Not many cars can claim to be the subject of their own book but an exception has rightly been made for a very special Land Rover vehicle.
JUE 477 was the very first production Land-Rover – the vehicle which went on to inspire an entire company.
Now a new book – entitled simply JUE 477 (the vehicle’s number plate) – tells the story of chassis number 860001, a vehicle of historic significance which was hidden away and rotting in a barn for almost four decades.
Written by Martin Port and published by Porter Press International the book is being released this month.
JUE 477 went on show at the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace on the outskirts of London from September 4-6.
It was there as part of the supporting cast for the first public outing of the Ineos Grenadier prototype – a vehicle that is being dubbed the spiritual successor to the Land Rover Defender.
Ineos Automotive’s Concours display featured a number of historic 4x4s which all helped to inspire the Grenadier – including the first ever production Land-Rover.
Built in 1948, Land-Rover number one was intended for presentation to King George VI, but actually ended up working on farms and mining sites in north east England.
After 22 years of hard service, the well-used workhorse was sold to Northumberland farmer David Fairless for just £15.
At the time he wasn’t sure whether to continue using the vehicle or to break it up for spares. Before long JUE 477 lay forgotten and exposed to the elements on the farm.
Although Mr Fairless never restored 860001, in June 1998 he took it on a trailer to the Land Rover Series One Club’s 50th anniversary rally at Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire.
Despite its ruinous state, 860001 created such a stir that when Mr Fairless got back home, he hid the vehicle away in a tumbledown barn, barricaded behind an assortment of hay bales and vehicle parts.
Mr Fairless died in 2017 and JUE 477 was subsequently sold to renowned Land Rover enthusiast Sir Jim Ratcliffe – the founder of chemical giant Ineos.
The vehicle was then treated to a sympathetic 18-month restoration, retaining as much of the original vehicle as possible.
In this 128-page book, author Martin Port – a highly-regarded Land-Rover expert – sheds light on every stage in 860001’s life, a fascinating story accompanied by more than 240 photographs.
A special launch edition of the book is signed by the author and 860001’s chief restorer, Julian Shoolheifer.
The book also covers how the Land-Rover legend was born, giving Britain and the world a Jeep-inspired workhorse.
Completed on 19 July 1948, 860001 was officially the first production Land-Rover.
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When 860001 was first registered in 1950 (as JUE 477), its first custodian was mechanical engineer Ewen McEwen, a friend of the Land-Rover’s originators, brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilks.
At this time Mr McEwen was Professor of agricultural engineering at the University of Durham, but he went on to become director of engineering with Coventry tractor maker Massey Ferguson and vice-chairman (engineering) of John Lucas.
It is thought the vehicle was used for agricultural training purposes before being moved to a farm in Stanhope, County Durham.
It was sold to Mr Fairless in December 1970 for £15 – a sum he remembered as “the proper price to pay for an old derelict Land-Rover at the time”.
The restoration after it was bought by Sir Jim Ratcliffe was overseen by Andrew Nahum, keeper emeritus at the Science Museum.
Martin Port has owned and run classic cars for nearly 30 years – from the humble Morris Minor to AC Buckland and Porsche 912, but his overwhelming passion is for classic Land-Rovers.
He has explored Europe and North Africa at the wheel of various examples and used a number of series models as his preferred daily commuting vehicle, regularly covering in excess of 500 miles per week
The standard edition of JUE 477 costs £30 and a limited special launch edition, signed by Martin Port and Julian Shoolheifer, costs £45. ● ISBN: 978-1-907085-78-9