In the shadow of Land Rover’s Solihull plant, a workshop painstakingly restores vintage originals
Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” blasts from the corner as about 20 employees tinker in a labor of love. They are restoring original Land Rovers with painstaking care, taking them down to the chassis and rebuilding them with original parts for collectors with the patience to wait up to a year for the work to be completed.
We are standing in the Reborn Center in Solihull, U.K., a stone’s throw from the noisy plant churning out spanking-new Range Rovers, Discoveries, and other SUVs.
Land Rover’s Classic division started its meticulous work in January 2016, rebuilding and refurbishing Land Rover Series I vehicles.
At the door is Car Zero, a 1952 Land Rover from Queensland, Australia, that took 900 hours to restore from disrepair but that kept its original patina as a show car and reference point.
There are orders to restore more than 50 vehicles; 25 already have been cherry-picked from Land Rover’s own research and exploration. The cost of these bespoke restorations ranges from about $90,000 USD to $110,000 USD. The eventual expectation is for Reborn to expand to perform work for owners’ vintage vehicles.
Land Rovers have been built at Solihull since Maurice and Spencer Wilks launched the first Landie in 1948. During our tour, a 1952 Land Rover Series I perched on a hoist while work was underway on a black 1951, a 1955, and another unidentifiable model covered in tape. Many come from Australia and California, where the hot, dry climate means no salt or rust eating away the old sheetmetal.
For workers, it can be frustrating searching for the right part, but there’s also excitement in finding that missing puzzle piece. Many of these finds come from the War Department archives.
While on our tour, a worker celebrated the arrival of an original lever for an accelerator system, dated August 1952, its box unopened. The aged packing paper crinkled like parchment in his roughened hands, revealing a part covered in wax that had not seen daylight since it was packaged more than six decades ago.