A LAND Rover, given to Britain’s wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill as an 80th birthday present in 1954, is being auctioned later this year and is expected to fetch around £60,000.
Car maker Rover made the Series 1 Land Rover especially for Churchill and fitted it with an extra-wide passenger seat to accommodate his ample parliamentary seat, as well as such extras as a padded, fold-down arm rest and a leather-clad grab handle.
The vehicle also included a built-in box which was used to store Sir Winston’s trowel so he could indulge his hobby of bricklaying, and a footwell heater to keep the great statesman warm while he was being chauffeured around his 300-acre Chartwell estate.
After Churchill’s death in 1965, the dark green Landy, registration number UKE 80, was inherited by his son-in-law, Christopher Soames MP, who used it on his farm in Kent.
The UKE registration number is a standard Kent issue for the time but experts have noted the possibility that it was an early personalised plate – the letters refer to ‘United Kingdom Empire’ while the ‘80’ was to commemorate the great man’s birthday.
In 1973 Soames sold off much of his farm equipment and the Land Rover was bought for £160 by one Norman Mills, who asked a neighbour, Frank Quay, to help him get it back to his home near Orpington.
Mr Quay, a farmer, spotted Churchill’s name on the log book and promptly paid Mr Mills £320 for the vehicle. He in turn used it for four years for light farm duties and for towing his daughter’s horsebox before deciding it was too valuable to use.
He shut it away in a shed when its road tax expired in 1977 and in the 35 years since, it has only been brought out occasionally to be displayed at charity fundraising events. Today it still has fewer than 13,000 miles on the clock.
Mr Quay, now 81, gave the Land Rover to his son Leslie nine years ago and he has now decided that the time has come to cash in. It is being sold, complete with its original buff-coloured logbook bearing Churchill’s name and address, by Cambridge auctioneers Cheffins on 20th October.
Jeremy Curzon, associate auctioneer at Cheffins, said: “In view of Churchill’s position as the foremost statesman of the 20th century, we expect a lot of interest.”
Someone with a sense of history, an appreciation of the merits of early Land Rovers and some deep pockets could be about to enjoy his finest hour.