Ex-RAF, Fighter Command 1951 Land Rover Series I 80" Utility Registration no. GAS 176 (Former Service No. 41 AA 31) Chassis no. 26102934
2018 is the 100th year of the Royal Air Force, an anniversary which has been celebrated around the country and will be here at Goodwood also. While the RAF has protected our country in the skies, they have always needed the support on the ground with manpower and machines such as this dependable Land Rover.
'GAS' as it has been affectionately known by recent owners was ordered new from Rover Co. Ltd. by the Royal Air Force, being built at the end of 1951 and delivered to them on the 1st January 1952, as confirmed by copies of the Ministry of Defence files which detail its 17-year roster of service work, deciphered by expert John Mastrangelo. On 8th January it joined the 14th Maintenance Unit at RAF Carlisle in Cumberland, being moved over to War Reserve Fighter Command on 18th June 1952, where it would serve until February 1959. Its work then became with the Technical Training Command for the next 12 months, after which it moved to Southern Air Command in February 1960. At this juncture, the Land Rover was equipped to Truck Glider Retrieval setup and joined Fighter Command on 26th May 1960. The following Spring, its last post became with Flying Training Command, on 23rd March 1961, who kept it in service for the next 8 years. Throughout this period it was registered as '41 AA 31'. According to those papers, the car was 'de-mobbed' in 1969, being sent to the Ministry of Defence Disposal Site in July that year. It should be noted that MOD service Land Rovers, unlike farm equipment were important working tools that were maintained so that they could always be on call and ready to use.
The '80' was discovered in the early 2000s, still retaining its correct MOD plates, and original engine, but in a tired state and subsequently restored in a sympathetic fashion, this work being charted through a photographic record.
The present owner acquired GAS in 2012 and after a couple of years of infrequent use decided to commission a refurbishment to bring the car to a more accurate representation of the model in its MOD form as it would have been new.
The Land Rover was entrusted to highly regarded aficionado Julian Shoolheifer who personally handled all of the work. The body was stripped and repainted in a toned-down matt finish, the seats replaced in correct fabric blue material, original two-piece wheels which accompanied the car were restored and put back on it. Period Lucas trafficators were sourced and fitted to the top of the windscreen and made operational (after a fashion). Through the course of the work, Mr. Shoolheifer reviewed the car and found it to be extremely good and is quoted as rating the chassis to be unusually solid compared with some of the harder lives that these cars can have received. Following the aesthetic work on the car, a further period of mechanical sorting was undertaken, the brakes were fully overhauled, clutch thrust bearing replaced.
As a result of the cosmetic and mechanical work, the RAF 'Rover presents cleanly and is reported by its owner and the restorer to drive very smoothly. It is accompanied with a BMIHT certificate, copies of MOD records and copious invoices for its two restorations.
Early Land Rovers such as this have the wonderful benefit of versatility of being able to take the full 'tilt' off and drive enthusiastically and to carry 7 passengers in 'relative' comfort. There can be very few left which can claim period Fighter Command usage or the originality of this example.