One of Land Rover's very first employees has been reunited with one of the trucks she worked on in the 1940s -- and somehow, it was the first Land Rover she's ever ridden in.
In July 1946, Dorothy Peters went with her mother to the Rover Company factory in Solihull, England, looking for a job. The 15-year-old began to work in the Land Rover plant in the earliest days of production in the service department.
She took a few photographs with one of the vehicles and kept them to herself until a Land Rover 70th Anniversary event this year, where she showed them to Mike Bishop, Engineering Specialist for Land Rover Classic's Reborn program and one of Land Rover's de facto on-staff historians.
Little did she know that Bishop actually owns the vehicle in the picture -- the 16th production Series I off the line. Known as "260 AC" by the trade plate that hung on the front bumper, it was part of the British launch of the Land Rover at the Bath and West show in 1948. It was used for decades at the Solihull factory as a general runabout, moving parts, manuals, and supplies around the factory grounds. In the 1980s it was sold on to an enthusiast who registered it with the standard plate number HNX 331. (It had never been properly registered in the UK before!)
In the 1990s, Bishop, already a well-known Series I enthusiast at age 25, was hired to refurbish the vehicle for an owner who wanted to take it on a trip to Switzerland in 1998. A decade later, that owner contacted him to ask if he wanted to buy 260 AC -- it had been sitting too much, and he wanted it to be owned by someone who would use it. He bought in with a friend, and now it makes frequent appearances at special events, even more so in the 70th Anniversary year.
When Bishop found out the tie Peters had to Solihull and the earliest Series I vehicles, he decided that she had to be reunited with the truck. He surprised her at her retirement home in 260 AC. She was shocked for two reasons -- that he was reuniting her with the vehicle, and that it was green -- her photos from long ago were black and white, and she didn't remember those original Series Is being green.
Peters had always wanted to go around the Jungle Track, the arduous test track at Solihull where all new Land Rovers are tested. A successor to an original 1949 test track for visitors that transited various air-raid shelters at the former World War II airplane engine plant, the Jungle Track was built in the 1950s and can still be driven by visitors as part of the Land Rover Experience tours available at the factory.
Bishop took her all over, and she voiced her excitement the entire trip experiencing the true capabilities of a Land Rover for the first time, through water crossings and across side slopes. She'd never driven in a Land Rover before -- and she maybe put it best -- "this vehicle can cope!"
When she was working there in the 1940s, birds would nest and lay eggs in the high-above rafters of the Solihull factory. Today robotic arms instead fly around the floor, but even today, to quote Peters, "Land Rover has that special feeling."
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