The way cars are manufactured
has only changed in the last few decades. In the days of yore, there was
nothing called automation and everything was virtually done by men working
along assembly lines. Land Rover, now owned by Tata Motors, has re-created history
by building an authentic replica of the production line used to manufacture its
first 4x4 in 1948 at its plant in England. 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.
The new visitor attraction
opened to the public recently. It forms part of a new Defender tour and
showcases replica models in various stages of production, each one meticulously
built using identical parts and in precisely the same way as the original
The display gives an insight
into life on a car production line in the late 1940’s using original tools and
a draftsmen’s drawing board where visitors are also asked to wear authentic
overalls known as ‘cow gowns.’ The attraction 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
The Celebration Line is
located in the heart of the Defender production line which is housed inside one
of the original production buildings at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull
factory. The opening of the attraction
marks the start of a year of celebration as the Defender enters its final year
of production in the UK, a press release issued by the company said.
Jaguar Land Rover Heritage
Director, John Edwards, says the heritage line will take visitors back to the
beginning of the world’s most famous 4x4 manufacturer. He said: “Land Rover has
a rich heritage based around the Series I and Defender models, and we wanted to
create something extra special that would give visitors and enthusiasts a
unique insight into how it all started back in 1948.
“It has been a huge task to
recreate a production line from almost 70 years ago, from sourcing original
parts for the Series I models, to authentically re-creating the working
environment and uniform of employees who were here. The team involved has been
meticulous in their research, planning and creation of what is a fitting
tribute to the legendary heritage of Land Rover.”
The company turned to one of
the world’s leading Land Rover enthusiasts and restorers and curator of the
famous Dunsfold Collection of historic Land Rovers, Phil Bashall, to help
create the vehicles for the production line. 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.
Phil admitted: “It’s been a
struggle at times, but a real labour of love to source all of the original
parts needed for vehicles that stopped production so many years ago.”
Phil had a large number of the
‘nuts and bolts’ he needed tucked away in his own ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of Land
Rover parts – he has amassed over 8,000 original parts but it was still a long
and painstaking search to find all the brakes, clutches, gaskets and pedals
required for the exhibit. He enlisted the help of skilled craftsmen and the
Land Rover Series I Club to build a replica chassis for the Series I models,
along with some of the aluminium bodywork for the vehicles.
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 co-ordinated 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’
For Roger, seeing the
completed exhibit line is a dream come true and the perfect illustration of
what makes Land Rover unique in the world of motoring. He said: “No other car
maker in the world has anything as authentic and with such meticulous attention
to detail as our heritage line. It has taken months of searching and dedication
to put this project together, but it has been worth it.”
The new Defender factory tour
lasts approximately three hours. The tour begins at the beginning of the
production process – the body shop. Here bodies are manufactured prior to being
shipped to paint. The tour then continues in final assembly where visitors can
see the engine and gearbox lowered onto the chassis and watch as the labour
intensive process of assembling the painted body panels begins.
On the opening day, the tour
welcomed its very first visitors, the Writtle family from South Gloucestershire.
They said: “We are huge enthusiasts of this iconic vehicle and own 11 between
us. It feels like we have won the lottery as we have secured one of the few
Limited Edition Heritage vehicles from the recently announced Celebration
“We were amazed how little the
Defender manufacturing process has changed in the last six decades with
individual craftsmanship still at the heart of each vehicle produced. We also
witnessed Jaguar Land Rover’s rigorous quality control processes, including
testing in the monsoon chamber where vehicles are subjected to 343
high-pressure water jets for 14 minutes to ensure there are no water leaks.”
Today, 450 people are employed
on the Defender production line, including a family who has seen three
generations dedicate themselves to the manufacture of these iconic vehicles.
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