Vehicles - Minerva

Following the success of the Landrover in the years following WWII, the Rover Company was under pressure to increase exports and expand production, unfortunately it was short on production capacity. In 1951 in Belgium, meanwhile, the newly re-established Societe Nouvelle Minerva SA company, which had been a producer of luxury vehicles before the war, gone broke and bailed out by it's government to produce military vehicles, found itself with assembly facilities at one of it's remaining sites at Mortsel, Antwerp. Competing for the contract to supply the replacement for the Belgian Army's ageing jeeps but without resources to develop it's own vehicle from scratch, they approached Rover. After lengthy negotiations it was finally agreed that Minerva would build it's own adaption of the Landrover, using CKD (Completely Knocked Down) chassis and other parts. Production started in 1952, the vehicle was well received and the order was soon increased. This was not to last, however, with the relationship between the two companies suffering, finally ending in agreement to terminate the arrangement in mid 1958. By this time, Minerva had developed their own all-terrain vehicle, the 'Tout Terrain'. Soon after this, Minerva went to the wall again, this time for good.

Between late 1951 and 1956, it was assembled in quite large numbers and supplied to the Belgian Armed Services, Police and eventually even to the civilian user. Essentially the Minerva was the same vehicle as the Series One 80 inch, but with some very important and quite significant differences, the main one being an all steel body of quite heavy gauge. The most obvious difference is the front wing shape, squared off and sloping, quite unlike the normal round fronted Landrover wings. The front grill was narrower and carried a red and black Minerva badge. Small openings on either side of the main grill were covered by slatted oval panels. The headlights were much bigger with the side lights located at the bottom of the front wings. The front bumper normally carried a pigtail towing eye on the drivers side only. On the same side, the exhaust system is shorter and exits further forward, just behind the driver.

Original tyres were Engelbert brand, maintaining an association with that manufacturer dating back to the very beginning of the Minerva Company.The vehicles were left hand drive with standard 1997cc siamese bore engine and had the 1948-53 instrument binnacle. Further back, the rear body lacked the galvanised cappings. The basic military Minerva came in several guises. Besides the standard vehicle, there was a radio truck, an ambulance with two stretchers, a dual control military driving school vehicle, a lightly armoured version fitted with twin 7.62 mm machine guns fore and single gun aft. A similar version was armed with .30 Browning weapons in an airfield defence role. Later, in 1980, thirteen vehicles were fitted with Milan anti tank weaponry. Information on the numbers produced of each type is still being uncovered by the Minerva TT Register.

The standard military 80 inch had only two front seats with a central toolbox. There was no tailgate, the rear body having a solid, two thirds height back panel. There was no PTO opening in the rear cross member and no external handles on the steel doors. At some point a special gunship version was produced with heavy plating, protected grille, front mounted spare wheel, armoured glass aero screens and machine gun mounts front and rear. Reliable sources suggest marginally less than 9000 were exported with the military taking just iunder 8500 and the remainder going to government agencies through the dealer network. In 1985 when the Bombardier (VW Iltis) entered service with the Belgian Army, there were still 2492 serving Minervas.

Any extra information or corrections on any of the above would be most welcome.

My thanks to Mike Hardiman for his permission to use his research in compiling this article.