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Land Rover, still royal at 65

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 29, 2012    

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BRITAIN'S Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years since her ascension to the throne.

There is another celebration of sorts in the royal family. The Land Rover, their official off-road vehicle, turns 65.

The second oldest four-wheel-drive brand in the world after the Jeep, this rugged 'royal chariot' has also made its way into the palaces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Dubai.

The brand originates from a 1947 model by Maurice Wilks, a British automotive and aeronautical engineer. However, Land Rover as a company has only existed since 1978.

According to europe.autonews.com, parent company Tata reports that global sales of Land Rover vehicles rose seven per cent in October. Land Rover delivered 24,558 vehicles.

Sloane Jackson, market analyst at ATL Automotive Group, attributes the brand's global growth to the parent company's vision.

"There is continuous improvement to the brand and the drive is to triple sales by 2020," says Jackson.

He credits brand's growth to the expansion model range over the last 20 years, especially the addition of the Range Rover Evoque that has become the ATL Automotive's 2012 best-selling Land Rover.

"There was originally the Defender, then the Range Rover was added. Now there's the Discovery, Evoque, Freelander, and Range Rover Sport. These start at $6 million with concession, and goes up with variations in model and specification," he said.

"Engines are more technologically advanced... you have 240-horsepower two-litre engines and they [the manufacturers] are working towards an output of 170-horsepower per litre. At ATL Automotive we offer the full model range," he said.

In addition to the Jaguar, Land Rover and Range Rover brands, the Butch Stewart-led ATL Automotive Limited is the authorised dealer of Audi, Volkswagen and Honda.

Reggae king Bob Marley owned a 1976 Land Rover Series III. It is currently being restored to its former glory by ATL Automotive Limited. Alan 'Skill' Cole, Marley's former manager, recalled how the superstar used the vehicle.

"He mainly used it to drop off and pick up the kids from school," he says. "It was a workhorse."

Cole — who met Marley in Trench Town during the early 1960s — was a football prodigy who represented Jamaica at age 15. He later became a trusted friend and manager of the reggae icon.

Cole said as Marley's financial status improved so did his vehicles. He said he owned several vehicles including a Ford Capri, a BMW and a VW Sport. Marley died of cancer in 1981.

In January, ATL Automotive Limited undertook the task of restoring Marley's Land Rover. Steven James, ATL Automotive's master technician, says work on Marley's ride is well under way.

"We are looking at a completion date of about February of next year," he says.

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