A collector is set to experience their own finest hour when Sir Winston Churchill’s Land Rover goes under the hammer with auctioneering business Cheffins at its October sale in Cambridge UK.
A cigar moment awaits one lover of history – or vintage vehicles – if they can find an estimated £50,000-£60,000 for the Series 1 Land Rover – presented to Britain’s celebrated war lord on his 80th birthday on November 30, 1954.
The vehicle goes into Cheffins’ vintage sale on October 20 at Sutton Saleground near Ely. It comes complete with the original buff logbook, registered as UKE 80 in the name of the Rt Hon. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill KG. OM. CH. MP. Chartwell, Westerham, Kent, although his signature is absent.
The UKE registration number is a standard Kent issue for December 1954 but many have noted the United Kingdom Empire reference whilst the ‘80’ would be a fantastic coincidence indeed if it was not deliberately applied.
The chauffer driven unique Land Rover was put to good use taking Sir Winston around his 300 landscaped acres of Chartwell estate, now owned by the National Trust.
The vehicle was especially put together by Rover bearing in mind the requirements of the VIP. The passenger accommodation is an ‘extra wide’ modification, suitably commodious for the great man’s great seat.
The eight-inch wide middle seat is converted to a padded, fold-down armrest while a leather clad grab handle is fitted to the bulkhead. A later addition, and boon for the comfort of the noble passenger, is the truck cab and foot well heater.
UKE 80 remained on the Chartwell estate until Churchill’s death in January 1965. That June, the logbook records the new custodian as Churchill’s son-in-law the Rt Hon. A C Soames CBE. MP. Hamsell Manor, Eridge, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
It is known that the Land Rover was only road taxed until December 1967 and thereafter used exclusively around the Eridge farm until 1973; a warning note not to use the vehicle on the road still survives from this time. Christopher Soames had by this time become Vice President of the EEC and this prompted a sale of farm equipment at Hamsell Manor, amongst which was the Land Rover.
Norman Mills placed a successful bid at the sale of £160 and, following an argument with the auctioneer, managed to obtain the logbook, paid for his lot and then wondered how to get it home. His neighbour Frank Quay was asked to come to the rescue. On a seeing the logbook and realising its heritage, Quay made Mills an offer of doubling his money on the spot and UKE 80 passed into just its third official ownership.
Quay and the Land Rover were soon put to work towing his daughter’s horse box to various events for the next four years. In 1977, Quay decided it was too important an asset to keep driving and UKE80 went into the shed.
Occasional outings to local events and charity fund raisings were all that disturbed the Land Rover for 20-plus years. UKE 80 was put up for auction around 1999 but the early days of online auctions proved fraught with difficulties and it was back in the shed for the next decade.
A Cheffins spokesperson said: “As a beautifully untouched, wonderfully original, running Series 1 Land Rover with just 12,932 genuine miles, this is a remarkable and desirable vehicle.”
And a good bargain – if we may paraphrase a famous Churchill speech – “however long and hard the road may be.”