Land Rover has restored a very historically important Defender that was lost for decades.
After a three year hiatus, the Land Rover Defender has been reborn for a new generation, with a modernized exterior and interior, new tech, and more advanced off-road capability than ever before. It continues the legacy of the original icon, which stayed in production for nearly 70 years between 1948 and 2016. To celebrate the return of its iconic off-roader, Land Rover has given a very historic important Defender model a new lease of life.
What you're looking at here is the original launch Land Rover demonstration vehicle used in the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. After a year-long restoration, the pre-production Defender hit the road for the first time since the 1960s. It had been missing for decades but was miraculously found rotting in a garden near Solihull, UK, where it was originally built. Prior to its restoration, it was shown off during Land Rover's 70th-anniversary celebrations last year.
A team of experts at Land Rover Classic rebuilt the historic Defender using a mix of traditional skills, original drawings and 21st century technology. It's been kept as authentic to its original 1948 specification as possible, including its left-hand drive configuration, prototype braking system and all-wheel drive controls.
When it was discovered, the 1948 Discover had seen better days following decades of decay and rust. While the front axle didn't require any significant repairs, the rear axle was badly damaged. To assess the extent of the damage, the original part was X-rayed and depth-tested using state-of-the-art techniques. Luckily, the original part was still strong enough to be reused. Land Rover Classic technicians even uncovered the original axle number, which was thought to be lost.
The through-dash selectable 4WD system controls were also reinstated. This system features a trio of pull-push knobs on the dash panel to control the two and four-wheel drive transmission and high and low range gear selection and was only fitted to some early pre-production Land Rovers.
The original badge was missing, which meant the team had to digitize a photo of another Land Rover on the stand at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show before creating an accurate replacement using computer-aided design. For parts that needed replacing or were removed, the team had access to an archive of original drawings kept by Land Rover Classic and other surviving pre-production Land Rovers.
With a fully-rebuilt engine incorporating custom made high-compression pistons that match the original pre-production model's specifications, Land Rover claims it drives just like it did when it left the factory. The finished project was on display at the Goodwood Revival before heading its new home at Land Rover's Classic Works facility in Coventry, UK.