In the early ’70s, things were a little different. The US was licking its wounds after a drubbing in Vietnam, India was smug after yet another victory over its neighbour and the world, in general, had warmed up to the idea of hippiedom. Some things, however didn’t change much, one of which is this prime, 1971 example of the Land Rover Series III. This one has a history too, one that goes back to India’s most powerful political dynasty, though that is probably incidental. A legend in its own right, the Series I, II and III have influenced the outcome of the Land Rovers we know today, and it looks like the vehicle in the white corner may do that for the Range Rovers of tomorrow.
If the Series III is subtle, the Evoque is over-the-top personified. It shouts from terraces, across busy alleys and public places, demanding your attention in a way that no SUV anywhere in the world probably ever has. Sure, the BMW X6’s uniqueness may have caught the imagination of many, but this one seems to smack you right across the face. It’s a fine example of how to retain a concept’s fine lines and even its impractical design cues to ensure that the thought stays pure. The raised derriere, the small-ish glasshouse and the sharp detailing are designed to communicate a lot more about the person who owns such a vehicle than most mass-produced cars currently on sale.
Forty years may be too long for some, but it doesn’t take away the innocence from the Series III. The lines are boxy and yet don’t feel convoluted in the same sentence. Simplicity of the design has more to do with functionality than terms like ‘street presence’. The 109, as it was called due to its wheelbase length, is of the station wagon variety here, designed to carry up to 12 passengers, unlike the Evoque that can probably do no better than four or a squeezed fifth. Though, I am sure, a certain late ex-Prime Minister known for driving his security cordon into a tizzy, wouldn’t mind this as a home away from home.
On the inside, the Series III is bare bones – the dash is a combination of plastic and metal while a placard tells you its antecedents; a four-wheel drive system and station wagon roots notwithstanding. It isn’t the nattiest of interiors, mind you, but the young owner, Suren Joshi, who runs Pali Village Cafe in tony Bandra West in Mumbai, has taken pains to ensure that it stays true to the original.
Since the entire body is aluminium alloy (all Land Rovers then were built using Birmabright alloy), the doors don’t exactly fit into place with the first shut. As Suren points out, body rust is not the problem; it’s rust around the firewall due to welds that tend to cause sweaty moments.
No such problems with the Evoque, at least not for now. The leather combination is nicely colour-coded and the double-stitching is rather sporty by SUV standards. The console that merges into the central tunnel does have a ‘floating’ feel to it, the buttons are well laid out and I dare say, better finished than even the Freelander 2. What appears as being cocooned on the outside is actually quite comfortable on the inside. It isn’t a coop for sure, just that the high sill does make it feel so.
You have all the gizmos you would expect on a Rs 50 lakh car and then some more. It also has some neat touches, such as ambient lighting that can change colours, spot lighting under the outside rear view mirrors that throw an outline of the car on the ground and a very neat touchscreen, among the host of cool stuff on board. Yet, the presence of a revised terrain response system always lets you know that this is not all poser value.
Forty years of development have also led to massive strides in engine technology. An indirect injection 2.25-litre four-cylinder motor with 65 horses straining for your attention may not perk your ears up, but the Series III is tractable as a 65 hp tractor at your farm. Of course, it takes a lot of guesswork, figuring out which gear slots where and the dog-leg reverse doesn’t really help matters either. Age clearly hasn’t been too kind on us and our patience, so it took a while before I understood what drives the Series III’s soul – a calming, steady hand. Many minutes and a few metres later I encountered the first hurdle – a steering that needs additional muscles. Once I grasped that, and a clutch that needs to
be handled with some careful footwork, appreciation started to flow from my hands straight to the little Einstein in my skull. The motor purred along, my own capability to go anywhere beyond 60 kph being questioned by my trickle of fortitude. Yet, the Landie went on, undeterred by the fact that the Evoque next to it was completely unstressed by the demands of the driver behind the wheel.
It does this with more power, a lot more. Consider this – it’s nearly three times more powerful and has a gallon more of torque to boot, the lord of technology clearly reigning supreme here. By any standards, the Evoque isn’t slow. The gearbox is quick enough to gauge a driver’s responses and unlike its modern day Land Rover cousin, dismisses numbers quickly. It squats, hunkers down and flies past milestones with a sense of purpose, but ever so slightly lets you know that it still does have a relatively greater centre of gravity. Despite what most might think, it rides quite well, with just a bit of stiffness to let you know that the engineers at Land Rover have a different purpose with the Evoque.
A purpose that may be relevant for a certain set of vehicles that emerge from Solihull, not all. The fact is, the sense of practicality, go-anywhere capability and no-nonsense attitude of some Land Rover products haven’t been lost. And that’s rare, given how most companies have watered down some of their core beliefs to address much larger markets.
I am hoping Land Rover continues to stay as the lord of all things off-road, for in it, lies the purpose of Land Rover’s existence. We’d like to give a big shout out to Suren Joshi for letting us drive and feature his wonderful Series III