Land Rover History: The Camel Trophy Is a Forgotten Off-Road Race That Inspired Generations of Adventurers
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It was an off-road event that pitted driver and machine against the most inhospitable of conditions in Land Rover history. The Camel Trophy, aptly considered the “Olympics of 4×4,” involves taking the knobby-tired Brits through dense jungles, frigid mountain ranges, and barren deserts. So, just what was the iconic event, and what was its legacy for the marque?
What is the story behind the Camel Trophy?
The Camel Trophy started with three teams of Germans seeking to take off-roaders across 1,000 miles of Brazilian landscape in 1980. In the first event, the teams didn’t complete the Trans-Amazonian trial as planned. However, the attempt created the momentum to expand and grab the attention of Land Rover.
As the event’s name and logo emblazoned on the participating vehicles suggest, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Camel cigarettes were the main sponsor. Still, while the partnership led to a larger, more international event, it didn’t stay in South America.
From 1980 to 2000, the Camel Trophy took Land Rovers and teams to Indonesia, Zaire, Australia, Tanzania, Central America, and even Siberia. The common denominator? Kitted-out Land Rovers and their international crews were devoted to conquering the odds in the Olympics of 4×4.
What vehicles were used in Camel Trophy?
Although the first event involved Ford U50s (which were actually under-license Jeep CJ5s), Land Rover involved itself in every Camel Trophy from 1981 to 2000. The brand’s first off-roaders in the trials were Range Rovers, although the Defender and Discovery took part in nearly every iteration in a participation or support role.
Each vehicle packed task-specific hardware from winches to roll cages and snorkels. And rightfully so, the terrain in each event served no purpose other than to break the off-roaders. Teams routinely found themselves fording through waist-deep water and bouncing over chassis-articulating rocks.
Does Camel Trophy still exist?
Unfortunately, the last Camel Trophy concluded in 2000 after shifting to a boating focus following declining interest. After the 2000 event, Land Rover started the “G4 Challenge,” an international adventure competition.
Still, the now-discontinued adventure competition holds a special place in Land Rover history for fans and veterans alike.
Land Rover launched the TReK challenges to channel the grit of the Camel Trophy
Today, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) hosts a TReK challenge to pit its retailer network against the elements in its vehicles. Like the Camel Trophy that inspired it, the event involves off-roading, challenging terrain, and kitted-out vehicles.
Still, we’re sure fans wouldn’t oppose the return of the international adventure competition. Keep up with MotorBiscuit for the latest off-roading content!