The oldest Range Rovers in the world

The sixth of seventh prototype and the first car off the line

By Shahzad Sheikh

The oldest Range Rovers in the world

Whilst on the recent launch of the new Range Rover in Morocco (read my review here), three very early Range Rovers were on display. The yellow car, whilst being utterly gorgeous, was just a suffix A Range Rover from 1971-2 in Bahama Gold, and there was a much later, green classic five door in luxury spec also looking magnificent.

But the real stars were the blue and red Range Rovers. The blue car you might be familiar with (read our history of the Range Rover here) as it’s been much photographed.

The Range Rover was not launched until 1970, three were built in December 1969: Olive green YVB 151H, Lincoln green YVB 152H and one in Tuscan blue YVB 153H. This Range Rover featured in the original publicity material for the model and was the first of the three off the line because a blue vehicle was urgently required for photography and film materials.

This vehicle, after photographs, became an engineering prototype.

The oldest Range Rovers in the world

The red car is even more interesting, particularly as it was not even badged Range Rover to keep people off the scent of the all new car from Land Rover.

AOY 289H was built during July and August 1969 and is the sixth of the seven Range Rover Engineering Prototypes built by The Rover Company. Only two of these vehicles survive today, the other being number seven which is owned by a collector in the United States.

More usually known by its chassis number 100/6 (derived from the original model designation ‘100 inch Station Wagon’) AOY 289H was registered on 20 August 1969 and was immediately put to use by the Company in the vehicle development programme. In common with the other Engineering Prototypes, 100/6 was registered as a ‘VELAR’ to preserve the anonymity of the new vehicle.

The oldest Range Rovers in the world

In November 1969, 100/6 and sister vehicle 100/5 were flown to El Golea in Algeria for the start of durability trials in Algeria, Niger and Morocco, including reconnaissance for a planned press and dealer launch route in Morocco that was scheduled for late 1970. In the event, the launch of the Range Rover was brought forward to June that year and held in the rather more prosaic surroundings of Cornwall.

The 1969 durability trials involved two crossings of the Sahara and although the vehicles were crewed by Rover engineers, fitters and mileage drivers, the expedition was led by Mike Foster, the Field Operations Manager for Minitrek Expeditions, a Kingston-based specialist trekking company that had been retained to assist with the trip. A Pathé News film crew also accompanied the team and took extensive footage of the vehicles that was later used in the two Rover promotional films, ‘Sahara South’ and ‘A Car for All Reasons’

The oldest Range Rovers in the world

The first leg of the expedition took the vehicles south from El Golea via In Salah to Tamanrasset and then across the border into Niger and on to Agadez. From there the team headed east across the wilderness of the Ténéré desert to Bilma before returning north and back into Algeria, finishing at Ghardaia where Geof Miller and Roger Crathorne joined the group to commence the second leg west into Morocco.

Both Range Rovers acquitted themselves well and apart from a broken suspension bracket that was welded at a desert fort and problems with breakages on the roof racks, the vehicles reached Casablanca without serious incident having covered some 3,300 miles.

After its return to Lode Lane, 100/6 resumed its role in the development programme and was used to test improvements to dust sealing, development of the tow pack, prototyping of a rear wash/wipe system and the development of power steering.

The oldest Range Rovers in the world

It was during this latter work in late 1970 that the vehicle was comprehensively rolled, leading to it being re-bodied, although the chassis was undamaged and was retained together with the original engine, transmission and axles which are still on the vehicle today.

In early 1974, 100/6 was sold by the Company to a Rover dealer in Oswestry and was acquired by its first private owner, a doctor in Clywd who in due course moved to the Isle of Man and took the vehicle with him. It was re-registered with the number MAN 419M by the Manx authorities. During its time on the island, the car was apparently used as a rapid-response rescue ambulance during the TT races.

The oldest Range Rovers in the world

Having changed hands several times, by the late 1980s the car was in very poor condition and was eventually dismantled with a view to restoration. This did not happen, but 100/6 was finally purchased by an enthusiast and comprehensively rebuilt over a period of three years. With great foresight, the owner preserved all of the original components such as the aluminium bonnet, hand fabricated interior trim, pre-production seats and many other components and features that distinguish the Engineering Prototypes from the eventual production vehicles.

The owner used the car as his daily driver for several years before offering it for sale by auction in 2001. It then passed through several owners before being acquired by its present owner, an enthusiast of the marque and Range Rover collector, earlier this year.

2 responses to “The oldest Range Rovers in the world”

  1. Nic Robinson says:

    I worked for Minitrek Expeditions. Before the tests you mention we had a Range Rover with a regular Land Rover LWB body which was used for the ‘normal’ work, taking tourists across the same route through Tamanrasset, Agadez, Bilma and then north to Djanet where they flew from and we drove back to base in Ghardaih.
    A US TV programme – MotorWeek – recently showed a number of Range Rovers (during a piece on the current model) including a red one with the Minitrek logo (tread pattern of Michelin sand tyre)

    • Peter Turner says:

      Hi Nic. I have a 1969 B/W newspaper photo of the V8 load carrier Land Rover together with WYK 315H (100/5) with Ken Slavin.Perhaps you´ve not seen it.Regards Peter Turner

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