A Series 1 Land Rover presented to Sir Winston Churchill on his 80th birthday was sold for £129,000 by Cheffins of Cambridge, more than double the top estimate – an auction record for a Land Rover, say the auctioneers.
The vehicle was given to the Churchill on November 30, 1954, complete with "extra wide" accommodation to suit "the great man's great suit".
The eight inch wide middle seat was converted to a padded fold down armrest whilst a leather clad grab handle was fitted to the bulkhead.
A later addition, and boon for the comfort of the noble passenger, was the truck cab and foot-well heater, no doubt welcome on a cold Kent morning.
The octogenarian Prime Minister put the vehicle to good use, as it became his chosen mode of transport for chauffering him around his 300-acre Chartwell estate.
Appearing at Cheffins' vintage sale on October 20 at Sutton Saleground near Ely, it came with the original buff logbook and was registered as UKE 80 in the name of the Rt Hon. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill KG. OM. CH. MP. Chartwell, Westerham, Kent, although his signature was absent.
The UKE (United Kingdom Empire) registration number was a standard Kent issue for December 1954 but it is unknown whether the '80' was deliberately applied or simply a coincidence.
In untouched condition and still running with just 12,900 miles on the clock, it was estimated at £50,000-60,000.
The bidding started at £40,000 and a number of enthusiastic bidders in the room, on i-bidder online and on phones, with international interest, took it to £90,000 before a final, determined two-way battle saw it sell to a mystery buyer at the saleground.
The vehicle remained on the Chartwell estate until Churchill's death in January 1965. Shortly after, in June of that year, the buff logbook records the new custodian as Sir Winston Churchill's son-in-law the Rt Hon. A C Soames CBE. MP. Hamsell Manor, Eridge, Tonbridge Wells, Kent.
It is known that the Land Rover was only road taxed until December 1967 and thereafter used exclusively around the Eridge farm until 1973, a warning note not to use the vehicle on the road still survives from this time. Christopher Soames had by this time become Vice President of the EEC and this prompted a sale of farm equipment at Hamsell Manor, amongst which was the Land Rover.
The successful bidder was Norman Mills who bought it for £160 and, following an argument with the auctioneer, managed to obtain the logbook.
Soon afterwards, Mills sold it to his neighbour Frank Quay who bought the car after seeing the previous owner recorded in the logbook and offering Mills double the auction price.
Quay put the Land Rover to work towing his daughter's horse box to various events for the next four years but, in 1977, he decided it was too important an asset to keep driving. Keeping it in a shed, he gave it occasional outings to local events and charity fund days. He then put it up for auction around 1999 but, due to the difficulties of online auctions at the time, he decided to withdraw it an placed it back in the shed for the next decade.
The buyer's premium at Cheffins was 19.5%