x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Charles Spencer King, engineer who gave us the Range Rover

When he led the team that developed this more powerful version of the Land Rover, he expected it to find its niche on the open road and in country life.

In the 40 years since its launch, the Range Rover has become a ubiquitous sight in suburban streets and city traffic. When Charles Spencer King led the team that developed this more comfortable, better sprung, bigger-tyred, more powerful version of the Land Rover, he expected it to find its niche on the open road and in country life. It succeeded beyond his imagination. Always known as "Spen", he was born in Surrey, the nephew of Maurice and Spencer Wilks, the brothers who ran Rover. Having left school at 17, he first worked for Rolls-Royce, where he developed gas turbine engines, before joining his uncles in 1945. His brilliance as an engineer soon became obvious with his work on a gas-turbine engine that broke the land-speed record in 1952. The prize-winning Rover 2000 followed in 1963. Then, in June 1970, the Range Rover was launched.

It enjoyed extraordinary success and has run to three generations - the Classic, the P38a and the L322. Queen Elizabeth is said to own all three. It was introduced in the United States in 1987 and became a status symbol. King came to regret the use to which his invention had been put. However, in 2004 he told the Daily Mail: "Sadly, the 4x4 has become an acceptable alternative to Mercedes or BMW for the pompous, self-important driver. To use them for the school run, or even in cities or towns at all, is completely stupid."

Later, with British Leyland, King worked on Triumph sports cars and went on to do much to advance energy conservation vehicles. He usually drove a VW Golf but on June 26 he was hit by a lorry while cycling near his home in Coventry. In the week since King's death, an image of the Evoque, a new, compact Range Rover, was released. Charles Spencer King, born on March 26, 1925, is survived by a son and a daughter. He died on June 28.

* The National