Number One Land-Rover, by Martin Port
JUE 477, the first production Land-Rover and chassis number one sat for 30 years in a Northumberland field. Exposed to the elements, it was eventually moved under cover in 1998, yet arguably that did it no favours as the leaking, tumbledown stone barn gradually caved in around the vehicle. After almost 50 years of neglect, this historically important example found a new owner and a plan was drawn up to secure its future and return it to the road. This unique restoration story is told in a new book from Porter Press: JUE 477 - The Remarkable History & Restoration of the World's First Production Land-Rover.
The following is a short extract from this superb new book by Martin Port:
With JUE 477 safely in Shoolheifer’s workshop and properly sheltered from the elements for the first time in 47 years, it was, without doubt, a new beginning for 860001. As the doors were opened to the Land-Rover’s temporary new home the following morning, it brought all sorts of emotions to the fore. ‘Seeing it sitting with the sun on its bodywork was actually quite moving,’ he reflected. ‘I gave it a pat, felt the now-warm Birmabright beneath my hand and said, “You’re alright now”. Daft really, but it genuinely felt as if it was a turning point in the vehicle’s life and the start of something special.’
With the Land-Rover slowly drying out, it was time to start evaluating exactly what had been ‘rescued’. Although there was little doubt that it was chassis number one, the Fairless family [former owners] had never actually had the vehicle authenticated and so all numbers had to be checked and hundreds of photographs taken before the process of finding a new permanent home could begin.
By his own admission, this process threw up some surprising revelations for Shoolheifer. ‘I must have spent dozens of hours just laying underneath 860001,’ he explained, ‘staring up at areas of the chassis and bodywork that nobody had ever really looked at. Those people who saw the vehicle at Shugborough Hall in 1998 had certainly had a good look around, but they’d missed so much – and crucially, they hadn’t realised just how good the Land-Rover actually was.’
Astonishingly, given the outward appearance, Shoolheifer found himself gazing up at clean, original light green paint on the underside of the wings, and despite the obviously poor chassis sections, he also began to notice some very good bits – engine mounts and crossmembers that had been preserved by oil leaks, for instance. Slowly he began to realise that there was a lot more to be saved than anyone had initially thought possible.
Other articles by Martin Port
Books by Martin Port