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TREASURE HUNT “Fly to
TREASURE HUNT “Fly to Brisbane. Go get a car. Drive 1,553 miles inland.” This is a description of where Car Zero – the show vehicle for the new Land Rover Reborn project – was found. The man describing it is Mike Bishop, a guy with an expert’s eye for a Series I and the product specialist behind the launch of this fairytale mission: to find original Land Rover Series I vehicles wherever they may be in the world, bring them back to the British Midlands and restore them to their former glory. “As is the case with all of these restorations, the story of Car Zero is a pretty extraordinary one,” Mike explains. “The cattle and sheep stations of Outback Queensland cover 25,000 acres. This vehicle has never even been registered because there are no roads out here. Not even gravel ones. The only tracks it has ever driven are those on the station, but it’s driven them hard since 1950. It probably stopped everyday work around the year 2000. You don’t get many vehicles that do 50 years’ work, let alone in such a harsh environment.” And yet it’s precisely this harsh environment that has yielded up some of the first gems in the hunt for Series I vehicles that are fit for the Land Rover Reborn treatment. “We’re looking for vehicles with their original chassis, bulkhead, axles and gearbox,” says Mike. “It’s a complex game trying to find them, and it’s rare to find a vehicle that old with its original parts.” Areas such as Outback Queensland, though tough, have the advantage of seeing rain maybe a couple of times a year. The lack of moisture reduces rust. “It is much more unusual to find a Series I with its original bulkhead from the UK or New Zealand,” Mike concedes. But it does happen. “Car Two, which came from a dealer in Bristol, is in fantastic condition for a UK Series I. It’s a 1952 model with original chassis, rear unit and bulkhead. That’s why we chose it.” 3 STEPS TO REBIRTH STEP 1: SOURCE Mike Bishop, Product Specialist “When I joined the project, the question was whether there were enough vehicles to make it viable. The search started in the UK, but Land Rover has always been an export story. Whether it’s the new Range Rover or the Series I, 80 percent of Land Rover products are for export, so you’ve got to look globally. Australia – where I grew up – was one of the leading export markets due to the growth of farming in the post-war period. Both Car Zero and Car One were found on the Outback farms of Queensland. To get there from Solihull would probably take you about four to five days. Though it’s a key hunting ground, it only offers right-hand drive vehicles and we have strong demand for left-hand drive, too. Various pockets of Europe – Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Belgium – were very strong in the 1950s for Land Rover.” EVERY STORY IS UNIQUE In a workshop a stone’s throw from where the first Land Rover vehicles were originally tested on an off-road course over the bomb shelters at the Solihull works, five vehicles sit in varying states of restoration. They are the first orders in a project that’s already outstripped expectations. “The original idea was to do 25 vehicles,” says Mike. “They were sold out in a week. We’re now up to 49 orders.” In the niche world of Series I restoration, finding and buying these pieces of automotive history isn’t easy. “The market for these vehicles is very competitive so we’re playing a game of cat and mouse,” explains Mike. “It’s a cottage industry that’s very fragile. We don’t want to destroy it. We want to nurture it. Fortunately, people are so passionate about Land Rover and excited about this project that they want to supply the vehicles to us.” 64
STEP 2: STRIP Karl Schafer, Land Rover Reborn Technician “Grease and gas has been our savior. Getting 60-year-old bolts out cleanly is so important. If we shear them off, we have to drill them out and replace them with a larger bolt. It may seem a small point, but we aim to restore these vehicles to their exact original specifications. If it’s supposed to be a half-inch quarter, you don’t want a three-sixteenth. We try to keep as many of the original parts as we possibly can. Every vehicle is unique and has unique requirements. There’s a real craft to it. They are taking on apprentices here to learn the skills that have been handed down. They are lost otherwise. There is a lot of pride in what we do.” 65
Land Rover Magazine showcases stories from around the world that celebrate inner strength and the drive to go above and beyond
Land Rover stands for not only the most capable premium vehicles, but a state of mind where a sense of curiosity, exploration and wonder informs all of life’s adventures. Encounter this throughout the latest issue of Land Rover Magazine, from meeting a herd of Ice Age survivors on the Dutch coast with the Land Rover Discovery, to the most innovative sustainable architecture on a Californian journey with the Range Rover Evoque