First ever Defender found, now to be factory restored

2018-02-08 06:00
PHOTO: suppliedThe first Defender was discovered last year, rusting away as an unfinished restoration project not far from where it was built in Solihull in 1948.

PHOTO: suppliedThe first Defender was discovered last year, rusting away as an unfinished restoration project not far from where it was built in Solihull in 1948.

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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 sixties, 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 kilometres outside Solihull, UK, where the vehicle was first built, the experts at Jaguar Land Rover Classic spent months researching 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 set-up.

1955 — First registered on June 25 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 and it was sold to a new owner in Birmingham.

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

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