On this day in history : 30th April 1948 – Iconic British all-terrain vehicle, the Land Rover, makes its debut appearance at the Amsterdam Motor Show….
The Land Rover was the brainchild of Maurice Wilks, chief designer at Rover and his brother Spencer, who was the Managing Director…. Maurice had been using an American Willys-Overland Jeep on his Anglesey farm but it was proving to be temperamental…. In 1947 the brothers decided to put their heads together and come up with a more reliable vehicle – one that could work on the farm but be more versatile than a tractor…. The very first prototype they developed had a central driving position and used many components from the Willys Jeep….
Three prototypes were shown at the Amsterdam Motor Show – later these vehicles would evolve into the ‘Series I’…. With a 50bhp 1595cc Rover petrol engine, 80in wheelbase, pick-up body and canvas roof it was priced at £450…. The original plan was that it would be a temporary stop-gap for Rover in the difficult financial period following World War 2….
After the show the three vehicles were brought back to Solihull, converted to right hand drive and sold…. In the first year after the launch 8,000 Land Rovers were built and in 1949 the British Army ordered its first batch to trial…. It quickly became obvious this was not just a farm vehicle….with its diverse versatility it has since been used by organisations all over the World…. From our own emergency services here in the UK to wildlife safari operators in South Africa this workhorse is at home anywhere…. Since 1953 it has been a firm favourite with the Royal Family….
The last Defender rolled off the production line in 2016….but what of the very first one? HUE 166, chassis no.LR1, affectionately known as ‘Huey’, is now kept at the British Motor Museum in Graydon….
Another of the three prototypes has surfaced in recent years…. SNX 910 went to work on a farm and wasn’t registered for road use until June 1955…. It sold in 1961 and was to change hands a few more times before ending up in Worcestershire…. It then went to a farm in Wales and spent the next twenty years in a field…. In 1988 the Land Rover’s engine seized and since it wasn’t worth repairing as a farm vehicle it became redundant…. Eventually it was sold to a Land Rover enthusiast in Birmingham who had the good intention of restoring it…. However, like so many of these intended projects, it never happened and the vehicle was left standing forgotten in the garden….
It was in 2016 that somebody with a keen eye spotted the lonely Landy…. After confirmation from Jaguar Land Rover that it was indeed one of the original three prototypes it was passed to the Land Rover Series I Reborn restoration programme to be brought back to its former glory – ready to take its rightful place next to Huey….