You may not have heard of Charles Spencer King, who died last month at 85 in Coventry, England. But the British engineer affected Americans' lives in ways no one could have imagined when he led development of the Range Rover in the late 1960s. King, in effect, invented the modern SUV.
"Spen" King lived long enough to witness the SUV sensation that grew out of the original Range Rover. And it bothered him some.
"Sadly, the four-by-four has become an acceptable alternative to Mercedes or BMW for the pompous, self-important driver," King told London's Daily Mail in 2004. "To use them for the school run, or even in cities or towns at all, is completely stupid."
Before creating the Range Rover, King was better known as a speed demon. In 1952 he set a land speed record of 152 mph for gas turbine cars in a vehicle he had helped design.
"He was a go-fast and turn-tight type guy," Bill Baker, a retired spokesman for Range Rover of North America, told The New York Times.
The Range Rover was exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris in the early 1970s as a prime example of excellent industrial design. The vehicle was introduced in the United States in 1987.