The Very First Land Rover

Hav­ing been hid­den from view for 20 years, Chas­sis Num­ber One is now on dis­play in Lon­don

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents -

THE FIRST pro­duc­tion Land Rover, an 80in with chas­sis num­ber R860001 and reg­is­tra­tion num­ber JUE 477, has made its first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since it was sold in a sealed-bid auc­tion late last year (see LRM Win­ter is­sue). Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port in The Sun news­pa­per the suc­cess­ful bid­der was al­legedly none other than Jim Rat­cliffe, founder and chairman of the chem­i­cals gi­ant INEOS, and the man who last year fa­mously an­nounced his in­ten­tion to man­u­fac­ture a suc­ces­sor to the De­fender, which he called ‘Pro­jekt Gre­nadier’ af­ter the name of the pub in Lon­don’s Bel­gravia where the plan was hatched.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site, Mr Rat­cliffe is “a long-term ad­mirer of the orig­i­nal Land Rover De­fender, and knows the true value of a go any­where 4x4. When JLR an­nounced it was go­ing to cease pro­duc­tion of the De­fender in 2016, it left a gap in the mar­ket for an un­com­pro­mis­ing off-roader, which Jim de­cided INEOS could fill – thus Pro­jekt Gre­nadier was born.”

A sub­sidiary busi­ness, INEOS Au­to­mo­tive, has been formed to bring Pro­jekt Gre­nadier to fruition. It has also just been an­nounced that Ger­man com­pany Mbtech, a sub­sidiary of Mercedes Benz, has been awarded the en­gi­neer­ing con­tract for the new ve­hi­cle. In its press re­lease, INEOS Au­to­mo­tive stated that “over 200 Ger­man en­gi­neers will be work­ing full-time on the pro­ject in Stuttgart” and went on to say that “Mbtech will be­gin work to take the ini­tial design con­cepts through to a fully-en­gi­neered ve­hi­cle and will be pro­duc­ing the first mule ve­hi­cles, fol­lowed by pro­to­types, later in 2018. It will be re­spon­si­ble for work­ing up the ex­act specifications of the ve­hi­cle to en­sure that it is a truly rugged, re­li­able and un­com­pro­mis­ing 4x4.”

This means we can look for­ward to an ex­cit­ing lat­ter half to the year, be­cause JLR have in­di­cated that the New De­fender is likely to get its first pub­lic air­ing later in 2018 as well. If this hap­pens, it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to com­pare the new ve­hi­cles.

Chas­sis Num­ber One was on dis­play in the lux­u­ri­ous sur­round­ings of the Ro­tunda at Lon­don’s Royal Au­to­mo­bile Club. This was not ex­actly a pub­lic dis­play, though, given that the RAC is a mem­bers-only club, but the ve­hi­cle was just about vis­i­ble if you pressed your nose against the re­volv­ing en­trance door. The Ro­tunda, an oval-

shaped en­trance hall at the cub, is used to dis­play a con­stantly-chang­ing ar­ray of mo­tor ve­hi­cles of all types, al­though get­ting them in through the door and up the flight of steps can be tricky.

As the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pho­to­graph shows, the ve­hi­cle is un­doubt­edly in very poor con­di­tion and was dis­played ex­actly as it was found in its Northum­brian home last year. The de­bate among en­thu­si­asts as to whether this im­por­tant piece of Land Rover and au­to­mo­tive his­tory should be pre­served ex­actly as it is to­day, or re­stored in some way, was not helped by the ac­com­pa­ny­ing dis­play board, which stated ‘Chas­sis Num­ber One will now be sub­ject to a care­fully con­sid­ered restora­tive process that re­tains its re­mark­able his­tory, orig­i­nal com­po­nents and unique de­tails.’

Quite what that means is any­body’s guess, but in re­sponse to LRM’S re­quest for clar­i­fi­ca­tion, Yasin Ali, Group Com­pany Sec­re­tary at INEOS Group, told us: “At present we can­not con­firm who pur­chased the car, but we’re happy to con­firm that the plan is to un­der­take an ex­tremely sym­pa­thetic restora­tion.”

But isn’t it fas­ci­nat­ing that this un­doubt­edly im­por­tant ve­hi­cle is now ap­par­ently owned by a se­ri­ous Land Rover en­thu­si­ast whose frus­tra­tion at JLR’S de­ci­sion to stop De­fender pro­duc­tion ap­pears to have been the cat­a­lyst that led to him de­cid­ing to design, build and launch his own al­ter­na­tive to De­fender? And mean­while JLR have of course ac­quired Pre­pro­duc­tion Land Rover L07, and have an­nounced their in­ten­tion to re­store that ve­hi­cle. In due course, we’ll per­haps have two in­ter­est­ing restora­tions to com­pare and con­trast!

And fi­nally, this wasn’t the first time that a Land Rover ve­hi­cle has been

dis­played in the RAC’S Ro­tunda. In March 2012 it was Pre-pro­duc­tion Range Rover YVB 165H that had pride of place there, com­plete with ‘Ve­lar’ badg­ing fab­ri­cated from Range Rover plas­tic bon­net and tail­gate let­ters. It was in rather bet­ter con­di­tion that Chas­sis Num­ber One.

Chas­sis No.1 on dis­play at RAC, Pall Mall

Con­fir­ma­tion of the Land Rover’s her­itage

Not of­ten that The Sun are the first to break a Land Rover story!

Ro­tunda has a con­stantly chang­ing dis­play of cars

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