Cashed-up car collectors are spending up to $130,000 on classic Land Rovers rescued from farms around Australia.
A lack of rust, peerless originality and historical ties to the UK have made Australia the key source of vehicles for Land Rover Reborn, a restoration program that gives 70-year-old classics a new lease on life. It helps that the man at the head of the program is Victorian expat Michael Bishop, a Gippsland boy who bought his first of many Land Rovers in the 1980s.
Australian cars have proved so original that the first fully restored car under the program was from Queensland and the reference vehicle for Land Rover Reborn is a 1940s example found on a farm in western NSW – literally out the back of Bourke. Bishop’s team compare cars from around the world to that car to see what needs to be replaced as part of their program.
Launched at the Essen motor show in 2016, Land Rover Reborn was originally pitched as a run of 25 cars restored to original specifications so that they appear as new. The original allocation sold out within a week, so the manufacturer extended its run to 50-or-so models that are at least 50 years old.
Bishop’s Australian contacts have helped supply the program with cars for wealthy collectors willing to spend £80,000 (more than $130,000) on early examples of the type. Some come from rural properties, while others are from the Snowy Mountains region where the Land Rover’s rugged design and go-anywhere practicality earned plenty of respect.
Australia became a home to thousands of Land Rovers, which means Bishop’s crew is spoiled for choice, and can afford to be fussy about the cars they restore before on-selling them to collectors.