A Land Rover mecca with more than 100 prototypes and one-offs is going to use its newly won charitable status to put the secret off-roaders on show.
The trustees of the Dunsfold Collection, currently housed in barns across three different English counties, are planning to raise funds for a new site to house all of the vehicles, which include prototypes, record-breakers and development cars.
Philip Bashall, son of collection founder Brian, said: ‘We are the Mecca for old Land Rovers – we have people from all over the world, including from as far away as Australia, coming to see us.
‘What started as a collection that got a bit out of hand is now one of the best collections of Land Rovers in the world, and it’s great that now we can start raising money to not only build up the collection, but put them on show at a new site.’
Here are ten of the collection’s Land Rovers – which one is your favourite?
1947 Centre Steer prototype
The McLaren F1 had its steering wheel in the middle to put the driver in the optimum position; Rover’s engineers arrived at the same solution with the original Land Rover, to avoid having to develop separate LHD and RHD versions.
None of the original, Jeep-inspired prototypes which led to the 1948 Series I survive, but this replica, faithful in every detail, was built in 2005.
1950 Bertam Mills circus Series One
Did you hear the one about the elephant that drove a Land Rover?
The punchline is that the driver was actually hidden away in a compartment at the rear of this one-off, created in the late 1950s by the Bertam Mills Circus to promote its shows. It was found in a derelict state and has been completely restored by Dunsfold’s custodians.
1963 35cwt truck prototype
This curious-looking Landie is one of five prototypes developed for the Belgian Army in the early 1960s.
It’s the second-oldest vehicle in the collection, and was originally discovered in a scrapyard in Hounslow in 1968. It’s got a 35cwt payload – hence the name – and a 2.5-litre, bored out version of Land Rover’s familiar 2.25-litre engine.
1965 Amphibious Land Rover prototype
The Range Rover was the first off-roader to use the Rover V8, right?
Wrong – this prototype, based on the 88-inch Series II, was used for mileage testing the engine before it was dropped into Solihull’s new luxury offering, launched three years later. The first V8 production Land Rover, the Stage One, wasn’t introduced until 1979.
1985 Llama number one prototype
The Llama is proof that the end of 101 production wasn’t the end of Land Rover’s dalliance with forward-control vehicles – Dunsfold has four prototypes, and this 1985 pick-up is the very first one the company made.
It was tested by the British military, but the decision to fit it with the Rover V8 rather than a diesel engine meant the lucrative contract went to the Dodge-based Reynolds Boughton 4x4 instead.
1991 Challenger prototype
What would have happened had Land Rover developed all of its models from just one platform?
The curious-looking Challenger – a sort of Defender-esque military off-roader draped over Discovery mechanicals – gives you a clue as to what Lode Lane’s engineers were thinking in the early 1990s. Three prototypes were built, but this is the only survivor.
1994 Freelander development mule
Hang on a minute – isn’t that a Maestro van?
You’d be right, but underneath the odd proportions of this jacked-up Austin are the mechanicals of what would become the 1997 Freelander – the baby Land Rover introduced as a riposte to the likes of Toyota’s RAV4.
Land Rover built 25 of them, but only three escaped the crusher – this particular one was used for brake testing.
1995 Range Rover P38a stretch limousine
Saved from the crusher with just a week to spare, this stretched Range Rover has been used by Sir Elton John and Ronan Keating to arrive in style at events.
Land Rover’s Special Vehicles department created the vehicle by cutting an Australian-spec demonstrator model in half and stretching it to allow another pair of doors and another row of seats to be fitted.
1998 Farmers Friend
We thought we’d leave the weirdest Land Rover of all ‘til last, because this one-off concept car has to be seen to be believed.
Developed in the late 1990s as a possible Land Rover rival to the quad bikes and gator buggies increasingly used in the agricultural section, it’s powered by a three-cylinder engine taken from a Subaru Sumo. It never got approved for production – was it an opportunity Land Rover missed?