Land Rover is celebrating a major milestone in 2018: 70 years of automotive production.
To kick off the celebrations, the brand is restoring one of three Land Rovers made to show at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show, held in April when the company first launched. It was known as the Series 1 and was designed by Maurice Wilks, who was inspired by the American-made Willys-Overland Jeep he used for chores around his farm.
Wanting even more reliability and something just as capable as a tractor, Wilks assembled what would be become known as the Land Rover -- a rough, tough and nearly unstoppable off-roader.
The auto show vehicle was last on the road in the 1960s, before spending the next two decades languishing in a Welsh field. It was then bought by a new owner who had intentions of restoring it, but the project never got off the ground. The vehicle then spent more years rotting unfinished in a garden, outside of Solihull, England, only a few miles from where it was first built.
Upon its recent discovery and to fully understand the vehicle's extreme significance, the team at Jaguar Land Rover Classic spent months researching in company archives to unravel its ownership history and confirm its provenance.
The team behind the Land Rover Series I Reborn program, which allows customers to own a slice of Land Rover history with meticulously restored Series I Land Rovers, is now going to embark on their most challenging project yet: a yearlong mission to preserve this historically significant prototype and enable it to be driven again. The task is daunting as the vehicle shows extreme wear but it's a project worthy of the effort.
"This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive, history …" Tim Hannig, who serves as director for Jaguar Land Rover Classic, said on the company's website. "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 recognized 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 preproduction Land Rovers that were produced prior to the 1948 mass production vehicles, such as thicker aluminum alloy body panels, a galvanized 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.
You can follow the story and the team's progress on Instagram @LandRoverUKPR.
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