1958 Rover Company Land Rover TSM - 430274 (resin)
Founded in 1878 in Solihull, Warwickshire, the Rover Company started out producing bicycles. They began producing cars in 1901, and their first model was the Rover 8, focusing on luxury cars. With time Rover developed a reputation for building solid and reliable cars. However, then came World War II, and the market changed quite a lot and materials became scarce. So Maurice Wilks, Rover’s chief designer, came up with the idea of creating a light agricultural and utility vehicle. In essence, he proposed something similar to the Willys Jeep, but with emphasis on rural use. The first prototype was ready in 1947, with a quite distinctive feature. It had the steering wheel in the center of the cabin and also a power take-off feature. With that, a farmer could run a farm implement connected to the vehicle, like with a tractor.
Production began in 1948 (with the steering wheel on the right), and it was a commercial success. Initially the Land Rover was a single model offering, and the first cars (1948 to 1958) were later called “Series I”. Interestingly, since aluminum was easier to source than steel at the time, Rover used an aluminum alloy for most of the body. In the beginning, the Land Rover came with a 203 cm wheelbase, but later on that became 218 cm. The gearbox of the Series I was a manual 4-speed, and if needed, the driver could select 4-wheel drive. The engine was quite simple, an inline-4 with 8 valves and SOHC. At first, it was a 1595 cm³ petrol engine, but then a 1995 cm³ replaced it. However, at the end of the series Rover used a 2052 cm³ diesel engine.
The first petrol engine delivered 50 hp, and the diesel unit, slightly modernized, was capable of 52 hp. So the car was underpowered, or at least sounds that way. But back then utility vehicles were like that, specially since they didn’t need top speed. While that may be true, the Land Rover was immensely popular, and Rover exported them all over the British Empire. All in all, about 39.000 left the factory at Solihull. The Land Rover was a true beast of burden, and was comfortable in many rolls. Even as a race support vehicle! In the early 60s Scuderia Filipinetti bought a Land Rover and painted it in their traditional team-red. And at least in 1964, they used the car at Le Mans.
This photo here was taken in the first week of June, 1964. The place is Rue du 8 Mai, in Teloché, a small village about 3.5 km south of the Mulsanne Corner. There stood a small auto repair shop that became Porsche’s “official” garage for the Le Mans race, from 1951 to 1981. It was where Stuttgart’s race cars were assembled and serviced before the race. Even some of the privateers (specially the bigger teams) had their Porsches worked on there. On the picture you can clearly see Scuderia Flipinetti’s Land Rover in front of their 904/4 GTS #35. You can also see what seems to be, between them, a single axle trailer. However so far I haven’t found any indication that the team’s Land Rover actually hauled the 904 #35. That’s quite different from what Porsche used for their factory team.
I also couldn’t find anything about the actual vehicle per se, other than it was a Series I. Photos are really scarce, and information is even rarer. Last year, out of the blue, TSM announced that they would release Filipinetti’s vehicle in 1:43rd. I’m no Land Rover fan, but one that was a race support vehicle at Le Mans? Oh yeah! I knew it would be a far-from-cheap model, but detail level would be awesome. So even with the cryptic history (and high price) I ordered one. And I almost regretted that, because right after I bought it the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down began 😨. Though it took a while, it arrived. And in the end it was a huge score for the W-143 Garage, because it totally rocks.
In an agricultural race support kind of way, at least… 🚜