Iconic movie cars have quite the following. Cross that with an interest in military vehicles and we have something straight out of a comic book. Enter the 1995 Sylvester Stallone movie Judge Dredd, and the Armored Cab Land Rover.
The Land Rover 101 was primarily produced to meet the Army’s requirement for a gun tractor and was designed to tow a field gun (the L118 Light Gun) with a ton of ammunition and other equipment in the rear load space, giving it the alternate name of the Land Rover One Tonne.
This vehicle was originally designed to be easily transported by air and dropped behind enemy lines if needed. The positioning of the 3.5 liter Rover V8 engine beneath and to the rear of the cab eliminates the bonnet at the front, making the vehicle cube like, thus reducing unused space in transport aircraft. What’s interesting about this design choice is the hauler often had problems moving more than just its payload which presented problems relating to limited stability, particularly when crossing an incline due to the spacing of the axles.
The official name of 101 Forward Control is derived from the vehicle’s 101-inch (2,565 mm) wheelbase, and the position of the driver, above and slightly in front of the front wheels which used a fairly large 9.00 × 16 inch tire. To cope with the extra height above the ground, the wheels feature an unusual quality for a Land Rover (but used for many years on the much older and similar Mercedes Unimog S404); a flange around the center of the wheel has an embossed tread pattern forming a step for the crew when entering the cab, named a wheel-step. This feature was exaggerated when fitted with the futuristic framework used in the movie.
Development of the 101FC started in 1967. Production took place between 1972 and 1978. In common armed forces practice, many vehicles were not used for some years and it’s not unheard of for military vehicle enthusiasts to pick up these vehicles after only a few thousand miles of service. All the vehicles produced at the Land Rover factory at Lode Lane, Solihull were soft top (“rag top”) General Service (GS) gun tractors, although later on many were rebuilt with hard-top ambulance bodies and used as radio communication trucks. A rare variant is the electronic warfare Vampire body. It’s thought that only 21 of these were produced and less than half survive today. One was destroyed in the Buncefield Oil Terminal Fire.
The 101FC also served with the RAF Regiment. Two 101s were allocated to each Rapier Missile set up. The British RAF Rapier system used three Land-Rovers in deployment: a 24V winch fitted 101 Firing Unit Tractor (FUT) to tow the launch trailer, loaded with four Rapier missiles, guidance equipment, and radio; a 12V winch fitted 101 Tracking Radar Tractor (TRT) to tow the Blindfire Radar trailer, also loaded with four Rapier missiles and guidance equipment; and a 109 Land Rover to tow a reload trailer with 9 Rapier missiles and loaded with the unit’s other supplies and kit.
The 101FC also served in an ambulance role, with ambulance bodywork built by Marshall of Cambridge. The 101FC was manufactured in both left and right-hand drive with either 12 or 24 volt electrical systems.
Some 101FCs were produced with a PTO powered Nokken capstan winch mounted on the chassis at the center of the vehicle, allowing winching from either the front or rear. Another variation on a small number of pre-production vehicles was the addition of a trailer with an axle driven from the PTO, creating a 6×6 vehicle, this adaptation was abandoned before full production when it was discovered that the trailer had a propensity to push the vehicle onto its side when driven over rough terrain.
Philipp Bashall of the Land Rover Club seems to know more about these things than anyone, here’s what he had to say: “In the year 2139 few vehicles are left on earth, one of them driven by Judge Dredd, a cartoon character from the 2000AD Comic. The only safe way to travel in that violent world is in armored taxis- built by Land Rover.”
So for the Hollywood movie “Judge Dredd,” starring Sylvester Stallone, several 101s were equipped with a futuristic fiberglass body. After the movie was completed almost all vehicles were sold. The vehicles aren’t road legal as they are but can be easily made to be. All the 101’s mechanical parts are retained. This is a hot, noisy vehicle – but what a head-turner!
The interior wasn’t changed except for the one prototype used for interior shooting. Access is quite difficult and there are some other shortcomings like noise, heat and no ventilation or reclining seats.
Land Rover had a designer who had experimented with work on futuristic Land Rovers and already had some ideas to use for the “city cabs.” So Land Rover’s design team, submitted their ideas to the producers and Land Rover was awarded the contract to produce 31 vehicles
They modified the 101s by removing the body and replacing it with a fiberglass body equipped with small windows in the front and a small fiberglass door. To emphasize the cuboid appearance, all rounded edges or panels were eliminated. The wheels were also extended ten inches. All of these combined modifications provided the aggressive, futuristic look that the vehicles display in the film.
There are still several of these vehicles in existence. While not easy to drive, they’re in drivable condition and often turn up at Land Rover events.