This is where it all began back in 1948 when Arthur Goddard, now aged 94 and living in Australia, led the engineering team to produce what is now regarded worldwide as an automotive icon. Goddard’s story of the Series I’s earliest development features in our exclusive interview with the man himself in our latest January 2016 Celebration Issue – don’t miss it!
The ‘Defender 2,000,000’ – built by a crowd of famous faces including LRO’s own Editor Mike Goodbun – will be auctioned at Bonhams, London on 16 December with all proceeds donated to Land Rover’s humanitarian and conservation partners: the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Born Free Foundation. As part of the auction, Bonhams will host a specially curated Series Land Rover and Defender exhibition from 15-16 December, to showcase the vehicle’s rich history.
Arthur inspected the Defender 2,000,000 during his tour of the Defender production line and enjoyed a short drive along the road originally used to test the dynamics of the first Land Rovers. He comments: ‘You’ve got to be pleased with the Defender of today. It’s hardly changed since day one with its big fancy chassis and simple body shape. And it still keeps out the wind and rain!’
Arthur’s role would involve testing the individual parts, such as the gearbox and steering on test rigs and then proving them out with the help of Development Engineer Johnny Cullen. Packington Estate located close to Solihull was a familiar off-road testing site as well as the MIRA testing facility where Land Rover recreated the Belgian Block Pave – a notorious rumble strip. ‘The idea of putting your wellies on and wading in the mud didn’t appeal to anyone else. I got my feet wet many a time!’ Arthur quips.
‘Function over form’
Arthur Goddard and his team succeeded in engineering the Land Rover in a matter of months. It was post-war Britain and steel was scarce so a Birmabright aluminium body was designed around a steel box-section chassis which allowed the team to mould the metal into shape at the factory and eliminate the need for laborious and costly tooling and press work.
Arthur says: ‘We all thought we were doing something special here. It was all about function over form as we had the farmer and the agricultural community in mind but it very quickly exceeded those expectations. We were surprised when people started using it to take the children to school and do the weekly shop!’
‘Not just a new kind of tractor…’
The Land Rover was launched at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. As Arthur was one of the few people familiar with the vehicle, he drove the vehicle to the Show and quickly turned salesman. A visit from the Belgium army looked to take the entire output of the factory. Arthur comments: ‘I thought to myself, we’ve got an oil well here! With the power take-off at the rear there had never been a vehicle like it in existence so it drew a lot of interest from people who needed a vehicle that wasn’t just a new kind of tractor, but could simply and easily take you wherever you needed to travel.’
On 16 December 2015, collectors and Defender fans will be given the opportunity to own the ‘Defender 2,000,000’ when it is auctioned for charity by prestigious and globally renowned auction house Bonhams in New Bond Street, London.
The exhibition and ‘Defender 2,000,000’ can be viewed from 9am to 5pm on Tuesday 15 December and from 9am on Wednesday 16 December, with the auction starting at 6pm.