This is one of the most historically significant early Range Rovers we’ve seen come up for sale in recent memory. It’s one of the few pre-production Range Rovers that were badged “Velar” as a decoy to get them registered without alerting the press of the competition.
This vehicle, Chassis #31, was used for winter testing in Finland and as such its fitted with two heaters. Interestingly it also helped do the cold weather testing for the new ABS grille for the then-unreleased Land Rover Series III, ensuring it could withstand extremely low temperatures without cracking.
Fast Facts – A Pre-Production Range Rover Velar
- The first-generation Range Rover was launched in 1970. A few months later the Musée du Louvre in Paris exhibited a Range Rover titling it an “exemplary work of industrial design.”
- The Range Rover would become one of the most influential 4x4s of all time, and the luxury SUV market is now valued in the billions with sales expected to grow annually for the foreseeable future.
- The first pre-production Range Rovers were named the “Velar,” a codename used to avert attention and allow the vehicles to be tested discretely before release.
- The vehicle you see here is one of the pre-production Velar Range Rovers, it was originally used for winter testing in Finland, and it also did the cold weather testing for the new ABS grille for the then-unreleased Land Rover Series III.
The Development Of The Range Rover
The Land Rover was launched by the Rover Company in 1948, famously as a cross-between an American Jeep and a farm tractor. They only intended to sell it for a few years as a post-WWII stopgap measure before returning to their normal fare – luxury cars.
As it turned out, the Land Rover would become the most enduring Rover creation of all time. The world couldn’t get enough of the simple 4×4 workhorse and in the 20th century it was said that for more than half the world’s population – the first car they ever saw was a Land Rover.
Although the Land Rover was capable it offered no real comfort to its occupants, and Rover engineers spent time working on developing a more luxurious model that would retain all the off-road ability of its forebear.
In 1958 the first “Road Rover” prototypes were built, offering more comfort at a higher price point, though the vehicles were never given the green light for production. This all changed nine years later when the first Range Rover prototype was built in 1967, the design and engineering was finalized by 1969 and the vehicle was first shown to the public in 1970.
Though they didn’t know it at the time, the luxury SUV market had just been created, and over the next few years it would take the world by storm. 70+ years later even Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and even Lotus all have their own high-end SUVs in production and the market is growing consistently year-on-year.
The first, pioneering pre-production prototypes for the new Range Rover series were called the “Velar,” this was a name chosen by Range Rover development engineer Geoff Miller. The word “velar” came from the Italian word “velare” meaning to veil or to cover.
In order to sell the ruse, the Velar Company was registered at an address in London and officially produced the pre-production vehicles that were built between 1967 and 1970 for testing and evaluation purposes.
The few surviving examples of these original Velar Range Rovers are now highly collectible, though they seem to only rarely come up for public sale.
The Pre-Production 1970 Range Rover Velar Shown Here
The vehicle you see here is an original pre-production 1970 Range Rover Velar, as mentioned in the introduction it was used for cold weather testing in Finland and as such it had a second heater unit fitted in the rear.
While it was in Finland it also had a then-new Series III Land Rover ABS plastic grille fitted up front to test it out in the extreme cold and see if it was ready for production use. It must have passed the test because it became the de facto standard grille on the Series III shortly thereafter.
After this Velar’s testing days were over it was sent off to a Land Rover dealer – William Ellis Garages – and the it remained in his family until the present day. The vehicle was then later displayed at the “Velar Reunion” gathering in 1995 at Gaydon along with some of its siblings.
By the early 2000s it was clear that it was going to need a restoration, and so it was sent off for a full rebuild with a focus on originality, and keeping the parts of it that made it so unique.
It’s now being offered for sale for the first time and it’ll cross the auction block with Silverstone Auctions on the 26th of August with a guide price of £80,000 – £90,000 which works out to approximately $102,700 – $115,500 USD.
It coms with an original sales invoice from the purchase in 1973, images from winter testing in Finland, features from the book “Range Rover, the First Fifty,” original book packs, and its current MOT Certificate valid to August 2024. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.