Range Rover 38a

38a prototype

Never registered second generation Land Rover Range Rover engineering prototype 38a. The oldest surviving prototype owned by the Dunsfold Collection, chassis number 35, DO2 prototype.

From a fleet of approximately one hundred press launch (CVC) and pre-launch (RGL) 38a Range Rovers, a large number are said to have been scrapped by Land Rover after the launch.  Of those that were released into private ownership, many have fallen into disrepair and been scrapped in recent years.  A number of factory-owned test and demonstrator vehicles were also registered with a CVC suffix shortly after the launch; so far only a few of these vehicles have been found.

Fifteen CVCs are now safe in the hands of enthusiasts; in total, thirty one vehicles have been discovered since 2009: there are more to find.

Many of the known survivors are roadworthy whilst others are undergoing restoration. Sadly two are known to have been scrapped in recent months despite attempts to rescue them.

L-registered 38a Range Rovers

Several weeks before the official launch, Land Rover prepared a fleet of ten pre-production vehicles for ‘private’ VIP / media evaluation.  Nine vehicles were registered in the sequence L2 RGL – L10 RGL; where RGL stood for ‘Rover Group Ltd’.  The tenth vehicle was allocated the company’s prestigious registration ‘LR1’.

The ‘RGL’ vehicles were first used at a pre-launch event in Scotland with off-road driving on the Athol Estate near the Cairngorm National Park. This event was intended primarily for overseas VIPs. Shortly afterwards they were lent to leading automotive magazines for evaluation ahead of the official launch.

LR1 was sent to Scotland with the Top Gear TV show.  L10 RGL returned to Anglesey with Charles Spencer King (CSK) and HUE 166 to re-visit Maurice Wilks’ farm and sands where Land Rover was invented.

LR1 (now registered L480 AVC) and L10 RGL have survived and are owned by enthusiasts. The DVLA website reveals that L8 RGL, a white 4.6 HSE, may have also survived but its whereabouts is currently unknown.

Launch Feature

One of the most sophisticated vehicle marketing campaigns ever seen in 1994, the launch started in June with a public ‘teaser’ campaign and finished in October with the Paris Motor Show.

Phase one – pre-launch events, the ‘RGL’ fleet June/ July 1994

Prior to the launch ten pre-production vehicles were used for ‘private’ evaluation by VIP and selected media firms. Nine vehicles registered as L- RGL – where RGL stood for ‘Rover Group Ltd’ – and one vehicle with the prestigious ‘LR1’.

Phase two – the International Press Launch, August 1994

For six weeks Land Rover used Cliveden House in Berkshire for the 38a Range Rover’s international press launch.  During this period journalists were invited to experience the new Range Rover and associate it with the opulent luxury of Cliveden.  Each morning a gleaming batch of 20 CVC press cars, representing the range of models (2.5 DT; 2.5 DSE; 4.0 SE; and 4.6 HSE), was lined-up in front of Cliveden for inspection and test drives.  Throughout the day, press cars were returned to a workshop in the grounds of the house for any repairs and cleaning.

Phase three – Main Dealer Launch, September 28th/29th 1994

VIP guests and loyal Range Rover customers were invited to Land Rover main dealers for a preview of the all-new Range Rover.  In advance of this event six teams of celebrities, each with three CVC press cars, were flown to distant locations around the world: Japan, South America; Vermont; Botswana; Madrid; and the Cotswolds.  At precise scheduled times, each expedition reported back to Land Rover show rooms via a live satellite broadcast link.

Phase four – The Paris Motor Show, October 4th 1994

The new Range Rover was revealed to the public by John Towers, Chief Executive of Land  Rover.  After the show, vehicles were available for purchase by the general pubic.

Finding Something Special

A CVC or RGL registration is the most obvious clue to indicate that a seemingly ‘everyday’ P38 is in fact a pre-production or press launch vehicle; however, three of the vehicles on the Register had ‘lost’ their original registration and other evidence was required to identify their ‘hidden’ history.  The following will help identify whether or not your P38 was a pre-production or press launch vehicle.

Registrations from M201 CVC to M299 CVC are almost certainly press launch or prototype vehicles.  Seven pre-launch prototypes were registered in the series L1 – L10 RGL; and three as M38 – M40 RHV.

The registration date for all press launch vehicles and many of the late phase prototypes is 1st August 1994.  The pre-launch “L-reg” cars were registered during June/July 1994.  The 38a was not available for purchase by the public until late October 1994.

The VIN number on a 38a is clearly displayed in the windscreen and can be a good clue to a vehicle’s past.  Production 38a ‘Number One’, at the BMIHT museum, has a VIN of 00190.  The oldest surviving prototype, now with the Dunsfold Collection, is 00035.  Some press cars were built in the pre-production phase (i.e. VIN lower than 00190), others were early production vehicles built just before the August launch (with a VIN as high as 00561) and registered in the M2–CVC batch.

A hand-stamped build tag was fitted to each unregistered prototype vehicle in the factory. The tags are riveted to the slam panel in front of the battery and identifies a vehicle’s particular role in the prototype programme.  This tag from the (now-scrapped) 2.5 DSE M206 CVC indicates she was the 34th car produced in the second phase of the ‘Methods Build’ prototype programme.

Date stamps can be found on the rear of many plastic components throughout a 38a Range Rover.  Prototypes and some press cars are fitted with parts made early in 1994.  The easiest place to check is the underside of the battery and air filter covers.