by Chris Bennett.
Osprey Automotive, 1992., 128 pages, $24.00.
Range Rover owners doubtless have coffee tables, but Land Rover owners have either a truck or a coffee table -- not both. For the few who might have both, this book belongs on the latter. For everybody else, it belongs anywhere but with your spare parts. To switch metaphors, this is the LR owner's moral equivalent of Playboy magazine, and every page is a centerfold.
The five "chapters" are merely brief introductory matter to the superb colour photographs. All the photos were shot for this book either in England and Wales or during the 1992 Amazon Camel Trophy. While that does limit global scope and diversity somewhat, the historical is handsomely covered by an ample selection of rather unique models from the Dunsfold Landrover Museum.
Among the museum models, all set in appropriate outdoor settings, are a IIB Forward Control British Army Fire Service water vehicle, a 100 in. air-portable prototype, a one-ton APGP (amphibian), a 1986 Forward Control "Llama" (which never went into production), a legendary SAS "Pink Panther" (but in its standard olive drab), an almost unrecognizable 109 armoured patrol vehicle that saw service in Northern Ireland, a bizarre 109 modification for the Spanish Army, and last but not least, one of the only eight known surviving 1949 estate cars (recognizable by the Series I grille and front wings, but little else.)
Other photos of the more common Land Rovers that we all own include some beautiful backdrops of Eastnor castle, rustic villages and moors. Others glorify the off-road winching and mud-plugging experience. It is a rare photographer who can make mud look more tempting than chocolate. Even the mundane world of the Solihull assembly line basks in a warm glow, and the captions don't miss an opportunity to extol Land Rover virtues, such the Queen's Award for Export in 1990. (North Vietnam and Albania were then the only countries on earth that had remained immune to the Solihull sales pitch.)
Playboy and Land Rover? Well, Land Rover's sex appeal probably has something to do with that distinctive curve at the top of body panels -- like a woman's hips. Chris Bennett shows off those legendary curves in the best traditions of glamour photography. But, in all fairness, he makes no sexual allusions except a negligible remark about how "interesting" one clean wench looks in a dirty Ninety. (And anybody who likes their view of an 88 obscured by a raiment-challenged wench should take a peek at the May 1992 Playboy.)
Review by T.F. Mills
Reprinted from the Solihull Society Newsletter, 1995