It appears Freelander 2 assembly at Halewood started with small trial batches – some cars would presumably have been used for crash-testing, others for quality evaluation and training assembly workers. It is probable that VIN numbers below 200 were not intended to be ‘finished’ cars.
VIN number SALFA23A17H000293 is a Freelander 2 HSE i6 in Stornoway Grey with Napoli Alpaca (cream) leather interior. It was built 13 July 2006 – just six days before the start of the UK Motor Show on 19 July 2006. The car’s ‘despatch out’ date is 03 August 2006 – same date as the end of the Motor Show. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was a show car but would seem to indicate a strong possibility – a same-specification Freelander 2 was at the show. 000293 went to Land Rover Vehicle Operations as a press demonstrator, and was registered on 1st September 2006 as VX56 DCE. Freelander 2 production commenced at Halewood seven weeks later, on 25 October 2006.
VX56 DCE was a test car on the 20th November 2006 edition of ‘Fifth Gear’, three weeks ahead of Freelander 2’s on-sale date – this was, apparently, the only in-depth review of Freelander 2 on UK television. It also appeared on the cover of ‘Land Rover Enthusiast’ April 2007 issue, which reviewed two Freelander 2s (the other, VX56 ETU, had also been a test car for Top Gear magazine January 2007 issue, but is no longer listed by DVLA). So far no other appearances of VX56 DCE have surfaced, though it seems likely the car would have been used for various media purposes.
Only seven years old when found, this is believed to be the youngest ex-company car that is known to be recognised and in conservation, though regularly used. Apart from the ex-company history it is very well built and a delightful car to drive, the 3.2-litre transverse straight-six Volvo-derived petrol engine appearing only in i6 models – these were aimed principally at the USA market, only a few hundred were sold in UK.
Outwardly looking standard, there are several clues to its early manufacture – including early-dated components and what is apparently the first print run of an Owner’s Handbook, complete with misprints (difficult to set up a printing press to produce just a few copies) and variations from the first ‘production’ handbook.