Lost and found. Land Rover to restore previously lost 1948 show vehicle. Words Mark Dixon. An historically important preproduction Land Rover that was found rotting in a Midlands garden in 2015 is to be sympathetically restored by Jaguar Land Rover. It’s one of two vehicles that made the marque’s debut at the Amsterdam motor show in 1948.
Chassis R07 had been thought lost, and was not recorded as a survivor in historian Tony Hutchings’ authoritative 1982 work Land Rover – the Early Years. It came to light when the previous owner contacted a friend and reportedly said: ‘I have these two old Land Rovers sitting in my garden. If you don’t want them, they’re going down the tip!’
Fortunately the friend, who remains anonymous, was a knowledgeable enthusiast and immediately spotted that one of the vehicles had several features that marked it out as a very early example. R07 had sunk down to its axles in mud and had to be jacked up before it could be dragged out with a Range Rover, early in 2016. When news of the find broke, Jaguar Land Rover moved quickly to secure R07 for its collection.
Unusually for a pre-production vehicle, R07 has remained in remarkably original condition. Its engine, starter motor, axles, rear body tub, windscreen, transmission tunnel and many other parts are believed to be pre-production, although the front wings and grille panel are not. However, it is believed that R07 was built in left-hand drive (and numbered L07) but converted to right-hand drive very early in its life, possibly in September 1948, at which time a number of parts were upgraded to production specification. The letter ‘L’ was then hammered out and ‘R’ overstamped in its place on the chassis.
R07 was first despatched to Jack Swaine, engine designer at Rover, and remained in company ownership until June 1955, when it was sold to a private owner and registered SNX 910. It’s believed that, until then, R07 had always been run on trade plates.
According to its logbook, R07 remained in the Midlands, passing between various owners until it ended up in that Birmingham garden after its engine seized in 1988. Rather than rebuilding the vehicle to as new condition under its Reborn programme, Jaguar Land Rover says that R07 will be given a ‘sympathetic restoration’ and that its original light green paint will be preserved. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Land Rover brand, when it’s expected that New Defender will also make its debut.
‘I HAVE THESE TWO OLD LAND ROVERS SITTING IN MY GARDEN. IF YOU DON’T WANT THEM, THEY’RE GOING DOWN THE TIP!’