In recent years, the popularity of 4x4s has continued to increase; it is hard to drive around UK roads without seeing a four-wheel drive vehicle. Many car manufacturers have adapted to this growing trend through offering some form of four by four model within their modern fleets, often a popular option for those in need of a larger vehicle. A 4×4 refers to a type of vehicle that has a drivetrain capable of providing torque to all-wheel ends of a two-axed vehicle simultaneously on a full-time of on-demand basis. This is usually linked by a transfer case which offers additional output drive-shaft as well as additional gear ranges. We investigate the history of this popular vehicle type and how it became so popular for modern motorists.
The history of the 4×4 dates back as early as 1893 when British engineer Bramah Joseph Diplock patented a four-wheel-drive system to be used with a steam-powered traction engine. This system was also used with Bramah’s Pedrail wheel system to create one of the first four-wheel-drive automobiles with an intentional ability to drive on challenging road surfaces. Across the pond in Wisconsin, the Four Wheel Drive Company went on to manufacture 15,000 Model B trucks which were used by the British and American armies during World War I. From this, in 1931 the American Marmon-Herrington Company was founded, they converted Ford trucks to provide moderately priced four-wheel-drive vehicles mainly for military contracts. Moving into World War II, the requirement for ‘go-anywhere’ vehicles instigated the production of the Jeep, mass-produced by Ford and Willys but was initially developed by American Bantam. After World War II, the first four-wheel-drive vehicle was produced for sale in the general marketplace, the success of the Jeep during the war influenced other models of 4x4s for years to come.
With Willys mass producing Jeeps in 1945, it wasn’t long before Land Rover presented their first 4×4 model at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948. Despite minimal investment from Rover, the vehicle outsold their passenger cars, being particularly adopted by farmers for off-road use. Jeep once again revolutionised the four-wheel-drive vehicle market with the release of the Wagoneer in 1963; the first vehicle finished as a regular passenger automobile to combine four-wheel-drive and automatic transmission as well as independent front suspension. Numerous car manufacturers introduced their version of a 4×4, most notably Subaru released the Leone in 1972, which expanded the 4×4 as the first affordable compact station wagon. American Motors purchased Jeep in 1970, and then released the Eagle in 1980, the first car put into mass production with a complete front engine four-wheel drive system. The Eagle combined Jeep technology with proven American Motors passenger automobile platform; it was deemed ‘the beginning of a new generation of cars’ by Four Wheeler magazine. 4x4s became popular in the snow-belt of America as they coped well in the snowy conditions that were common in these areas.
Since then, four-wheel-drive vehicles have become increasingly popular, making up 32% of new light vehicles sales in 2013, up 5% from 2008 figures. Strong sales have been supported by the development of the crossover, combining the features of 4x4s with those of a passenger vehicle. Rover released their luxury off-road capable Range Rover fleet in the 1970s; their popularity continues to grow as it moves away from the traditional agriculture owners.
Aquarius Manufacturing Ltd is a member of the Euro Extrusions group, offering a range of 4×4 spare wheel covers. Based in Lancashire, their team manufactures and supplies thermoformed hard plastic and printed wheel covers that fit all types of 4x4s, trailers, horseboxes and campervans. Offering a customisable service, Aquarius can produce spare wheel covers with your branding, the perfect on-the-road marketing tool. The team also offer 3D moulded spare wheel covers and currently have a range of animal designs available on their website.
If you would like more information on any of Aquarius’ products or services, speak to a member of the team on 01254 887511.