ageing of the current Defender it remains to be seen if Land Rover under Tata ownership will continue to produce a product for military use.
The model reviewed appears to be some sort of promotional item as there is no branding other than the Land Rover oval logo on the handsome cardboard sleeve that fits over the Perspex display box. On the base of the model is only ‘Land Rover 101’, ‘made in China’ and ‘1/43’. In taking some measurements I find the 1:43 scale designation is approximate as the model is in fact slightly larger than 1:43 scale and according to my calculations comes in more like 1:41 scale. It appears quite wide, more like an American H1 Hummer. The model reviewed is the general service cargo version which has a removable canvas tilt which when removed shows facing bench seats for passengers. The cab has separate seats, one on each side of a rather high centre console that covers the engine and has a protruding gear stick. Behind the black right hand drive steering wheel is a nicely detailed pair of main instruments. The short front sloping bonnet is storage for a shovel, some other indeterminate tool and what appears to be a very, very long starting handle. Headlamps are mounted low in the body in recessed damage resistant pockets. Interestingly these vehicles were available with either a 12 or 24 volt electrical system. It appears that the side boards can be folded down rendering the vehicle capable of carrying large bulky loads. The base shows the engine sump, gearbox and transfer case and the offset propshafts to the front and rear axle. An aluminium exhaust snakes its way back to a very large rear transverse silencer and then to a tail pipe exiting around the left hand rear wing flap. Towing points are provided front and rear.
Although only the cargo version in a camouflage color scheme is shown other versions have been seen in pure olive drab and desert sand. There are also versions of the radio car and ambulance that have non fabric bodies which were created by the Army after purchase from Land Rover. These have been seen in many colours. All are nicely detailed models but the stickler for exact 1:43 scale might be disappointed.
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