What’s the Story?
This is pre-produciton number R23, one of the very first Land Rovers that were hand built for evaluation by the Rover company, right back in 1948. Th earlier pre-production vehicles were used for off-road evaluation, but R23 did something maybe more significant - that summer it was one of four pre-pros sent, according to Rover’s records, to ‘A Douglas, A/L export, Redhill, Surrey’.
This was Ann Douglas, chief flying instructor at Surrey Gliding Club and a leading light in the British team attending the first post-war gliding championships at Samedan, Switzerland. Later that summer, R23 was performing as a demonstrator in Sweden.
Of course, when Land Rovers began to roll off the production line, the Pre-pros work was done - sooner of later all were sold off. By the end of it’s working life, R23 had made its way to Derbyshire - just another old 80in, historical significance lost.
Our Favourite Bit?
R23 was bought as a non-runner by Dudley Johnson, a butcher who stripped cars in his spare time. Parts were sold off. But after a while the galvanised chassis, lying in long grass in Dudley’s Derbyshire back garden, became known to enthusiasts of The Land-Rover Register 1947 - 51, who were more interested in history than trialling. Enter Tom and his dad, Guy - R23’s saviours.
And Verdict from Peter Galilee?
The engine starts readily and R23 drives beautifully. It may be the least-original pre-pro 80-inch, but not many could have assembled the correct parts. After 70 years, how many more can be dragged out or barns and rebuilt? Maybe this’ll be the last.
The full story can be found in the January 2016 issue of LRO. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.