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Look back at the birth of the original Land Rover | How Land Rover has driven adventure and scientific exploration | GQ Editor Dylan Jones talks inspiration with Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern | Exploring the potential impact of electrification and connected vehicles | Tackling the 999 steep steps up to Heaven’s Gate in China

SPECIAL VEHICLES The

SPECIAL VEHICLES The interior of the new SVAutobiography blends luxurious refinement together with individuality through a range of bespoke options and skilled craftsmanship IN 2014, SVO ENGINEERING STAFF NUMBERED NO MORE “We often say the clue’s in the word ‘special,’” Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicles Operations’ THAN 100, NOW Managing Director John Edwards says with a smile. He’s referring to the division set up in 2014 – abbreviated to SVO for short – which creates the company’s most luxurious (SVAutobiography), high-performance (SVR) and capable (SVX) models. Since then, very special Land Rover vehicles, Range Rover vehicles and Jaguar vehicles have been made for clients as diverse as the James Bond movie franchise, the Austrian Red Cross, fashion designer Paul Smith, sports stars, celebrities and thousands of private customers, too. “Our brief is to produce halo vehicles that not only help build our brands, but also our business,” Edwards continues. “Everything we do is designed to reinforce IT’S CLOSER TO 450 the great products in our core range. We do that in one of two ways,“ he explains. “Either through a model like the Range Rover Sport SVR, which once we’ve introduced it, normally a year or so after the main launch, becomes a permanent fixture at the top of its range. Or through special collector’s editions, limited in volume, more exclusive and probably hand built away from the core factory.” The division can trace its roots back to the 1990s’ Autobiography versions of the Range Rover – a service for discerning customers who wanted additional features beyond the regular models’ specifications – plus varied bespoke commercial adaptations (of mainly Defender vehicles) for working fleets like the Forestry Commission and Fire Brigades, plus a few armored vehicles, too. 82

Part of the SVO team‘s challenge is to work with a wide variety of global customers, spanning from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (top), to fashion designers like Paul Smith (middle) and sports stars like world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua But this was small scale, and not approached with the same level of focus as the modern Special Vehicle Operations unit. “I give our CEO Dr. Ralf Speth credit for Special Vehicle Operations,” Edwards recalls. “When he spoke to me four years ago he saw the potential. We look at our business as having three core brand values – luxury, performance and capability – and Special Vehicle Operations is about producing products that really dial up the volume on those three values.” To realize this potential, new facilities were needed. Fleet conversions used to be undertaken in a small, unassuming workshop in Solihull. Edwards wanted somewhere new, larger and much more in keeping with the special vehicles planned. The location chosen for this was Oxford Road in Ryton, just east of Coventry, England. The 215,300 sq. ft. new site has 129,167 sq. feet dedicated to a fully automated paint facility – which gives Special Vehicle Operations the opportunity to paint almost any color in any finish - plus an 86,111 sq. ft. workshop where Special Vehicle Operations models are either built or converted into finished vehicles. Edwards gets audibly excited just thinking about the place. “It’s the best facility within Jaguar Land Rover,” he enthuses. “When customers visit, their jaws quite literally drop at the quality of investment, attention to detail and customer service. We’ve got our own Michelin-starred chef to cater for customers in a manner in which they would expect and a commissioning suite to welcome customers wanting bespoke vehicles, or see their own cars being built or converted.” The pre-2014 department handled about 200 vehicles annually, but in 2017 alone the new SVO department completed 5,000 cars – the majority Land Rover vehicles – and is looking to significantly surpass that figure in 2018. Indeed, an abundance of new SV-badged products is planned over the next 12 months, including the Range Rover SV Coupe, the ultra-luxurious Range Rover (see page 86), plus other new models for Land Rover and Jaguar as well. In 2014, SVO engineering staff numbered no more than 100, now it’s closer to 450. To give an example of the sort of enhancements that an SVO badge brings, 83

 

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