An exceptionally rare ‘Forest Rover’ Roadless Land Rover from 1959 sold for £110,000 plus buyer's premium in Tennants Auctioneers’ Motor Car, Motorcycle and Automobilia Sale on 14th May, doubling the top estimate. The extraordinarily rugged version of the much-loved British classic was developed in response to the Forestry Commission’s desperate need for a vehicle that would be up to tackling the roughest of terrain in their plantations.
In 1958 and 1959 the Forestry Commission produced their own test vehicles based on the Series I and Series II Land Rover to try and solve the problem, before they approached Roadless Traction Ltd of Hounslow to take over the project. Roadless Traction Ltd specialised in purpose built tracked tractors and produced a diesel-engine prototype based on the Series II 109, with large flat panels replacing the front wings and rear tractor-type mudguards covering the over-sized wheels. The prototype was sent to Rover’s testing facility for their official approval, and after 18 months of extensive testing approval was given.
Roadless launched their vehicle in 1961, marketing it for everything from cross country exploration to shooting parties and official visits around the Empire. However, it was not a commercial success, and it is thought that only between nine and twenty examples were ever built. The present example was Prototype Number 2 and used as a demonstration vehicle by Roadless Traction Ltd; it is one of only six surviving vehicles known. The rest of the remaining vehicles are spread around the world, with examples known in Brazil, the Falkland Islands and in the Dunsfold Collection of vintage Land Rovers.
The vehicle had been owned by the vendor, a Private Collector from the North of England, since 1995. Soon after purchasing the Forest Rover, he spent three years rebuilding it with as many original parts as possible.