The Range Rover turns 50 this year but in 1986 Range Rover set out to prove Top Gear wrong…Meet the Beaver Bullet.

Before Jeremy Clarkson arrived at Top Gear it was a dull affair. A serious motoring program aimed at informing car buyers there was absolutely no fun allowed. 

But in 1986, the show’s host, Chris Goffey did what no-one was expecting…he panned a Range Rover. The Rangie had arrived in 1970 and been lauded but in 1986 Land Rover decided to trundle out a turbo-diesel variant and sent a hastily built vehicle to Top Gear for review.

And Chris Goffey went to town on the thing, saying it was as rough as guts and looked and felt as if it’d been put together on a Friday afternoon, or something like that. See, the vehicle tested hadn’t been put through Land Rover’s usual media prep and nor had it even had a pre-inspection. Sigh. Sales in the UK of the new turbo-diesel variant stalled.

So a team of Land Rover engineers got together and came up with the idea of proving Top Gear wrong with a reliability challenge. The engineers grabbed two turbo-diesel Range Rovers and stripped them, leaving just the driver’s seat. Quick release bonnet catches were fitted, full radio comms, and race-spec fuel fillers in the tailgate were added for fast fueling.

The two Range Rovers were taken to the Motor Industry Research Association at Nuneaton in Warwickshire where they were run around the 4.53 kilometre track. They became the first diesel-powered vehicles to average a speed of more than 160km/h for 24 hours. More than that, they claimed a total of 27 speed and endurance records for diesel-powered 4×4 vehicles.

Only one of the two vehicles survives, the one you see here, B378 TAC which was nicknamed the Beaver Bullet. No, we don’t know why, either.

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