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By MICHAEL POLLITT, Agruicultural editor
Saturday, October 13, 2012
A remarkable Land Rover – built for prime minister Sir Winston Churchill’s 80th birthday – goes under the hammer at next Saturday’s Cambridge machinery sale.
The 1954 Churchill Land Rover will be sold at the Sutton saleground, near Ely by auctioneers Cheffins. It carries an estimate of £50,000 to £60,000.
Jeremy Curzon, of the firm’s Cambridge office, said that Rover presented the unique Series 1 Land Rover to the wartime leader on his 80th birthday on November 30, 1954.
As documented in the original buff logbook, UKE 80 it was registered to the Rt Hon Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, KG, OM, CH, MP, of Chartwell, Westerham, Kent.
The “UKE” registration was standard issue in Kent for December 1954 – was it a subtle reference to the United Kingdom Empire? And was the “80” a further coincidence?
Sir Winston, who was prime minister from May 1940 until July 1945, served a further term between 1951 and April 1955 when he retired from politics to spend the rest of his life on his Chartwell estate.
His 300-acre estate is now owned by the National Trust.
The Land Rover was built specially for the then prime minister. The passenger accommodation is an “extra wide” modification for the great man’s seat, said Mr Curzon. The eight-inch wide middle seat was converted to a padded fold-down armrest while a leather-clad grab handle has been fitted to the bulkhead.
UKE 80 remained at Chartwell until his death on January 24, 1965 but in June the logbook had a new entry, his son in law, Christopher Soames.
It was kept at his home, Hamsell Manor, near Tonbridge Wells until the farm and the machinery, including the Land Rover were sold in 1973.
When it was knocked down to a Mr Norman Mills for £160, the auctioneer refused to give him the logbook. However, after a public row, he got the official document.
As it was then un-taxed Mr Mills wondered how to get it home. A neighbour Frank Quay came to the rescue. When he saw the original logbook with the first owner’s name, he immediately offered to double Norman’s money on the spot. The offer was accepted.
Mr Quay used it to two his daughter’s horseboxes to events for the next four years. Then in 1977, he realised that it was probably too valuable to drive, so it went into a shed, where it remained for the next 30 years.
The vehicle was also photographed by Frank Tapley at Chartwell in February 1955, shortly before Sir Winston resigned.
In its original state, untouched and original, the running Land Rover has just 12,932 miles.
Mr Curzon said that Land Rover will be sold in a marquee around lunchtime.
Admission will be limited to bidders, who have pre-registered, or have an official catalogue.
Two other Land Rovers are among the vintage and veteran machines including a 1949 Series 1, and its original 1600cc petrol engine, and a Series 1 Station Wagon.
The tractors include an unusual 1981 Big Bud, with 650hp engine. It is described as a rare chance to own one of the most powerful tractors in Britain in superb show conditions.
Six sale rings will be in action, starting from 9.30am as about 2,500 lots of vintage, classic and veteran tractors, motorcycles, stationary engines and memorabilia are sold.
Details - www.cheffins.co.uk
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