Maurice Wilks

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Maurice Wilks
Maurice Wilks.jpg
Maurice Wilks
Born (1904-08-19)19 August 1904
Hayling Island, Hampshire, England
Died 8 September 1963(1963-09-08) (aged 59)
Newborough, Anglesey, Wales
Nationality English
Known for Car design engineer

Maurice Fernand Cary Wilks (1904–1963) was an automotive and aeronautical engineer, and by the time of his death in 1963, was the chairman of the Rover Company, a British car manufacturer. He was responsible for the inspiration and concept work that led to the development of the Land Rover off-road utility vehicle.

Early life[edit]

Wilks was born on 19 August 1904 at Hayling Island, Hampshire, England and educated at Malvern College.[1]


In 1926 Wilks went to work for General Motors in the United States. After two years in the U.S., he returned to England to work for the Hillman Motor Car Company in Coventry.[2]

Wilks worked at Hillman for two years as a planning engineer until 1930, when he moved to the Rover Company as chief engineer, joining his brother, Spencer, who was managing director at Rover at that time.[2] During World War II, Wilks led Rover's team developing Frank Whittle's gas turbine aircraft engines.[2][3]

Shortly after the war, whilst at his farm in Anglesey, Wilks, who used an army surplus Willys Jeep for farm work, and his brother Spencer who was visiting him, were inspired to develop and produce a utility four-wheel-drive vehicle for farmers, and the name Land Rover was coined for it.[3]

By the summer of 1947 Rover had built a prototype Land Rover vehicle based on a Jeep chassis.[3] In September 1947, the Rover company authorised the production of 50 pre-production models for evaluation purposes.[3] The Land Rover was launched to the world at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.[3]

Rover gas turbine powered car

After the war, Wilks continued working with gas turbine engines, leading to Rover unveiling the first gas turbine powered car in 1949.[2] He then was appointed mechanical director in 1960 and then in 1961 he was appointed chair of the Rover Company.


Wilks died at his farm near Newborough, Anglesey, on 8 September 1963.[1]

Notable family members[edit]

His brother Spencer Bernau Wilks (1891—1971) was the General Manager of Rover, and a brother-in-law of John Black of the Standard Motor Company.


  1. ^ a b "Wilks, Maurice Cary Fernand". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2011-07-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Mr. Maurice Wilks". The Times. 1963-09-10. p. 12. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Nick Georgano, Nick Baldwin, Anders Clausager, Jonathan Wood. Nick Georgano, ed. Britain's Motor Industry: The First Hundred Years. ISBN 0-85429-923-8.