" We've said it before, but there's a lovely simplicity to pure utes. And the first few iterations of the Land Rover are about as Ute as a Ute can be. The earlier Landies remind us of that immediate post-war time "
Land Rover Guest Blogger: Ben Saunders
The Land Rover Ambassador on his long and enduring love with the Great British Brand
I’ve been a Land Rover brand ambassador since 2008.
But my fondness for the brand stretches back a bit further than that. My first ever driving lesson was in a field, as a fourteen-year-old, in my stepdad’s old Series III Land Rover. I can still remember the three gear knobs (one for high/low ratio, one to engage and disengage four-wheel drive) and the rectangular air vents beneath the windscreen that opened and closed with a clunky, ratcheted catch. Every trip in that vehicle was an adventure, and I think that’s where the affair started.
My first polar expedition was in 2001, an unsupported geographic North Pole attempt from the coast of Siberia with Pen Hadow. It was a logistically complex – and therefore quite pricey – expedition, and I drew up a small list of potential sponsors I thought might be interested on the back of an envelope. Land Rover was at the top, and Virgin was second, as I’d read that Richard Branson was somehow related to Captain Scott, so I thought it might be up his street. None of the companies on that list got involved that year (in fact I can’t remember many of them even replying) but I eventually started working with Land Rover in 2008, and I like to think that my staying power and unwavering belief was something they respected!
In return, I respected their willingness to embrace adventure and to take on challenge, and their focus on authenticity as much as image. The Land Rover brand has always been synonymous with exploration and capability, to genuinely going above and beyond, and that’s what drew me to it. In my experience, the most interesting parts of this planet are often found a long way after its roads end, and reaching these places takes a special kind of vehicle.
As part of my job, I’ve been lucky enough to drive examples of almost every vehicle Land Rover made. I’ve had a string of Discoverys, each of which made perfect pre-expedition load luggers. With the seats down, the space in the rear is van-like, and we often moved huge loads of people and climbing/skiing gear very long distances around Europe, yet I could turn up at a black tie dinner in the City the same evening and not feel out of place.
I currently have a five-litre supercharged V8 Range Rover Autobiography, which is an astonishing bit of engineering. It’s Roller or Bentley luxurious, it’ll do anything off-road that a Defender can, and on the tarmac it gets to 60mph faster than a Boxster S (despite having a fridge, massage seats, TVs in the back…) It’s an incredible achievement, and I’m glad I’ve been able to experience a decent British V8 power plant while they’re still made!
It’s no coincidence that people like me – people who make their livings far away from civilisation, and people whose lives depend on their equipment – have been using, trusting and driving Land Rovers for more than half a century. With my most recent Scott Expedition, I wanted to honour that uniquely British heritage, but I also wanted the project to be progressive, forward-looking and pioneering rather than some sort of historical re-enactment or Edwardian throwback.
I can’t think of a brand that could have done a better job of making that happen.
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