Charles Spencer 'Spen' King is probably best known as the engineer behind the original Range Rover of 1970, with Land Rover producing a special edition two door ‘CSK’ model in 1991 to honour him. Spen was one of the UK’s foremost automotive engineers and joined Rolls Royce in 1942 as an apprentice.
At the end of hostilities Spen moved to Rover to work on their gas turbine JET 1 prototypes. Despite Rover being run by family members Spencer and Maurice Wilks, it was his skill as an engineer rather than being their nephew that saw him progress to head of new vehicle developments in 1959.
He led the design teams that created the Rover 2000 and SD1 models, and the Triumph Stag, TR6 and TR7. He was appointed chairman of BL technology in 1979, and oversaw a series of ECV (energy conservation vehicle) concepts that used advanced aerodynamics and lightweight materials to reduce fuel consumption. This was many years before the likes of VW released their Bluemotion series.
He was passionate about car safety and even in his retirement he campaigned the government to legislate against unnecessarily thick windscreen pillars that he felt gave modern cars dangerous blindspots.
It is somewhat ironic that his death was due to injuries sustained as a result of a collision between his bicycle and a van. Known as a brilliant, modest and hard working engineer, he will surely be remembered as one of Britain’s most skillful automotive heroes.