Missing in action for 63 years, a pre-production Land Rover Series I has finally been rescued.

Land Rover has begun its 70th birthday celebrations – by restoring a pre-production Series I first displayed at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.

Despite its significance, the former demonstrator – which was one of three Land Rovers built to give customers a flavour of what the new model could do – passed into private hands after its show duties were over. With no public confirmation it still existed, green oval historians thought it lost, like the pre-Series ‘centre steer’ prototype.

lost land rover series 1

A surprise discovery a few miles outside of Solihull where it was first built proved to be one of the most significant historic Land Rover finds in the past decade. Experts at Jaguar Land Rover Classic spent months researching in company archives tracing its career; last on the road in the Sixties, it spent 20 years in a Welsh field before a restoration began; partially stripped, it then lay unfinished in a garden.

Bought in a dishevelled state, the erstwhile show car taken to technicians working on the Land Rover Series I Reborn programme. A year-long mission to preserve the car has commenced, aimed at making it drivable.

Commenting on the find, Tim Hannig, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Director, said: “This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history and is as historically important as ‘Huey’, the first pre-production Land Rover. Beginning its sympathetic restoration here at Classic Works, where we can ensure it’s put back together precisely as it’s meant to be, is a fitting way to start Land Rover’s 70th anniversary year. 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 recognised as a Land Rover.”

lost land rover series 1

The Jaguar Land Rover Classic (JLRC) team will follow a special process to restore the Amsterdam Motor Show car to its former glory. Several features were unique to the 48 pre-production Land Rovers produced prior to the mass production vehicles – including thicker aluminium alloy body panels, a galvanised chassis and a removable rear tub. The patina of its components will be preserved, including the original Light Green paint applied in 1948.Its previous owners have been invited to Jaguar Land Rover’s Classic Works facility to share their experiences – and to witness its rebirth.

As it kicks off a series of stories and events celebrating Land Rover’s past, present and future, JLRC understandably bills this Series I restoration as a landmark project; it represents the earliest days of a 67 year old production legacy from Series I to Defender.