You’re Hired

Meet the ‘Ap­pren­tice’ Dis­cov­ery 3 that helped shape the fu­ture of the De­fender

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents - Story: Gary Pusey Photos: Nick Dim­bleby and the Dunsfold Col­lec­tion Ar­chive

Known as ‘The Ap­pren­tice Dis­cov­ery’, Gary Pusey un­cov­ers why it helped shape the fu­ture of the De­fender

It’s had a num­ber of names over the years. It was ini­tially given the name ‘Rogue’ by the team that cre­ated it, but in­ter­est­ingly it car­ries fac­tory la­bels on the wind­screen and rear win­dow that iden­tify it as ‘ICON 1’, and we’ll come back to this in a mo­ment. In later years it was known by many sim­ply as ‘The Ap­pren­tice Dis­cov­ery’.

The Dis­cov­ery 3 in ques­tion was an M1 Build Pro­to­type for the 2010 Model Year. It was built in 2008 with left-hand drive to Ara­bian Gulf mar­ket spec­i­fi­ca­tion, with a 4.0-litre Ford V6 Cologne SOHC Efi en­gine and six-speed au­to­matic Step­tronic trans­mis­sion. The ve­hi­cle was ap­par­ently utilised for trans­mis­sion cal­i­bra­tion tests as part of the 2010 MY pro­gramme.

And that might well have been it, be­cause such a ve­hi­cle would al­most cer­tainly have ended its days in the re­cy­cling crusher. In fact, by early 2009 it was al­ready sit­ting for­lornly in the dis­posal com­pound at Soli­hull. But it wasn’t scrapped. In­stead, it was di­verted to the Pro­to­type Op­er­a­tions team in Build­ing 117 at Gay­don, and given to the ap­pren­tices that were as­signed to that team. And that’s re­ally where our story be­gins.

JLR’S com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ing its own long-term

“The ap­pren­tices made a tidy job of the con­ver­sion within the fi­nan­cial re­straints”

tal­ent pool is well-known, and the com­pany’s award-win­ning ap­pren­tice­ship schemes are much-ad­mired. Did you know that JLR is ac­tu­ally the big­gest provider of au­to­mo­tive ap­pren­tice­ships in the UK, and hires more ap­pren­tices than all the other UK au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ers put to­gether? To­day, it has 807 ap­pren­tices work­ing across nine UK sites.

The an­nual in­take of ap­pren­tices has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally over re­cent years, and since 2011 JLR has hired over 1000 peo­ple into its ap­pren­tice­ship schemes, at ei­ther Ad­vanced or De­gree lev­els, de­pend­ing on where the can­di­date is with their ed­u­ca­tion, and in­ter­ests. These ap­pren­tice pro­grammes rep­re­sent a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment on the part of the com­pany, but also re­quire an equally se­ri­ous com­mit­ment from the men and women who join them. The Ad­vanced Scheme runs for four years and is de­signed for young peo­ple who are about to sit their GCSES, or have just taken them. The De­gree Scheme runs for six years, and is for those who are in their fi­nal year of A Lev­els, or have com­pleted the ap­pro­pri­ate A Lev­els or re­quired vo­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The JLR schemes are also vastly over­sub­scribed: in 2016, for ex­am­ple, there were some 8000 hope­ful ap­pli­cants for 180 ap­pren­tice po­si­tions.

Ex­actly when the ap­pren­tices that were work­ing in Pro­to­type Op­er­a­tions back in 2009 were hired re­mains un­clear, but what is known is that they were given the Java Black Dis­cov­ery as the ba­sis for a project that was in­tended to teach them new skills out­side the nor­mal day-to-day pres­sures that char­ac­terise Pro­to­type Op­er­a­tions, where ev­ery­thing has to be done to tight time scales.

Maybe there wasn’t much go­ing on in Pro­to­type Op­er­a­tions at the time, though, be­cause the pick-up that the team cre­ated from their donor ve­hi­cle was clearly not an overnight job or a fill-in for an hour at the end of the work­ing day.

Ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing in its own right, of course, and we will re­view it in some de­tail shortly, but it is the ‘ICON 1’ la­bel that po­ten­tially con­nects this ve­hi­cle with some­thing else that was hap­pen­ing at JLR at the same time. Be­cause in 2009, ‘Project Icon’ was the code name for a pro­gramme to as­sess whether a suc­ces­sor to the De­fender could be de­vel­oped around the steel T5 chas­sis that un­der­pinned the Dis­cov­ery 3 and the Range Rover Sport.

At the time, it was said that Land Rover’s think­ing was that the rel­a­tively sim­ple, sturdy, twin-rail T5, which had the op­tion of both coil and air springs, would be an ideal base for the suc­ces­sor to the De­fender, be­cause it would al­low the com­pany to con­tinue to of­fer the wide range of body styles

that char­ac­terised the then-cur­rent De­fender model. There were a num­ber of raised eye­brows among com­men­ta­tors, who sug­gested that the T5 would re­quire a se­ri­ous weight­loss pro­gramme be­fore it would be even re­motely suit­able, but the me­dia nev­er­the­less spec­u­lated that a T5-based De­fender might be in pro­duc­tion by 2012.

Was that the Rogue part of that pro­gramme, or is it purely co­in­ci­dence that the cre­ation of the Ap­pren­tice Dis­cov­ery and the as­sess­ment of a po­ten­tial De­fender re­place­ment shared both the same name and the same chas­sis? Those in­volved with the Rogue in­sist that it is ex­actly that – a co­in­ci­dence – but once word got out about what was be­ing cre­ated in Build­ing 117, there was sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est within the com­pany, and the team was asked to present the com­pleted ve­hi­cle to none other than Bob Joyce, who was Group En­gi­neer­ing Di­rec­tor at the time. Maybe that was when the ‘ICON 1’ ti­tle was as­so­ci­ated with the car?

The ap­pren­tices made a pretty tidy job of the con­ver­sion, too, within the fi­nan­cial con­straints that were pre­sum­ably im­posed on them. The rear body was chopped some way be­hind the B pil­lar to cre­ate a spa­cious sin­gle cab, and a flat panel was fixed over a frame in­side the re­sult­ing body aper­ture, com­plete with a cen­tral rear win­dow neatly fab­ri­cated us­ing De­fender parts. The all-im­por­tant hor­i­zon­tal cut was made at a level a cou­ple of inches above the orig­i­nal waist­line, its po­si­tion de­ter­mined by the top of the rear light clus­ters and the rear quar­ter win­dows. The rear doors were re­moved, cut, fab­ri­cated to suit the new waist­line, and welded in place. There are some deft touches, such as the treat­ment of the panel work where the front door rear shut­line and the waist­line merge into the rear side pan­els and the ex­tended up­per B pil­lar.

The load space area was lev­elled with steel box sec­tion and topped with a sim­ple wooden frame cov­ered with sheets of che­quer plate for the base, sides, wheel arch cov­ers

“Not ev­ery­one at JLR was a fan of the ve­hi­cle and it re­mained a one-off”

and the side rail tops, which is not es­pe­cially el­e­gant but does the job well enough. The tail­gate must have gen­er­ated a num­ber of prob­lems for the team, and the solution was to use L322 third-gen­er­a­tion Range Rover tail­gates, suit­ably re­mod­elled to fit the gap. The tail­gate was ob­vi­ously pretty heavy and with no as­sisted open­ing it proved to be un­wieldy to use. It is now miss­ing, pre­sumed scrapped, which is a shame, be­cause it was fit­ted with a rather nice, stylised Rogue logo which looks as it is was laser-cut from alu­minium sheet.

Ex­ter­nally, it ap­pears to be mostly stan­dard Dis­cov­ery 3 al­though there are a num­ber of ad­di­tional and be­spoke touches here and there in­clud­ing side steps, chrome de­tails, roof-mounted light­ing bar, and black G4 wheels. The frontal treat­ment that doesn’t look out of place on the stan­dard Dis­cov­ery comes across as a bit heavy here, with the miss­ing rear body up­set­ting the bal­ance, but that could eas­ily have been re­solved with a re­designed bumper as­sem­bly, which would have cre­ated a more use­ful ap­proach an­gle as well.

The ap­pren­tices must have had a lot of fun build­ing it, though, and were clearly rather proud of what they had cre­ated, be­cause they made a plaque and en­graved it with the words ‘De­signed and built by Build­ing 117 Gay­don Pro­to­type Op­er­a­tions 2009’, which they neatly mounted for pos­ter­ity on the base of the left hand door shut.

The mod­i­fi­ca­tions ap­pear to have been com­pleted by early Au­gust 2009, and a first test drive was made on the 6th of the month. The tester con­cluded that the ve­hi­cle was “a good drive”, which I’m sure it was. Not ev­ery­one at JLR was a fan of the ve­hi­cle, though, and it re­mained very much a one-off. Project Icon did not lead to a new De­fender on the T5 chas­sis by 2012, and in 2011 the Land Rover DC100 de­buted at the Frank­furt Mo­tor Show, de­signed by Gerry Mc­gov­ern and billed as “a mod­ern interpretation of the iconic Land Rover De­fender”. At the same time, JLR an­nounced that the new De­fender would be launched in 2015.

In the event, re­plac­ing an icon was go­ing to prove rather more chal­leng­ing. The DC100 was not uni­ver­sally well­re­ceived, and the De­fender con­tin­ued in pro­duc­tion un­til Jan­uary 29, 2016, mainly due to a surge in or­ders as the world fi­nally re­alised that the end was nigh. Mean­while, the launch of its re­place­ment is now touted for 2019, and most com­men­ta­tors ex­pect it to be an all-alu­minium ve­hi­cle.

In the mean­time, Rogue con­tin­ued to be used by Pro­to­type Op­er­a­tions as a sup­port ve­hi­cle. It was even­tu­ally dis­carded and found it­self on the scrap list for the sec­ond time in its life, sup­pos­edly as its use­ful­ness was lim­ited by the fact that it could not be driven on the pub­lic high­way. Ei­ther that, or be­cause its air sus­pen­sion com­pres­sor had failed, leav­ing the ve­hi­cle firmly grounded on its bump stops. What makes me think this? Be­cause this is how it was when it ar­rived some time ago on loan to the Dunsfold Col­lec­tion, and get­ting it off the trailer proved to be an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge.

Given other pri­or­i­ties, re­pair­ing the sus­pen­sion was a drawn-out af­fair, but with our show com­ing up we had an in­cen­tive to get it work­ing. A re­place­ment com­pres­sor fi­nally did the trick, and al­lowed us to de­but the ve­hi­cle at our show in June. Need­less to say, it at­tracted a great deal of at­ten­tion, per­haps helped by the fact that we de­cided to make prac­ti­cal use of its open load area by us­ing it as a site ser­vice ve­hi­cle, which meant that it was reg­u­larly trundling around with var­i­ous bits and pieces that needed mov­ing, emp­ty­ing, re­fill­ing, fix­ing or what­ever.

The Dunsfold Col­lec­tion is de­lighted to have been able to help pre­serve this fas­ci­nat­ing ve­hi­cle as a tes­ta­ment to the cre­ativ­ity, hard work and in­ge­nu­ity of JLR’S ap­pren­tices.

Bot­tom: The hor­i­zon­tal cut was made a few inches above the orig­i­nal waist­line

Left: The rear body was chopped be­hind the B pil­lar cre­at­ing a spa­cious cab

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