AN AUTOMOTIVE visionary who dreamed-up the original Range Rover has died at the age of 85, from injuries he sustained in a cycling accident.
Charles Spencer King, who was known as ‘Spen’ during his lengthy career, was one of post-war Britain’s brightest engineering minds.
His death was announced as the Range Rover celebrated its 40th birthday and Land Rover launched its new ‘baby’ Range Rover the Evoque, which will hit showrooms next year.
Mr King, who was brought up in Surrey, joined the old Rover Group in 1945 to work for his uncles Maurice and Spencer Wilks.
In 1959 he became Rover’s chief engineer of new vehicle projects, and achieved his first big success with the Rover 2000, launched in 1963, and voted European Car of the Year in 1964.
He was appointed director of design and chairman of BL Technology and his work on the Metro and the Maestro enabled the state-owned car giant to enjoy an upturn in fortunes.
Other iconic vehicles Mr King had a hand in included the Rover SD1, the Triumph Stag, and Triumph TR7.
Although badged as the ultimate luxury SUV, the original Range Rover was envisaged as something very different – a practical station wagon based on the abilities of a Land Rover. Unlike the Range Rovers of today characterised by leather, wood and plush carpets the interior featured vinyl seats and rubber mats – so it could be cleaned with a hose.
The famous shape of the car was very much an afterthought, created merely so a prototype could be tested. Wisely the designer David Bache saw its potential and altered it little.
Reflecting on its creation Mr King revealed that the external styling took up around 0.001 per cent of their time.
Mr King, who left the company to found his own consulting firm in 1985, is survived by a son and daughter.