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Land Rover’s first launch star has been saved from someone’s garden

In the nick of time for the company’s 70th birthday, it's the original Land Rover launch car

In 1948, a company called Land Rover revealed its first new product at the Amsterdam motor show (an event which sounds like LOADS of fun but is a different discussion for another time).   

Three pre-production prototype examples of this new-fangled ‘Land Rover’ graced the show stand, heralding Britain’s take on the idea that created America’s Willys Jeep. A relatively small, simple road-legal vehicle with full-time all-wheel drive, a rugged toughness, and, should you nerf it into the English countryside, the ability to be repaired with a bent piece of wire, some wood and a stern expression. 

The rest, as they say, is history. And for one of those very first Land Rover launch stars, it really has been quite some history. And it’s about to have a happy ending.

The dilapidated rustbucket in the gallery above is indeed one of those original show cars. Originally built in 1948 with left-hand drive as an engineering prototype, it was converted to right-hand drive and upgraded with production engine parts later that year. 

By 1955, Land Rover was done with the car, and sold it off. On 25th June 1955, this very car hit the roads of England, wearing the registration SNX 910. Between then and 1968, it changed owners five times, before winding up in a Welsh farmyard as a static generator. And, consigned to a life away from the open road, the car’s engine soldiered on until 1988, when it seized up. And that was that. The broken Landie was punted to a new owner in Birmingham.

Apparently, the owner stored it outdoors, in anticipation of starting a restoration project that never happened. And there the car remained, until it was spotted and repatriated to the factory it was built in, just six miles or so away from its garden resting place. 

Jaguar Land Rover’s Class Works will now embark on a year-long restoration of this 1948 veteran. Keen students of maths will note that 2018 marks 70 years since the car launched Land Rover to the world. And in a tribute to the car’s pottered history, Land Rover has confirmed the patina of those well-worn panels will be preserved. Hopefully, it’ll even get another star turn at a motor show when it’s finished…

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