Spearheaded by former Land Rover global brand director John Edwards, Special Operations is essentially the ‘new’ name for Engineered To Order (ETO), which in 2012 was the new name for Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), and supersedes the Individual Products Division (IPD) created late last year. Special Operations will have a broader remit than its predecessors, to include merchandise and associated goods such as Land Rover-branded Barbour jackets.
In fact, the SV badge and SVO name could return. Models such as the expected go-faster 542bhp Range Rover Sport and the rumoured limited-edition run of 50 supercharged 5.0-litre V8 Defenders (that we announced in the February 2014 issue of LRO) could be built by the Special Vehicle Operations team – which is SVO, isn’t it?
Special Operations will be based at an all-new Formula 1-style technical centre in the West Midlands and employ a 150-strong team of engineering and design specialists. To lead the team JLR is welcoming back Paul Newsome as director of Special Vehicle Operations – he was previously group chief engineer for advanced product creation and research at JLR, and most recently chief technical officer for Williams Advanced Engineering, which built the hybrid Jaguar C-X75 supercar.
New vehicle commissions, including one-off personalisation for owners, is expected to be the bedrock of SVO’s activity, but taking a slice of the lucrative classic car market is also on the agenda. A heritage team that currently serves Jaguar will get a new workshop at Browns Lane in Coventry, offering servicing and restoration work from August 1. We’re expecting that to extend to classic Land Rover models too.
We featured a Series IIA fire truck beautifully restored by ETO in our June 2014 issue, which is typical of the quality of work owners can expect from the factory. There’s no word yet on the likely bills you might be presented with, but if SO’s run of continuation Lightweight Jaguar E-type race cars is anything to go by, at £1million each, it’s not going to be cheap. But the kudos of a factory restoration will undoubtedly appeal to owners and collectors, and command a premium in the process.
Classic parts are also going to be made available, although Land Rover has tried that in the past and didn’t enjoy the same level of success as its Jaguar parts business. It’ll be interesting to see whether the recent rise in Series I and two-door Range Rover Classic values, in particular – and the imminent end of new Defender production – will mean it’s a better time for a factory Land Rover classic parts business.