Aside from the very limited edition 70th anniversary Defender that was just announced, Land Rover has also revealed, first in LRO magazine, and now in a full press release, that they will restore one of the most historically important and valuable early Land Rovers in existence. In 2016, a Land Rover enthusiast not far outside of Land Rover's home base of Solihull, UK, discovered an old 80-inch Series One Land Rover languishing in a field. It turned out to be one of the three original pre-production Land Rovers that were part of Land Rover's initial debut to the world at the Amsterdam Motor Show on April 30, 1948.
This vehicle's whereabouts have been unknown to fans and historians of the Land Rover marque for the last 63 years. Once the vehicle was acquired by Land Rover, they began to research its history, likely through tracing the registration, which in the UK usually stays with a vehicle its whole life. It went through a handful of owners and even spent 20 years as a stationary power source on a farm in Wales. When the engine seized, it was sold off. The new owner never got around to the restoration, and apparently not knowing what he had, was preparing to take it for scrap. Fortunately, it was rescued from that potentially tragic fate. Once rescued, word eventually got back to Land Rover, who obviously was very interested in it. It is undoubtedly the world’s most historically significant unrestored Land Rover.
Over the course of 2018, JLR's Land Rover Classic restoration experts plan to restore the vehicle, but even for them, it will likely be a daunting task. The 48 pre-production Land Rovers had quite a few different features than the production vehicles, including thicker body panels, a fully galvanized chassis, and a removable rear tub. The vehicle's previous owners will be invited to the Land Rover Classic Works facility in order that they can "witness its loving restoration " and in the hopes that they will have more information and stories to share about its history. Tim Hannig, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Director, said: “This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history and is as historically important as ‘Huey’, the first pre-production Land Rover. Beginning its sympathetic restoration here at Classic Works, where we can ensure it’s put back together precisely as it’s meant to be, is a fitting way to start Land Rover’s 70th anniversary year."
There has already been some debate around the 'campfire' so to speak, as to whether it would be appropriate to give this vehicle a new paint job. That question seems to have been answered, to the relief of the originalists out there. According to Land Rover's press page, "The patina of its components will be preserved, including the original Light Green paint applied in 1948."
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