First ever De­fender found, now to be fac­tory re­stored

The Witness - Wheels - - AUTO SHOWS -

LAND Rover will mark its 70th an­niver­sary with a se­ries of events and cel­e­bra­tions in 2018, be­gin­ning with the restora­tion of the ve­hi­cle that started it all – one of the three pre-pro­duc­tion Land Rovers shown at the 1948 Am­s­ter­dam Mo­tor Show launch.

This gave the world its first glimpse of the shape that would be­come in­stantly recog­nis­able as a Land Rover.

For years the where­abouts of this launch Land Rover was a mys­tery. The demon­stra­tion ve­hi­cle from the Am­s­ter­dam show was last on the road in the 1960s, af­ter which it spent 20 years in a Welsh field be­fore be­ing bought as a restora­tion project; it then lay lan­guish­ing un­fin­ished in a gar­den. Fol­low­ing its sur­prise discovery just a few miles out­side of Soli­hull, UK — where the of­froader was first built — the ex­perts at Jaguar Land Rover Clas­sic spent months re­search­ing in com­pany archives to un­ravel its own­er­ship his­tory and con­firm its prove­nance.

The team be­hind the suc­cess­ful Land Rover Se­ries I Re­born pro­gramme, which al­lows cus­tomers to own a slice of Land Rover his­tory with metic­u­lously re­stored Se­ries Is, will now em­bark on their most chal­leng­ing project yet: a year-long mis­sion to pre­serve this his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant pro­to­type and en­able it to be driven again.

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 is some­thing charm­ing about the fact that ex­actly 70 years ago this ve­hi­cle would have been un­der­go­ing its fi­nal ad­just­ments be­fore be­ing pre­pared for the 1948 Am­s­ter­dam Mo­tor Show launch – where the world first saw the shape that’s now im­me­di­ately recog­nised as a Land Rover.”

The Jaguar Land Rover Clas­sic team will fol­low a ded­i­cated process to re­store the launch ve­hi­cle, which has a lot of spe­cial fea­tures that are unique to the 48 pre-pro­duc­tion Land Rovers that were pro­duced prior to the mass pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cles, such as thicker alu­minium al­loy body pan­els, a gal­vanised chas­sis and a re­mov­able rear tub. The patina of its com­po­nents will be pre­served, in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal Light Green paint ap­plied in 1948.

Pre­vi­ous own­ers of this his­toric ve­hi­cle are be­ing in­vited to Jaguar Land Rover’s Clas­sic Works fa­cil­ity to share their ex­pe­ri­ences and to wit­ness its lov­ing restora­tion.

This land­mark project, rep­re­sent­ing the ear­li­est be­gin­nings of the Land Rover story – which led to more than 67 years of con­tin­u­ous pro­duc­tion of iconic Se­ries I to De­fender ve­hi­cles at Soli­hull – is the first in a se­ries of sto­ries and events that will cel­e­brate the past, present and fu­ture of Land Rover through­out 2018. Fol­low the story on In­sta­gram @lan­droversa. — Sup­plied.

1948 De­fender time­line

1948 — Built with LHD and listed as Ex­per­i­men­tal on the log­book and record of sale

1948 — Up­graded with new pro­duc­tion parts by En­gine De­part­ment, con­verted to cur­rent RHD setup

1955 — First reg­is­tered on 25 June

1955 with regis­tra­tion SNX 910 1961 — Sold to a new owner in Handsworth

1965 — Moved to Sut­ton Cold­field

1967 — Moved to Strat­ford-Upon-Avon

1968 — Moved to Alvechurch, Worces­ter­shire 1968 — Used in Wales as a static power source

1988 — En­gine seized – the Land Rover was sold to a new owner in Birm­ing­ham,

2016 — Spot­ted in a gar­den, des­tined for a restora­tion which never be­gan.

PHOTO: LAND ROVER

LOST AND FOUND: The first De­fender was dis­cov­ered last year, rust­ing away as an un­fin­ished re­so­tra­tion project not far from where it was built in Soli­hull in 1948.

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