Introducing our special guest for the event
During 2019, we held several preview events at our Land Rover dealerships for the new Land Rover Defender. However, the new Defender was not the only special guest at our Newcastle preview event, the showroom was fortunate to have an incredible Series I Land Rover present throughout the entire evening.
John, one of our customers and a guest at our event, kindly brought down his Land Rover Reborn Series I. As it is such a fascinating vehicle with an incredible history, we could not resist asking John a few questions and here are his answers:
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a 70 years old civil engineer running an international consulting business dealing with global civil engineering disputes. I am also Chief of the Ghanaian village of Ekumfi-Atakwa where I am known as Nana Odapagyan Ekumfi The First. This means I am also a minor King.
Have you always been a Land Rover fan?
Yes, since using Series IIA Land Rovers during my first job in civil engineering constructing the Seaton Burn Diversion length of the A1 in Northumberland in 1968.
What is it you love about Defenders?
They are by far the most important vehicle ever made in the UK and arguably the world.
Can you tell us a bit about your Land Rover Reborn Series I?
It was manufactured in March 1949. It is a “Lights behind the grill” model and is completely original. It was re-manufactured at Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR's) Classic Works, Ryton in its original light green colour – the same colour as Spitfires because after the war Rover found lots of Spitfire paint at their Fort Dunlop factory where Spitfires were made.
A special feature is horizontal corrugations in the curved metal cowling below the dashboard. This is a feature of early Land Rovers and is a result of insufficient oil being used in the aluminium press – it is what aficionados look for when checking the authenticity of early models.
How did you get your hands on this Land Rover Reborn Series I?
I asked JLR Classic Works Reborn staff to source a vehicle which was manufactured at the time I was born – March 1949. It took them two years to find it at a farm in South Australia near Adelaide. They shipped it back to JLR Classic Works at Ryton and re-manufactured every part supplemented with “new-old” parts to replace missing parts.
All of the main items: chassis, transmission, dash, instruments, axles, body panels, bonnet, wheels were present. During the rebuild, I visited Classic Works a couple of times and got to know the rebuild team.
Please can you explain the process of how Land Rover Classic Works restore the vehicle?
It is rather like watching The Repair Shop over a period of 12 months. They have retained the best staff from the old Defender line, who take great pride in their work – two to each reborn project.
The lengths they go to are extraordinary, for example spending several days repainting the dials of the instruments. They are particularly proud of the bodywork panels as they are so good the paint looks wet.
Do you drive the Series I often?
Whenever the roads are dry, salt free and I am not busy with clients.
Would you ever sell your Series I?
Could not do that – the Classic Works team built it just for me and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Also, I would not have a clue how much it is worth, there are only about 30 JLR Reborn Land Rovers and mine is the oldest.
Most are in museums/collections and I do not think anyone has ever sold one. I do not really feel I own it, I feel more like its curator.
It is in immaculate condition, can you tell us a bit about its history?
It was exported to Australia in 1949 and seems to have survived in the dry South Australian climate as a farm vehicle. It was returned to the UK in 2018 by JLR Classic Works and it was literally a basket case, but had all the paperwork. It was restored during the first half of 2019.
What are your thoughts on the new Defender and how it compares to the original?
I think they have got it dead right. Five proper white steel wheels is pure genius. It does everything the previous one did but better.
In reality the previous version had become a fashion icon rather than a workhorse for its last 20 years, whereas the new one can be used as a workhorse if you want, just specify those five white steel wheels.
Will you be purchasing the new Defender?
Already ordered in the same colour as the Reborn Land Rover, they should look spectacular together. They now call the colour Pangea Green after the super continent going back to the Paleozoic geological period (it is sad but this is the sort of thing civil engineers know).
Do you own any other cars?
Yes I have a little collection: a gracefully ageing BMW 7 Series and a Bentley Bentayga with the full Mulliner interior for high days and holidays.
If so, is the Series I your favourite car?
Can I claim the 5th Amendment on the grounds that however I answer this question I will probably be incriminating myself? They are all the result of 50 years of careful engineering research having beaten everything else as being flawed in some respect.
We would like to thank John Knapton for displaying his pride and joy at our Newcastle New Defender Preview event and for taking the time to answer some questions on his rare, iconic Land Rover Reborn Series I. His new Land Rover Defender is definitely going to be a great addition to his already impressive array of vehicles.
Find out more about the new Land Rover Defender