I would venture to say that no single automotive feature is as widely recognized across the globe as the spare tire on the bonnet of a Land Rover.

The Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstacy” winged lady is certainly in the running. Some might mention, say, the tail fins of a ’57 Chevy. But it’s certain more people have seen that spare tire in person, from the streets of London or New York to the dirt tracks of Kenya or Australia or Nepal.

But, honestly, it was a really dumb idea.

Let me hasten to say that it was much less of a dumb idea as originally configured, with the skinny 6.00 x 16 tires and 5-inch wide wheels standard on Series 1 vehicles. But the arrangement still made raising the bonnet a pain, reduced forward visibility, and presented a challenge in getting the spare off and, worse, getting a potentially muddy punctured tire and wheel back on without scratching or gouging the paint or the Birmabrite itself.

Even the 6.00 tire on this Series I blocks forward vision.

With modern wheels and tires—even so modest a fitment as the 235/85 x 16 tires on our 110—near visibility is significantly hampered. Topping out on a steep climb with nothing but a BFG filling your field of vision is not fun. And lifting the bonnet is a genuine heave for anyone not stout of tricep.

Even the modest 235-section tire on our 110 is a problem.

I might also point out that, horizontal on the bonnet, the tire is much more exposed to UV degradation from sun exposure, and to heat from the engine. Finally, I’ll point out that in the event you are rear-ended in your Land Rover, the ramifications of that tire breaking free and coming back through the windshield are not pleasant.

And with wider modern tires it gets a bit ridiculous.

Advantages? Well, er . . . let’s see. It’s quicker to access and doesn’t get as dirty as a spare tucked under the rear chassis. It eliminates the “complexity” of a swingaway carrier, as on the Series Land Rovers’ primary competitor, the 40-Series Land Cruisers. And adding a swingaway carrier on a Series Land Rover is an easy way to obtain two spares for journeys fraught with tire hazards. But really the spare should have been mounted on a swingaway to begin with—perhaps with an optional second spare on the hood.

Anyway . . . it sure does look cool.

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