Land Rover is once again going above and beyond by bringing back a part of history with the building of a genuine replica of the production line that was used to manufacture its first 4×4 in 1948.
The Defender Celebration Line re-creates in detail how the first Series I Land Rover was built at the Solihull manufacturing plant just after the Second World War. Located in Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull factory, the new attraction features replica models in various stages of production, each one precisely built using identical parts and in the exact same way as the original Series I. The opening of the Celebration Line marks the start of a year of celebration as the Defender enters its final year of production in the UK.
To help lead the project, Land Rover appropriately turned to one of the world’s leading restorers and curator of the famous Dunsfold Collection of historic Land Rovers, Phil Bashall. Phil built his first Series I Land Rover at the age of 13, but admitted he was shocked when Land Rover told him of plans to build a full replica 1948 production line.
Once Phil had collected all of the parts over a period of months, it took him and his mechanic five weeks to build the five Series I models. His guiding light in the challenge and the man who coordinated the Celebration Line project is Roger Crathorne. Roger, known simply as “Mr. Land Rover”, was born in Solihull and joined Land Rover as an apprentice in 1963. He retired last year having completed more than 50 years of service.
The new Defender factory tour proudly shows how the bodies are manufactured, and visitors can also see how the engine and gearbox are lowered onto the chassis and watch as the labor intensive process of assembling the painted body panels begins. The attraction also boasts an area dedicated to telling the story of the creation of the original Series I by Land Rover founder Maurice Wilks using previously unseen video footage provided by his family.