Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
The original Spen King-designed Range Rover was one of the British motor industry’s proudest success stories. When it went out of production at the end of 1996, it still looked as fresh and forward-thinking as it did back in 1970, when one was chosen for an exhibit in the Louvre as an example of modern sculpture. The car was renamed the Range Rover Classic when the Mk II model was introduced in the autumn of 1994, but demand continued even then. This was a car that had real international appeal, selling in markets as diverse as Japan, the United States, Canada and Australia, with demand often exceeding supply. Well over 300,000 Range Rovers had rolled off the production line by the time this legendary model was laid to rest, the final one being displayed as part of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust collection at Gaydon in Warwickshire. Unusually, the vehicle retains all its matching-numbers components: chassis, engine, gearbox and axles, as well as the original body shell and aluminum bonnet. Sold with a warranted mileage of 86,950 miles and fresh MoT, the car has ventured out on a limited number of occasions over the years for various photographic assignments and promotional shoots.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Land Rover Range Rover
Number Produced:27 pre-production cars
SCM Valuation:Right side chassis member forward of spring turret
Tune Up Cost:Left side of block by dipstick tube (or possibly on bell housing flange at rear of block on very early engines)
Chassis Number Location:$150
Club Info:Range Rover Register
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot 134, sold for $216,999, including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions’ Salon Privé sale in west London, England, on September 4, 2014.

Another of those cars best known by their distinctive registration numbers, YVB 151H, or chassis 33500001A, has been all over the press nearly all its life — if you’ve ever read a historical piece on Range Rovers, you will have seen a picture of it — but for a long period it was hiding away under a different identity.

A sudden “rediscovery” of an important but long-lost car like this should always ring alarm bells — especially when the marque or model has enjoyed meteoric price rises, as A-suffix Rangies have in the past two years, in their homeland, at least. But this car’s history and provenance appears cast-iron. That long-term owner was Peter Garside of the Land Rover Centre in Huddersfield, who kept it from the late 1980s until its sale here, and it has appeared in two hardback collectors’ guide books as a paragon of originality.

Hiding in plain sight

The Centre’s website says: “There is often myth and confusion surrounding the early Range Rovers, proto-types, pre-production, ‘Velars’ and press vehicles. There were seven prototypes built between 1967 and 1970 — of these, two are known to survive. There were 28 pre-production chassis, with YVB registrations, made into 27 vehicles, and one drivable chassis. The name Velar (in Italian ‘To Veil, to Cover’) was used to conceal the identity of the prototypes and the pre-production vehicles, and the ‘YVB’ registration numbers were secured from the Croydon issuing authority, in a further attempt to disguise the vehicles if they went on the road. There then followed 20 press launch cars registered NXC 231H to NXC 250H.

“YVB 151H is the first of the pre-production vehicles, chassis number 35500001A — production line vehicle No 1, requisitioned 26 September 1969 and built 24 November–17 December 1969 and first registered 2 January 1970. As was the case with the first three chassis numbers, it also has corresponding engine, gearbox and axle numbers — in this case 35500001.

“YVB 153H (Chassis No 3) and YVB 160H (chassis No 8) were the first two vehicles to be completed to production specification, as publicity required a blue and a red vehicle for the promotion photography. YVB 151H was originally built in Olive Green — a color which did not make it into the production palette.

“Michael Forlong, producer of the two Range Rover promotion films — ‘A Car for all Reasons’ and ‘Sahara South’ — became the first private owner on 8 April 1971. Before he took possession, the car was resprayed into the production color of Bahama Gold, and the production-type textured dash was fitted.

“When the vehicle passed to Mr. Walter George Ansell of Belvedere, SE London in November 1975, the registration number WGA 71 was allocated to ‘151,’ and before disposing of it in 1979 to the next owner, a farmer in Kent, this was replaced with an age-related number EGU 16H, and so the identity of Range Rover No 1 was disguised for a further six years.”

During the mid-1980s, interest in the early Range Rovers was beginning to build, especially in the survival and location of these pre-production vehicles. To that end, a group of enthusiasts mocked up a similar Rangie with the registration YVB 151H in a bid to try and trace Chassis No 1 — unaware that it existed all the time, hiding under a different color and registration number.

LRC continues: “In 1985, a chance phone call to Chris Greenwood, a friend and at the time business partner of Peter Garside, owner of The Land Rover Centre, led to the rediscovery of Range Rover No 1. There then followed a six-year, ground-up restoration, whose record includes photos of some parts date-stamped as early as April 1969.

“Unusually, the vehicle retains all its matching-numbers components: chassis, engine, gearbox and axles, as well as the original aluminum bonnet, and the original body shell. In 1997, with much help from Geof Miller, lead engineer on the 100-inch project, LRC was able to persuade DVLA to reissue the original registration number YVB 151H due to the significant historic interest of the vehicle, and the importance and relevance of the YVB registration number.”

The catalog concluded: “From 1991 to 2014 the Range Rover was on display in the showroom of the Land Rover Centre in Huddersfield. Having owned this iconic motor car for nearly a quarter of a century, the vendor has decided it is time to pass the responsibility of owning YVB 151H to a new custodian.”

A Rangie time machine

So that seems to put the lid on it, and most of it is original. The tailgate will have been changed because on early cars they dissolved even as you watched, but most of it has survived well. The seat vinyl was in good shape, and the transmission-tunnel cover, for which replacements are also unobtainable, had a few cracks, but the unique early door furniture was all there, and the dash moldings were uncracked.

It’s all rubber and plastic inside because the Range Rover was conceived as a true dual-purpose vehicle — the idea was that you could hose out the farmyard muck after a day at work and then put on your glad rags and drive it to the opera. How quickly that perception shifted, as the Rangie was realigned upwards as a luxury vehicle.

Mark Griffiths, Sales & Export Manager at the Land Rover Centre, said: “Peter Garside had owned it for nearly quarter of a century, and had been contemplating selling it for four or five years. With prices getting to a decent level now, he just made the decision that it was time to pass the mantle and let someone else have a play with it.”

So this was Very Big News in Rangie circles, and it even hit the national press. Pre-sale interviews talked up the selling price of this to a possible £250k ($400k). However, in the event the result was more like the Violati Ferrari 250 GTO in Monterey week — the predicted world record but no more than any serious observers really expected, the top bid neatly falling between the lower and higher estimates of £100k and £140k.

Early-model foibles

Now, you don’t really buy an early Rangie to drive — unless you want a commanding view in city traffic. The interiors are spartan, and they are pretty agricultural to operate, with sloppy, notchy 4-speed transmissions and lots of body roll. As stock, they have a low-compression version of the ex-Buick 215-ci aluminum V8 giving only 135 horsepower (the same unit that went into the MGB V8), so there’s not a lot of prod, and they drink fuel.

But, in the same way that very early E-types and Minis attract sums usually twice what they are really worth, being the closest to the vehicles their designers intended before being gradually “improved” over their lives, these early Rangies fetch a premium. This is especially true if they’re one of the pre-production batch — and even more especially if they’re the very first one.

Early production cars often ask (and fetch, if you believe the dealers) up to £75k ($120k) on the retail market, so extrapolating upwards, the price for Number 1 looks fair. It’s gone to a private collector, no doubt destined to continue life as an exhibition piece. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Silverstone Auctions.)


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