Long-lost RAF Series I set for Land Rover Legends

Unique ex-services workhorse from 1952 will appear at marque’s inaugural Bicester Heritage show – its first public display since its recent barn discovery

It’s always a special event when any ‘unique’ Land Rover is unearthed, let alone a Series I that’s defended our nation. That’s why enthusiasts have celebrated the discovery of a barn-find ex-RAF Series I 80in – and better yet, the very special model is set for the Land Rover Legends show at Bicester Heritage on May 26-27.

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Discovered in a Gloucestershire barn, where it has sat since 1979, the Landy is currently undergoing a rolling restoration. And while all the original paint has unfortunately already been removed, obliterating any telltale allusions to the 4x4’s RAF history, the plan is to replicate a glider tow vehicle. This may have purists up in arms, but we think it’s great that the heritage vehicle is to be used properly.

Unlike with Landies used by the Army, early records of ex-RAF Land Rovers have been lost over time. Detailed information of allocations within the RAF from 1952 right up until 1963 are virtually unknown, making ongoing restoration efforts rather tricky.

Originality enthusiasts will be glad to discover that the correct 1997cc ‘Siamese bore’ 2.0-litre engine is present and healthy, while the gearbox is of military origin. A stainless petrol tank is now fitted, along with correct-pattern side screens and doors.

Work includes removal of the rear tub, renovation of the running gear and preparation work of the chassis. The decals, fittings and respray that designate this Series I as an ex-services workhorse are also underway, which should result in a proper heritage mainstay.

The incorrect ‘lights through the grille’ usage is not due to the current custodian’s personal taste, but rather is believed to be an ex-Military of Defence replacement brought about through a lack of time to source an original – a situation with which many Series I enthusiasts will be familiar. The rear floor is ‘absent’ after the car’s conversion to accommodate towing gliders for the Combined Cadet Forces.

Unusually, the RAF kept this Land Rover beyond the usual disposal period; a typical term of vehicular service is little over 10 years.

The showcasing of such a vehicle comes at a special time for the Royal Air Force, as it celebrates 100 years defending our skies. More poignant still is the location of the Land Rover Legends show at Bicester Heritage, a former RAF base.

Neglected for the best part of 40 years, Bicester’s RAF base was added to Historic England’s ‘At Risk Register’ in 2008, when it was designated the most ‘at risk’ of all UK Defence Estates. It’s now a thriving hub for classic car activity, which makes the Landy’s return even more pertinent.

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The Land Rover brand and mantra remain synonymous with military services to this day, but getting up close with this RAF Series I at Land Rover Legends will allow you to grasp where it all began. The model’s future looks secure, too, as it is put to work with Air Training Corps and Combined Cadet Force units across the country.

Tickets for Land Rover Legends can be bought through the official Bicester Heritage or Land Rover Legends websites.

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