The first-ever production Land Rover, known affectionately as "JUE", was rescued from decay and embarked on an ambitious journey across the Gobi Desert, led by entrepreneur and adventurer, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
The iconic vehicle, chassis number one, was originally built in 1948 and was set to be gifted to the king. However, plans changed, and it ended up with Professor Ewan McEwen at Newcastle University. Over the years, its whereabouts became a mystery, with many believing it was lost forever. After decades of speculation, JUE was discovered on a farm in Northumberland, having endured the elements for nearly 50 years.
The vehicle, despite its dilapidated state, was acquired by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the industrialist behind the Grenadier project, which aims to create a modern 4x4 inspired by the spirit of the original Land Rover. Recognising the historical significance of JUE, Ratcliffe and his team embarked on a two-year restoration project, aiming to preserve as much of the original vehicle as possible.
Once restored, instead of placing this automotive treasure in a museum, Ratcliffe had a different plan. He decided to take JUE, along with a convoy of vintage vehicles and the new Grenadier 4x4s, on an epic overland trip across Mongolia, journeying through the Gobi Desert. The challenging terrain tested the mettle of all the vehicles, with JUE impressively holding its own despite its age.
Richard Hammond, TV presenter and former Top Gear host, who owns the Herefordshire business "The Smallest Cog", documented this incredible journey. He expressed his admiration for the resilience of JUE, stating, "It's testament to the original build quality, Julian's restoration, and Jim's approach to the whole project."
The journey not only celebrated the legacy of the Land Rover but also showcased the capabilities of the Grenadier, Ratcliffe's modern interpretation of the classic 4x4. As the convoy traversed mountains, plains, dunes, and deserts, it became evident that the spirit of adventure and the legacy of the Land Rover live on, with new chapters still being written.