The original Land Rover was truly the Swiss army knife of vehicles. Not only did it revolutionise the life of the rural land owner, it also revolutionised motoring history, spawning generations of multi-purpose 4x4 vehicles which have come to increasingly dominate our roads to this day.
This iconic machine was the brainchild of Maurice Wilks and has remained in production ever since it was launched to the world at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948. Until 1951 this ‘go anywhere’ marvel was only offered with an 80-inch wheelbase and a 1.6-litre petrol engine, but a 2-litre unit was to follow in 1952. In 1950, the lights moved from a position behind the grille to protruding through the grille. 1954 saw a big change as the 80-inch was replaced by an 86-inch, and a 107-inch pick up version was also introduced, all models sharing a sturdy box-section ladder-frame steel chassis.
But it is the early ‘lights behind the grille’ models that really ignite the passions of collectors, and rightly so. They have a rugged simplicity and fitness for purpose that has only slipped further away the longer that the Land Rover has remained in production. Which makes this example a most exciting find indeed.
First registered in Berkshire in March 1950, FMO 818 has had just four owners, according to the V5C, and has been in the current ownership since 2006. In wonderfully original condition throughout, it appears to have never been restored and has commendably straight and undamaged panels and looks to be as sound and original underneath as it is up top. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is also original and still runs beautifully.
The spade seat backs appear to have their original coverings although the squabs have lost their covers at some point. Even the wiring looks to be mainly original and the wipers and the heater still work, as we were pleased to discover on the freezing cold day when we visited to take these photos! The hood frame is also present as is the canvas top and the original sidescreens for the doors.
There are 17 old MOTs back to 1992 which show that it has only covered some 16,700 miles in the last 26 years, mainly pottering around the lanes of deepest Shropshire, the odometer currently showing some 21,715 miles. As a gesture of his faith in the vehicle, the vendor has also got a new MOT which runs until February 2019 (although it is, of course, exempt from this test). Along with the V5C there is also an old style V5 and an old buff log book from 1961 when the vehicle was owned by a Wilfred Holcombe of Bath. Sundry invoices attest to routine maintenance over the years.
Land Rovers tend to lead hard lives and it is most unusual to find such an early example in such well-preserved condition. The wonderful patina that FMO 818 has acquired over the last seven decades can never be replicated and would be the envy of anyone who has just forked out £85k for one of JLR’s new ‘boiled sweet’ 80” restorations. We love it!
AMENDMENT: We believe this Land Rover also has Fairey overdrive fitted which gives a 20% increase in top speed, hence the fourth gear lever.