02 July, 2010

Range Over

Charles Spencer King (1925 – June 26, 2010)

Just discovered this morning that Charles “Spen” King has died. Not a name very familiar even to the average petrolhead but one of the greats if you're a fan of a particularly functional, honest and very British kind of design.

Joining Rover in 1945 he became chief engineer of new vehicle projects in 1959 and is best known for leading the teams that developed the advanced Rover P6 series and the hugely successful Range Rover. It's hard to overstate the ongoing impact of the Range Rover or just how honest and capable the original was. The authenticity and robustness was reflected in a functional, pure design.

Latterly the Range Rover has come to signify something quite different but we shouldn't blame King. In 2004, he criticised SUV owners who drive their vehicles in urban areas, saying that vehicles like the Range Rover he created were "never intended as a status symbol but later incarnations of my design seem to be intended for that purpose."

It seems a cruel twist of timing that he dies in the month that Land Rover's current design chief Gerry McGovern revealed a new member of the design team - Victoria Beckham - although he did not outline any specific role for the former singer. Beckham said, "I'm incredibly excited to be collaborating with Range Rover. I like to take on a challenge and I'm ready for it."

It was announced on June 28, 2010 that King had died after suffering complications following a cycling accident.

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