by Alain Hoffmann
The 100 Inch Prototypes
This drab-looking old Landrover is probably a milestone in the factory's history and maybe also one of the best vehicles never built. This one is the FIRST coil-sprung Land-Rover ever made! Sadly the this project is not well documented, records are almost nonexistant.
|Esthetics were no issue on this model. Engine and gearbox are Range Rover and so is the chassis with a rear Land Rover crossmember welded on. Other outriggers were tacked on where needed, in places even wood was used to strenghten the body. The inner front wings were cut to make place for the turrets, the front is Stage 1- but at that time the Stage One wasn't still available. To make place for the 5" wider track of the Range Rover the wheelarches had to be hacked away, supposedly by an apprentice in his first year. As the standard 109's seats couldn't fit seats from an MGB were mounted. Drum brakes were used all around and the rear tailgate is an custom-made side hinged device.|
This specific vehicle was made to test the viability of using Range Rover chassis, axles and suspensions under a Landrover. It was screwed and welded together in 1976 at the orders of chief engineer Tom Barton by apprentices at Lode Lane- and, believe me, it looks like.
The vehicle never led an easy life. It spent four or five years and around 13000 miles on the rough tracks of Eastnor Castle before being given to the Dunsfold Trust in the mid-80's. It proved what we all know today: coil springs and a powerful engine make for a great vehicle. Only one year after this vehicle begun testing the factory set up a development team to set up a short and a long wheelbase version. However things didn't proceed very well until the Swiss Army suddenly showed it's interest in the existing 100" version.
We are now in 1977 and the first 110's only showed up in 1983, the 90 even a year later. The 100" was developped side-by-side with the 110", the 90 only when the Swiss contract stumbled. In 1978 a buch of 15 vehicles was built for the Swiss. They were constructed from a collection of parts from Series III, Stage 1's, 110's and Range Rovers. It is believed that they covered every combination of left-and right-hand steering, engines and elictric power systems. Two of these bunch still survive today at the Dunsfold Trust, carrying chassis numbers 4 and 13 (?), a third one is at the Heritage Collection at Gaydon.
Those are in better condition than the grey one, #13 has an automatic transmission. One of them, #13 can be seen lurking at the left in the above picture. The grey vehicle had no chassis number, not even a plate nor a registration. #4, chassis 100 S2 M 04X, was registered BAC 779 T and the hard-top #13 had the chassis 100 S2 M 13X.
The grey vehicle is in the same condition Land Rover gave it to the Trust with all the dents and scars and hardly a straight panel. But all these come from those years of endless offroad testing. And if it was to be refurbished- to which base? So it will be left as it is.