Charles Spencer "Spen" King was recruited to the Rover Company from Rolls Royce in 1945, with the charge of creating a gas turbine car engine. That didn't pan out, but his design for theRange Rover sure did. Unfortunately, Spen was grumpy about that for the rest of his life.
Charles Spencer "Spen" King was recruited to the Rover Company from Rolls Royce in 1945, with the charge of creating a gas turbine car engine. That didn't pan out, but his design for the Range Rover sure did. Unfortunately, Spen was grumpy about that for the rest of his life.
Spen had only been an apprentice at Rolls Royce for a short time and worked on Spitfire fighter planes when his uncles Spencer and Maurice Wilks, who ran Rover at the time, got him over to their operation. Spen would go on to spend the rest of his career with Rover and even survived the company being bought out by British Leyland, but creating the Range Rover would be the legacy for which he's best remembered.
The lines of the original Range Rover, which were later deemed so pulchritudinous that the SUV was put in the freaking' Louvre museum and are still closely cribbed in the current model forty years later, were half-assedly scribbled out by Spen and his colleague Gordon Bashford just so they could have some shell to stuff their delicately-crafted off-road running gear into.
Spen passed away in 2010, but never gave up insisting the Range Rover's iconic styling consumed "0.1 percent of development time," according to The Telegraph.
Hardcore utilitarian to the very end, he also said "to use the 4x4 for the school run, or even in cities or towns at all, is completely stupid," and that those who did so were undoubtedly "pompous and self-important."
You see; Spen's idea of a Range Rover had cloth seats and an interior designed for cleaning with a garden hose. This was a farmer's rig for carrying crap around rural roads and rounding up the cows on the back paddock, but that trim was phased out pretty soon after the vehicle's introduction and you know what these vehicles look like today. It's safe to say Spen's rolling in his grave as $150,000 Range Rovers with massaging seats and adjustable ambient lighting roll off assembly lines today.
But Spen certainly had commonalities with modern Range Rover owners. His obituary lists his past times as ski racing in Aspen, sailing his yacht The Solent, photography, and listening to classical music.
Seems to me like Spen belonged to a special breed of bros that you just can't be anymore. If there was a time when skiing, sailing, and Range Rovers were rough and badass; Spen embodied it. I think the crusty Englishman resented those things being appropriated by the upwardly-mobile bourgeoisie, and you've gotta respect a guy who sticks to his principles like that. It's just too bad they kept him from really enjoying the barn-burning success his brainchild turned out to be.
Spen died in 2010 at age 85, eventually succumbing to injuries weeks after a van knocked him off his bicycle. His other daily drivers were reportedly a Mini Cooper S and Golf GTI, not a Range Rover.
Images via Land Rover