The Freelander was launched in November 1997 and continued to the second generation model in 2006, production ceased in 2014.
The first generation Freelander was launched in the autumn of 1997 at an event in Marbella, Spain. Most of the press launch fleet were registered in the series R2–BAC; though some earlier R—CDU registered vehicles were also used. Production vehicle number one, a white 5 door vehicle, is on display at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon; its VIN is 466.
Several pre-production Freelanders have been found by the CVC-R. In addition to a VIN less than 466, there are several clues to look out for: sometimes they are not identified as Freelanders on their V5, but as LR904C’s. 5 door models had black door tops, and they were usually registered as R–BAC and R–CDU. Amongst the pre-production survivors are: R202BAC, R210BAC, R214BAC, R513BAC and R617BAC.
Freelander 2 was designed and initially built under Land Rover’s Ford ownership (2000-2008). At launch the car had a Peugeot-derived 2.2-litre transverse 4-cylinder diesel engine with manual transmission, or a Volvo-derived 3.2-litre transverse straight-six petrol engine with auto. transmission. ‘Mule’ and other test vehicles were running from 2004, perhaps earlier. A great deal of new equipment was installed at Halewood to enable production of various models down a single production line – Freelander 2 was produced with Jaguar cars.
The first official showing of the new car was to specialist Land Rover journalists on or about 02 June 2006 (under embargo). A reveal to more general press took place on June 29th – an unregistered Tambora Flame car shown off at Kensington Roof Gardens by Maria Sharapova. Freelander 2 was widely trailed in the motoring press before its official launch at the 2006 British Motor Show, held in London’s Docklands, 19th July to 3rd August. By that time it appears a small number of cars had been produced (for showing, review by journalists, photographing for brochures and publicity material etc.). Where registered, numbers are typically from VX56 D onwards, though other registrations were occasionally used.
From summer 2006 cars were produced for the official press-launch, in Morocco – it is said there were at least 100 Freelander 2 cars for that event. Some have dummy plates, but cars typically carried VX56 E registrations – for instance, a whole ‘alphabet’ of Freelander 2’s from VX56 EFA to VX56 EFZ, though registrations as far as VX56 EHC (first registered 23 November 2006) were in Morocco. The press-launch cars were not registered as one batch, registration dates vary.
Production officially commenced at Halewood on 25th October, the ‘first car off the line’ being greeted by football players. More exposure came on 20th November with VX56 DCE appearing on ‘Fifth Gear’ (apparently the only in-depth UK TV review). Freelander 2 went on sale (subject to confirmation) on 11th December – though it seems to have been common for dealerships to register cars before that date.