First thing, allow me to apologise to you. I realise that most of our readers took a look at the Santana Ligero up there and immediately and involuntarily emitted a quick, alarmed squirt of terror-urine right into their pants. I regret that this happened, but I really felt there was no other way to show you this car other than to just put it right out there, with no warning. Let’s get through this by talking about the Ligero, and, maybe, come to appreciate it.
Santana Motor was a Spanish company established by the government in 1954 as part of a program to encourage economic growth in Anadalucia. In 1956, they entered an agreement with Land Rover to build Series Land Rovers from CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits, with production starting in 1958.
Eventually, they began doing some of their own development and modification of Land Rovers, which is where the Ligero came from.
Our Spanish-speaking pals may have already realised that “ligero” is Spanish for “light,” which gives a clue to the origins of the car: the Land Rover Lightweight.
The Land Rover Lightweight was a military vehicle developed by Land Rover to be able to be carried and deployed by helicopter. The standard ones were too heavy, so a cleverly stripped-down version was developed that shaved a significant chunk of weight from the original, and the Lightweight was the result.
There was never a civilian version of the Lightweight offered by Land Rover, even though some now have ended up in civilian hands. Santana’s version of the Lightweight was the only official non-military version built and sold, which is great, I’m just a little baffled at some of the aesthetic choices.
The original Lightweight wasn’t bad looking, especially for a military vehicle with zero consideration spent for how it looked:
Santana’s take on it made a few, baffling changes:
The problems are all in the front end. The original version, with its lower fenders, mesh grille, and headlamp setup looks utilitarian but fine, appealing in a machiney sort of way.
Santana’s decision to raise the fender height to nearly the hoodline, while leaving a good six-inch gap between the lower fender and the front bumper, all while incorporating rectangular headlamps and using the standard stamped trapezoid-over-a-rectangle Land Rover grille just make the front end look like a confused, insectoid monster.
It’s got an oddly unfinished-looking quality as well. It’s not exactly easy to put your finger on just what’s not right there, but it’s hard not to feel like something is very amiss.
That said, I kind of love it, and would drive one in a lightweight heartbeat. Ugly weirdos always have a place in my garage.