Land Rover to Restore Original ‘Missing’ 1948 Series I

This grandfather of the modern Defender made its debut at the Amsterdam Auto Show 70 years ago. Now this classic Series I will get the love it deserves.

land rover series 1 1948 restoration

Jaguar Land Rover’s Classic team – a group of restoration specialists that breathes life back into the decrepit guts of ancestral off-roaders – has a doozy on its hands.

That’s because they found, in Land Rover’s words, “the world’s most historically significant unrestored Land Rover.” It’s an original Series I, one of three pre-production Land Rovers originally built by hand to meet the public at the 1948 Amsterdam Auto Show.

land rover series 1 1948 restoration engine

To celebrate the brand’s 70th anniversary this year, Land Rover will embark on a “year-long mission to preserve this historically significant prototype and enable it to be driven again.”

70-Year Life of Land Rover 1948 Series I

The Series I was Land Rover’s first production vehicle, following closely on the heels of the famous pre-production “Huey.” According the brand, this Series I relic hasn’t seen the road since the ’60s and has spent most of its life “languishing unfinished in a garden.” The U.K. manufacturer said it poured over company archives to verify the vehicle’s authenticity. In all, Land Rover said this truck has been missing for the last 63 years.

land rover series 1 1948 restoration

Records show this dinosaur of the automotive world spent “20 years in a Welsh field” before it was purchased as a restoration project. But that was decades ago, and the brand claimed it found the vehicle in a “surprise discovery just a few miles outside of Solihull, U.K.,” where it was first built.

In fact, the company retraced the lifespan of of this vehicle from 1948 to 2016.

  • 1948: Built with LHD and listed as “experimental” on the logbook and record of sale
  • 1948: Upgraded with new production parts by Engine Department, converted to current RHD setup
  • 1955: First registered on June 25, 1955, with registration SNX 910
  • 1961: Sold to a new owner in Handsworth
  • 1965: Moved to Sutton Coldfield
  • 1967: Moved to Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • 1968: Moved to Alvechurch, Worcestershire
  • 1968: Used in Wales as a static power source
  • 1988: Engine seized – the Land Rover was sold to a new owner in Birmingham, U.K.
  • 2016: Spotted in a garden, destined for a restoration that never began

Land Rover 1948 Series I Restoration

Restoration experts at Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works in Coventry, U.K., now face the task of rebuilding and preserving this Series I. According to the brand, the team will protect many “special features” unique to pre-mass-production Land Rovers. That includes thicker aluminum alloy body panels, galvanized chassis, and removable rear tub.

Aesthetically, the team will also preserve all the components’ patina, including the original light green paint.

There is no word on when exactly Land Rover hopes to unveil the finished restoration. But you can follow the progress on the brand’s Instagram: @LandRoverUKPR.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie – from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it’s outside, it’s worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.