QUEENSTON, ON: It all began with a drawing in the sand.
Maurice Wilks was the engineering director for British carmaker Rover and he was also a farmer.
He knew Britain needed a truly all-purpose, go-anywhere vehicle that was also simple to build and maintain in the post World War Two era when everything was in short supply.
And at the same time, Wilks desperately needed to come up with something that could help rebuild Rover in a post-war world.
One day in early 1947, Wilks and his brother Spencer, who was the managing director of Rover, went for a walk on the seaside beach at Red Wharf Bay in North Wales.
Talking the situation over, Maurice drew an outline in the sand of what he had been thinking about.
They both instantly knew they have found what they were looking for and the rest, as they say, is history.
The prototype Land Rover was road registered in May 1948 and series production began in August.
Land Rover is marking the anniversary in various ways around the globe, but here in Canada, it was decided to hold a picnic with owners, family and friends invited.
Wolfgang Hoffmann, president Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Canada, said that in keeping with 70th anniversary celebrations around the world, he wanted to do something, “more grass roots”.
“Instead of spending a lot of money we wanted it to be more of a family event, where people could enjoy themselves and just be a little more relaxed.”
Planning started around April, Hoffmann said, for an event that would be held in August to coincide with the start of production 70 years ago to the month.
Then Land Rover Canada started contacting Land Rover clubs, owners and dealers to get the word out.
The result was the Land Rover 70th Anniversary Convoy that started Saturday, Aug. 25, from one of the parking lots at Sherway Gardens shopping plaza in Etobicoke.
From there, participants followed a route winding down and through Niagara’s wine country culminating with a laid-back barbeque at Queenston Heights Park.
The convoy set off with more than 40 Land and Range Rovers from early Defender and Discovery models up to the latest Evoques, Velars and even a brand new Range Rover Autobiography.
Others joined along the way until at the destination there were more than 200 people enjoying the food, the ambiance and simply a chance to mix with other owners and share experiences.
Hoffmann shared an interesting story about famed Canadian wildlife painter, Robert Bateman, who, along with a friend and both just graduating from university, took a very well used Series-1 Tickford Station Wagon with two beds in the back and literally drove around the world.
At every stop, Bateman drew a picture on the side of the Land Rover. After that, the Land Rover was lost, but Bateman went on to worldwide acclaim.
But the story didn’t end there, as the Land Rover was found and restored by an owner in Vancouver and it just so happened that Land Rover was about to open a dealership in Richmond, BC, and Bateman now lives in that province.
To make a long story short, Bateman and the station wagon were reunited and he redrew the pictures on the sides of the restored Land Rover, using photos from the time and it appeared at the dealership opening.
Hoffman said he was well pleased by the idea of the convoy and the barbeque, noting it brought together people of all ages and walks for life.
“They are a mixture of people who are proud to own one of our cars,” he said.
“At Land Rover Canada we wanted to do something that was like our company – which is still about the basics – and I think we achieved that.”
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