I’m going to be honest with you; I mean, I always am, and if I was a more formal sort of journalist, I doubt I’d even share things like this with you, but, well, I’m not more formal. I’ve got so much stuff I need to cover from Goodwood and even Pebble Beach before that, and then there’s all those reviews and other stories – there’s a lot, and I’m getting that peculiar Large Task Inertia, where the mass of everything seems so daunting it makes it hard to start. So, this post is a way of snapping out of that: I need to just make myself do something, so let’s start with a little wonderful detail, something I’ve never noticed before but saw for the first time while at Goodwood: the design of the step on a Land Rover 101 Forward Control.
Are you familiar with the Land Rover 101FC? These were first developed to meet the British army’s need for something to tow a big howitzer gun along with enough cargo capacity to carry one literal ton of ammunition, equipment, and probably some snacks. Development started in 1967, and the 101 Forward Control (named for the 101-inch wheelbase) was essentially a Land Rover with the driver’s position moved to be just ahead of the front axle, the engine contained in a doghouse inside the cab, and a lot more space in the rear.
The 101FC managed to keep 75% parts commonality with the other non-cab-forward Land Rovers, which is impressive and very helpful for the logistics of dealing with a fleet of vehicles, like an army does.
The adaptation of the Land Rover body to be a forward-control setup was, as you might expect, kind of crude. Instead of designing new wheelarches and how to integrate the new axle positions into the bodywork, it looks like the designers just decided to knock off before they actually hit the wheels, making the body look like a flat-bottomed barge parked atop a wheeled chassis, which it sort of was.
This also meant that access into that short, high door was tricky, and that’s what leads us to the detail that I was so taken by. Look:
Let’s get in closer:
See that? That’s called a wheel-step, and it’s pretty much what the name says. I was looking at this truck with our Brit designer, Adrian Clarke, who is about eight feet tall and shaped like a long, slender tower, so much so that I think he leases some of his scalp space for British Telecom to place some cellular equipment.
Anyway, he saw me looking over the truck, and then jumping up in the air so I could get a glimpse as to what the interior looked like. After he saw me pogo-sticking up and down like an idiot, he happened to see these strange cheese-grater-looking drums bolted to the wheels and that’s when he realized the simple wonder of it all: it’s a step!
Yes, a step, a cylindrical step, cheaper and easier and simpler than making some sort of bracket to house a normal horizontal little step, like you might expect. This method requires no new fasteners into the body, no brackets, and is just one simple stamped part. It’s kind of a brilliant idea.
I tried it out, and as you’d expect, a rounded step isn’t quite as stable feeling as a flat one, but it definitely works. There’s room for your foot, it’s pretty grippy, and it can easily handle your weight. This may be the simplest possible solution to this problem, and that’s always something I admire.
I’m told some Unimogs used this method, too, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this. I also like how one of the first things I chose to write about from one of the swankiest gathering of automobiles anywhere in the world is a crude tin can bolted to the wheel of a truck. I don’t always know what’s wrong with me.