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Charles Spencer King Dies At 85… Or Did He?

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Posted On: Jun 29, 2010 By: Category: Land Rover News

Before there was a Range Rover Sport there was the two-door Range Rover CSK.

Now its inventor – “Spen” to his friends and England’s most famous engineer – is dead at 85. But his legacy is more alive than ever.

Charles Spencer King

The 250,000th Range Rover was rolling off the line in September 1990 when a sneak preview of a limited-edition two-door Range Rover called the CSK was being unveiled at the UK Motor Show.

Range Rover CSK

It was outrageous for two reasons. First, the thing only had two doors. What was that all about? And second, while it wasn’t the first limited edition Land Rover (the Vogue models in the early eighties were also limited editions), the CSK was the first model that boldly – some would say shamelessly – carried a plate declaring the fact. It even came with a certificate of authenticity and an individually numbered plaque on the radio panel so you (and everyone else) knew it was an exceedingly rare production vehicle.

The CSK of course, stood for Charles Spencer King, the man who designed the original 2-door Range Rover over 20 years ago and was finally getting his due. The CSK was intended primarily to publicize a new thing called anti-roll suspension and was promoted as a sportier Range Rover. It had a 3.9 liter V8 engine and five-speed manual gearbox and it hit 60mph in under 10 seconds.

When you give an engineer – call him a grown up and knowledgeable “car guy” – the opportunity to create a new & improved version of the Range Rover with his initials on it, you can expect there to be a number of modifications improving both performance and passenger comfort. It was the fastest production Range Rover ever built at that time, and featured the introduction of both front and rear anti-roll bars and sports dampers, to give a smoother, more comfortable ride for on-road handling. The roll stiffness, it was said, was increased by 25 per cent over the standard production model.

The CSK was arguably the most aesthetically pleasing Range Rover ever built. Two doors just look better than four, plus it had that lustrous, stunning Beluga Black paintwork contrasted with chrome bumpers and silver pinstripe coach lines and discrete silver CSK lettering on the sides. Rumor is that this was Spen King's signature, but he had to write his initials in three or four different ways before Land Rover stylists found a version they liked!

Inside, you'll find American walnut and handcrafted, beige soft leather seats, coordinated leather door trims and a leather covered steering wheel, all exclusive to this limited edition. A full range of accessories is available including – and remember, this was 1990 - a 12-CD autochanger and a cell phone hook-up.

When the Range Rover CSK was announced in 1990, the uninformed mouth breathers of the time couldn't imagine why anybody would want a two-door Range Rover at all in a market where only four-doors were being sold. In fact, Land Rover chose to make the special-edition a two-door mainly because every other UK Range Rover in the showroom at that time was a four-door. It made the model distinctive. Before too long, all 200 CSK models were sold.

Range Rover Sports
[Grille to grille at the introduction of the new Range Rover Sport.]

Think on it. Before the Range Rover Sport was introduced in 2005, the CSK had been the only other “sporty” Range Rover. Land Rover certainly did, which is why they borrowed the CSK 001 designation to use at the Range Rover Sport's World Wide Launch in Spain as a link between old and new. More importantly, it was a tribute to the original designer of the Range Rover, Charles Spencer King. His design stands for a true motoring icon and the Range Rover CSK highlighted the iconic status of the Range Rover in 1990 as a 20th Anniversary limited edition for the UK. Long may he live!

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