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The muscles of the world. Why, after 70 years, a descendant of the Land Rover Series I got an aluminum body again? (part 1)

In 1946, the outstanding British design engineer Maurice Wilkes began developing the Land Rover Series I. For many decades, this car will remain the most popular SUV in the world. At the same time, another great Briton, Winston Churchill, made a famous speech in Fulton on the post-war structure of the world. Oddly enough, it can easily be linked with the development of the English automobile industry, because the first Land Rover all-terrain vehicles became the “muscles of the world”, or rather, the “muscles of peace”, and the ideas embodied in them were developed today – with the release of the new generation Defender.
In the second half of the 40s of the last century, the British government, trying to nourish the country’s weakened economy with hard currency, rigidly quoted the sale of steel. For example, automobile companies that sold cars abroad received more than others. Rover Company did not import actively, and for the first SUV, steel was enough for it only on the frame. The rest was made of “winged” metal, in a large quantity prepared for the release of aircraft and with the end of the war remaining unclaimed. Why now, the British decided to return to aluminum, and even get away from the frame? Is it possible to combine strength and lightness?
Let’s first answer another question: is it possible to make a stand for a mobile phone using a small piece of ordinary paper? It turns out that this is easy: if you roll the sheet into a cylinder, gluing its edges, the resulting design, mounted vertically, will hold not only a mobile phone, but also, say, a heavy billiard ball. And you can do without glue at all – make an “accordion”, put it on the ribs and put the gadget on it. Oddly enough, roughly the same principle developed the design of cars, only in “computer-free” times, except for the slide rule, a tire and an arithmometer, the engineer had nothing. Because of this, many ideas remained in the minds of designers who did not have the necessary computing power at hand. Now – a completely different matter! The time has come for the most daring ideas and the most difficult tasks.
Winston Churchill next to his SUV in 1954 – then he again, as during the war years, headed the government
Nowhere without a frame!
Once, engineers did not think of a car without a frame – it doesn’t matter if it’s big, small, for two people or for a ton of cargo. It seemed that a design of two channels and several crossbars would never replace anything. Over the years, trying various load-bearing structures, including spatial frames, the developers came to the conclusion that without this heap of metal it is very possible to do, it will even be more correct: without a frame, the machine will become easier and its handling will improve. You will probably be very surprised if you find out that even in the USSR, even before the war, NATI designed (and built) a bus for 38 people with a supporting body.
Making an aluminum body was easier and cheaper than steel, in addition, Rover engineers simplified the manufacturing process as much as possible.
In short, even before the war, the load-bearing body began to recapture the territory, but there was a pause during the fighting. In Europe and Japan, the civilian automotive industry was curtailed, the US industry in the pursuit of government orders was converted to military tracks, and all military passenger vehicles were exclusively framed. They dragged a light cannon, delivered several wounded to the hospital, and with the help of the lowering step in the “razdatka” they could get into where the horse and the cart were mated.
The frame design provided quick installation of any type of body on all three series of the post-war Land Rover
Who knows, did the creator of the first Land Rover, Maurice Wilkes, think about the load-bearing body when, after the victory, he operated one of these military all-terrain vehicles in his farm? And what would be the first Land Rover if the British engineer had enough steel? In any case, it was on SUVs that the frame did not give up its positions for the longest time. There are many reasons here, from rational and engineering to emotional and consumer, which, as usual, have nothing to do with reality.

Let’s start with rational reasons. Like military vehicles, Land Rover was without fail multifunctional: it dragged the plow, supplied power to the sawmill, cleaned the snow, carried a large trailer of hay to the sheep, extinguished fires, delivered the patients to the hospital and even dispersed the demonstrators, gathering especially aggressive ones in the back. And all this bunch of opportunities in those years, oddly enough, was provided by the frame. Firstly, tow hooks, winches, power take-offs, pumps and other devices were attached to its crossbars, it was she who made it possible to easily change the “superstructure”, or more simply, the body. Last but not least, the machine demonstrated its remarkable traction capabilities precisely because aluminum panels, obtained mainly on bending equipment, and not through expensive stamping, were lightweight and did not take away power…

Firstly, tow hooks, winches, power take-offs, pumps and other devices were attached to its crossbars, it was she who made it possible to easily change the “superstructure”, or more simply, the body. Last but not least, the machine demonstrated its remarkable traction capabilities precisely because aluminum panels, obtained mainly on bending equipment, and not through expensive stamping, were lightweight and did not take power from the engine. At the same time, the body gave full protection against rain and wind, in contrast to the awning, which was then on many SUVs.
Thanks to the steel frame and lightweight aluminum body, the Land Rover Series I did not tip over even with a roll angle of 45 degrees
In addition, the frame made it possible to create several modifications on a wheelbase at minimal cost: it was enough to change the length of the side members, move the rear axle with suspension, release a new driveshaft – and a new car is ready! In general, at that time, the frame provided many advantages, for example, with a high height of off-road vehicles, it provided a low center of gravity. A lightweight aluminum body lowered it even more – according to this indicator Defender was the best, moreover – super-stable, allowing for very large banks. When operating on the road, the frame can withstand any and all loads. In a word, it is not surprising that at one time on this type of machine it seemed to be an eternal, uncontested design …
Previous Generation Land Rover Defender: Cars Assemble Slowly and Mostly Manually “Extraordinary” Agreement
Meanwhile, time passed, ordinary passenger cars were transferred to the load-bearing bodies as one and all – they lost in mass, gained in handling and safety. It was the safety that the car developers did not think about for the longest time, especially the large frame SUVs. However, let’s deal with one popular stereotype: it is believed that the frame, because of its solidity, reliability and rigidity, is much safer in a collision than a carrying body. Oddly enough, this theory also held the minds of engineers for a long time, at least until they began to study the distribution of impact power flows in an accident. It turned out an amazing thing: the stronger the car was, the less chance the driver had of survival, which was confirmed by the first measurements in the laboratories.

The supporting body allows not only creating programmable deformation zones for the designers, but also taking away the load from the driver and passengers. The frame, on the contrary, only contributes to the fact that those sitting in the cabin receive as much damage as possible.
Shortening or lengthening the wheelbase on a load-bearing body is not easy: in fact, you have to redesign it
Of course, the supporting body has its drawbacks, because, as we know, nothing is free in nature. Engineers are not so easy and not so cheap to make a version with a new wheelbase – for this you need to actually design the body from scratch, not only increasing the key elements in length, but also strengthening them, that is, increasing the thickness. And to make convertibles or open versions, which Land Rover of the first three series and Defenders were so famous for, it is almost impossible, since this leads to a deterioration of some properties of the car due to a radical increase in mass.

Yes, if you did not know, then a convertible is always heavier than a car with an all-metal body, on the basis of which it is made. The fact is that the roof is one of the key power elements, which is also involved in the distribution of load upon impact, and gives rigidity to the whole structure. When constructing a convertible, engineers are forced to resort to reinforcing the bottom, and other tuning garage companies, of which there are many in California, offer a much more elegant solution: they simply … weld the doors, otherwise the car will fold in half at the nearest bump or with a dashing moving policeman. ” Nevertheless, the advantages of the supporting body are incommensurably greater than the disadvantages, including from the standpoint of preparing SUVs.

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