1949 LAND ROVER Series 1View vehicle description
There can be few vehicles that have changed the automotive landscape as significantly as the Land Rover has. So much so that, some 70 years on, Land Rover is an internationally recognised and admired brand and legions of popular cars owe their existence to this humble, utility vehicle.
Its origins can, in many ways, be attributed to a confluence of post-World War II circumstances. As the world started to return to a semblance of normality after the war, Rover was busy considering their production options and they weren’t extensive. Money was tight and raw material shortages meant that the government could only guarantee Rover enough steel to produce around 1,100 cars a year. Nowhere near enough to ensure profitability.
Fortuitously, however, Rover’s head designer, Maurice Wilks had been using a wartime Willys Jeep as a workhorse on his Anglesey farm. He had been impressed by its capabilities but knew that he could improve it and create a utility vehicle specifically for the agriculture and mining sectors.
Wilks’s sketch of his proposed design in the wet sand of Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey is now the stuff of automotive legend. Perhaps the clincher, however, for Rover MD and Maurice’s brother Spencer Wilks was that the car could be built from an aluminium sheet called Birmabright which was extensively used in aircraft manufacture and, hence, plentiful in a country still geared up for wartime production.
And so in 1948, the Land Rover was launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show. The design remained surprisingly faithful to Maurice’s sandy sketch with only his “centre steer” centrally mounted steering wheel becoming a casualty of the production process.
The words “labour of love” have perhaps never been more aptly applied than they can be to this 1949 Land Rover Series I. Alan acquired the Land Rover in around 2006 when it arrived as a giant kit of parts on a trailer. The previous owner had successfully taken the vehicle to pieces but had been too daunted by its reconstruction to want to continue.
Dentist Alan stepped in at that point. A patient and diligent man with a forensic eye for detail, Alan was well equipped for the challenge. Alan’s widow Jackie explains “We had been together for over 30 years and Alan always had a project car on the go. It was his way to relax I think.”
Alan started the mammoth task almost immediately but was in no hurry. Originality was his watchword, and he had the time, patience, and foresight to wait for the required period-correct parts to become available. The restoration continued slowly but surely over the subsequent years with Alan’s network of friends and patients stepping in to undertake the few specialist tasks that Alan couldn’t do, such as paintwork. The amazing example you see here today reached completion in 2019.
“Alan always wanted to show the Land Rover” explains Jackie. “He wanted others to enjoy it as much as he did.” With his illness and Covid lockdowns intervening Alan sadly passed away before he was able to fulfil his wish. It is Jackie’s hope that a new owner will finally be able to fulfil that wish, however. We feel this is one of the best Series I’s we have seen for a very long time. This humble, utility vehicle stands as a fitting testament and tribute to Alan and his skill, vision, and perseverance.
On the Outside
With the British Army being an early and enthusiastic customer for the Land Rover, they ordered 1,878 in 1949, it was decided to finish all early Land Rover’s in military green. Anecdote has it that the colour was a surplus paint but that could be one of the many urban myths associated with the Series I.
In any event it is the paintwork that first strikes you when seeing this 1949 Series I. Undertaken by one of Alan’s extensive network, it looks amazing. It achieves that “Goldilocks” trick of not being too perfect or too imperfect. For exuding a factory faithful appearance for a Series I, however, it is “just right.”
It is the detail of this Land Rover Series I that really impresses, however. Wilks’s design featured a power take off (PTO) system that maximised the vehicle’s utility in a range of applications. Alan made the most of this flexibility by fitting a Fairey capstan winch to the front of the Land Rover and a rear PTO pulley drive. The former could pull you or others out of a range sticky situation whilst the latter can run a range of machinery via a canvas drive belt.
Other period touches such as the screen mounted Lucas SE100 trafficators and the “D-style” rear lights have clearly been thoroughly researched and patiently sourced by Alan. Details like the brass headed bonnet catches, the re-galvanised trim pieces and the period-correct AA badge provides a veritable feast for the eyes and will delight Land Rover purists and enthusiasts alike. There is so much detail to drink in here that our photographer has carefully captured them all in our photographic package so please take your time to enjoy and admire them.
On the Inside
By now it will come as no surprise to see that the interior is no less of a tour-de-force than the exterior. Despite the Series I having a spartan interior befitting a 1949 utility vehicle, there is much to enjoy and appreciate in here.
The three-abreast “spade-back” seats are trimmed in the correct, hard wearing green vinyl. The detachable seat squabs can be removed to reveal storage lockers and access to PTO controls. The central instrument binnacle houses the Jaeger gauge set. A useful auxiliary, Jaeger gauge is set into the bulkhead proving information on oil pressure and water temperature.
The other controls consist of the Bakelite and steel, three-spoke steering wheel, the charmingly dog-legged gear lever and the red-topped range selector lever. The pre-1950 Land Rovers featured permanent four-wheel drive negating the need for a yellow-topped four-wheel drive selector.
The front cabin is enclosed under a canvas hood which can easily be removed as required. Removed in concert with the folding windscreen and removeable door tops and this is a vehicle that can be completely opened to the elements quickly and effortlessly.
The rear cabin features twin folding passenger benches with removeable cushions. A spare wheel is mounted to the cabin bulkhead, but fittings are present to allow bonnet mounting as an alternative if required. The rear cabin is accessed via a bottom hinging tail gate.
To keep the costs of developing the new Land Rover as manageable as possible, the early vehicles relied on extensive raids on the Rover P3 saloon’s parts bin. The engine and gearbox were both kindly donated by the P3 in this example.
The 1,595cc four-cylinder petrol unit produced a modest, by today’s standards, 50hp but a healthy 80 Ib-ft or torque which is more significant for the conditions in which the Land Rover would often encounter. The observant will notice that this example is fitted with an Iso-Speedic engine governor. This is the ideal accompaniment to the PTO accessories as it allows the user to vary and set the engine revolutions via a hand control to suit the task undertaken by either the winch or the pulley drive.
The engine bay and underside of the Land Rover present beautifully and have clearly benefitted from the same forensic level of attention and restoration as the rest of the vehicle. The tyres are new and, of course, in the correct factory specification size and profile.
This Land Rover comes with a significant depth and breadth of provenance providing paperwork extending to at least six box files. Many of these are invoices and parts manifests from various specialist suppliers that span the period of the renovation. Others have been heavily notated by Alan and help give a fascinating insight into his diligence and methodology.
Original Land Rover operating manuals are present as well as SU carburettor manuals and copious useful parts and workshop manuals.
The current V5 is on hand and the Series I is registered as an historic vehicle and hence is understood to be MOT and VED exempt.
What We Think
It has been tempting, at times, to refer to this 1949 Land Rover Series I as “factory-fresh” but that would be to damn this vehicle with faint praise to be frank. This Series I should be considered better than that.
After all, and in fairness to the post-war Land Rover workforce, Alan had the opportunity to take his time on creating this “once-in-a-blue-moon” example. With a live Army order to fill, perhaps including this example, the pressure would have been on at the Solihull factory to get vehicles shipped and to revive the stretched post-war cash flow. We are confident that if they could see this example today, the men and women of the Solihull factory would be filled with admiration and respect for Alan’s work.
The other important area in which this Land Rover far exceeds factory specification is in the number and quality of accessories fitted. The factory record tells us this vehicle left Solihull in “basic” specification. Today, however, this Series I is far from basic. The winch and pulley drive, the rear bench seats, the auxiliary gauges, engine govenor and trafficators are all correct for the period and help to really lift this example above many others.
Anyone who knows Land Rovers will appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity on offer here and our hope is that a new owner will help fulfil Alan and Jackie’s wish and proudly show this sublime example for their own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.
We estimate the value of this car to be between £25,000 - £30,000.
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