Land Rover first 1948 bAnyone who’s ever driven a Series 1 Land Rover would wonder about people who pay perfectly good money, and lots of it, to have them restored. But then it takes all types of people to make up the world and I guess a good deal of them are masochists.

Seventy years ago, in 1948, the first Land Rover was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motor Show. This was a time when four-wheel-drives were pretty much unknown outside the transport industry and military, but 4WD was not the Land Rover’s only point of difference. For a start it was built with an aluminium body which made it light weight, but this was less about weight and fuel saving, more about steel being in short supply following the second world war.

Land Rover first 1948 dThree prototype Land Rovers were built prior to the Amsterdam launch and this original example went into private ownership some time after that launch. It was last used on the road in 1960 and then it went off the radar. Just recently it was found again after a long search by the folk at the Land Rover Reborn programme, a division of Land Rover that restores original Land Rover Series 1 models for customers.

When it went out of rego the original Land Rover spent 20 years in a Welsh field before being bought as a restoration project by someone with all the best intentions. But like so many restoration projects it has sat in a garden ever since. Ironically that garden was just a few kilometres from Solihull (about half way between London and Manchester), where it was built. After months researching company archives to unravel its ownership the vehicle is now being restored to mark Land Rover’s 70th birthday. The accompanying pictures are the ‘before’, the ‘after’ pictures can only come on completion some time this year.

This original prototype has several features unique to the pre-production Land Rovers that were completed prior to the start of mass production. These include thicker aluminium body panels, a galvanised chassis and a removable rear tub, the idea being that owners could specify whatever rear body they wanted, from a tray to a covered cargo carrier. That didn’t happen, but it didn’t stop owners putting custom rear bodies on them anyway.

Land Rover first 1948 aIt will be finished with the same light green paint used in 1948.

The Series 1 Landy was the original workhorse of the Snowy Mountains Scheme until it was gradually replaced by the original Toyota Land Cruiser, and Series 1s can still be spotted on the road from time to time, the easiest tell-tales being the inboard headlights and the split windscreen.

From personal experience Series 1s are noisy, harsh and difficult to drive, with a four-wheel-drive system that is complex, cumbersome and extremely finicky to engage. Then it’s practically impossible to disengage for all but the highly experienced.

If you feel warm and gooey about owning one by all means restore it, but don’t expect it to be any nicer to drive.

Published January 2018.

 

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