26 June 2023
There’s always something special about the first, and when the number one in question is a low-mileage and very original CSK, it’s small wonder that a succession of owners has been seduced…
Today it scarcely seems possible, but in late 1990, when the model was launched, hardly anyone wanted to buy a Range Rover CSK. What wasn’t to like? A limited-edition, individually numbered two-door Range Rover finished in seductive Beluga Black with a bespoke interior trimmed in American walnut and soft, perforated Sorrell leather that echoed the Palomino trim of the first Velars, built to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Range Rover.
Then there was the bored-out and very sporty 3.9-litre version of the glorious V8 engine, as well as anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, sports dampers, and ABS brakes to steady the undercarriage. There were chrome bumpers too, not seen on a Range Rover since 1969, when they were trialled on at least one of the seven engineering prototypes but did not go into production.
Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King and the CSK, the Range Rover 20th anniversary limited edition model that was named after him
And a wooden presentation box with a numbered plaque on the front, containing a set of brochures and a certificate signed by Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King. He was the engineer who led Rover’s New Vehicle Projects team that was responsible for creating a more comfortable and driver-friendly version of the Land Rover, using the long-travel coil suspension from the Rover 2000 saloon. Initially known as the 100in Station Wagon, it later became the Range Rover.
With a top speed of 114mph, the CSK was the fastest production Range Rover yet built, but dealers couldn’t shift them for love nor money. A brand-new CSK with manual transmission could have been yours for just under £30,000, or an auto for £300 more. Today, of course, they are among the most highly sought-after and desirable examples of the first-generation Range Rover. A sound, original example that hasn’t been messed about and comes with good provenance and history can more or less name its price.
No one knows exactly how many of the 200 survive, but (Land Rover anorak that I am) I’ve been keeping my own records since 1993. That was the year I finally became a CSK owner myself, when I persuaded my then employer to let me have the secondhand CSK073 as my company car, rather than something tedious, boring and new from the official vehicle list.
The CSK was an enduringly popular attraction, here at it's second appearance at the Paris Motor Show in 2012
My records show that of the 200 CSKs built, around 115 have survived. Rust was the killer, as many a CSK owner has found to their cost. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, CSKs seem to rot far more readily than their four-door contemporaries.
The car featured here is CSK001. What is it about the first of anything that draws so many people in, me included? It has survived in remarkably good condition, not least because it’s only driven 25,000 miles over the past 32 years. It has played a part in several important Land Rover company milestones including the launch of the first Range Rover Sport in 2005, when Land Rover retrospectively decided that the CSK was somehow the father of the new Sport because it was, well, the first sporty Range Rover.
There’s only one number one. Limited edition plaque on the centre console
001 has had only five owners since 8 August 1990, the date that Land Rover’s records declare it to have come off the production line at Solihull. It was given the factory registration number H35 FAC on 12 September and allocated to Land Rover’s internal fleet, where it joined quite a few more CSKs. In fact, of the first 20 vehicles built, no fewer than 12 were allocated to Land Rover Company Vehicles and of the entire production run of 200 CSKs, 23 went to the internal fleet rather than to the dealer network.
To try to drum up some interest, Land Rover drew up an advertisement with a wonderful studio photo of H35 FAC and sent it to all main dealers, suggesting that they might like to place it in their local newspapers to promote the CSK to potential customers. Amusingly, the headline in the advert read ‘So rare, even our dealers can’t get hold of them’.
Poor initial sales prompted Land Rover to create this advertisement to promote the CSK
Unlike most of the CSKs that remained with the company, 001 does not seem to have been used as a demonstrator or as a press vehicle, although a month after it was registered it was displayed on a plinth at a reception point set up at Solihull for Land Rover customers visiting the British International Motor Show at the NEC.
Land Rover hung onto CSK001 for two years, but doesn’t seem to have done anything more with it. It has been suggested that it was retained in the hope that as number one it might eventually be sold at a premium. Whatever the eventual price, in October 1992 it was acquired by Fred Archer, a director of main dealer Loxleys of Bromley, and immediately re-registered with his cherished plate H1 FAA.
Loxleys gave the CSK its free first service at a recorded 10 miles, indicating that Land Rover really hadn’t done anything with the vehicle in the two years it had owned it, or at least it hadn’t done anything that involved it turning its wheels. Fred Archer would keep his CSK for seven years, and when he advertised it for sale in late 1999, the recorded mileage was under 7000. Annual mileages were sometimes almost nonexistent. For example, between its MoT in May 1997 and the next one the following June, the CSK travelled just 149 miles.
CSK001, Paris Motor Show, September 2012
The man who responded to the ad in Exchange & Mart and eventually bought the vehicle in April 2000 was Gem Mustafa, who’d been a fan of the CSK since its launch and had finally managed to acquire one in the late 1990s. That was CSK091 and Gem was perfectly happy with it, but the magnetic attraction of owning number one was too great to resist. He decided to buy it but promised himself that he would sell 091 if he became the owner of number one. When Gem went down to Kent to see it, he was rather surprised to find that the owner had added a little additional bling to go with his personalised plate…
The silver Range Rover letters on the bonnet and tailgate had been replaced by gold letters in the wrong font, and the white coachlines and CSK logos had also been replaced with gold versions. The CSK logos had been further embellished with a gold ‘I’ to try to make it look like ‘CSK1’, but instead it seemed to read ‘CSKI’. Even the silver-finish centre section on the rubbing strips on both flanks had been painted gold. And a vast chrome-plated bull-bar was the cherry on the trifle.
Gem was content to leave all these enhancements in place because they were part of CSK001’s history, and it would only be put back to factory standard five years later, when Gem offered to loan it to Land Rover to use in its marketing and PR activities, very commendably telling the company he wanted to “see his vehicle used and enjoyed by others as a piece of history.” Land Rover sent a team to examine it and decided to borrow it for the upcoming launch of the L320 Range Rover Sport. Provided, of course, that they could remove the extraneous bling and restore the vehicle to factory specification. And this, with Gem’s full permission, is exactly what the team did.
Journalists in Spain in 2005 were supposed to be there to inspect the new Range Rover Sport, but the CSK tempted many away. Photo: Nick Dimbleby
A month later, in April 2005, CSK001 was on static display opposite a pre-production example of the new Range Rover Sport, the two vehicles being the centrepiece at Le Fort de Bellegarde in Le Perthus, on the France-Spain border. Over several weeks, multiple rotations of the ladies and gentlemen of the world’s automotive press were flown to Perpignan and handed the keys to their press fleet L320s before setting off to follow a pre-planned route to the Fort, which was their lunch stop, before continuing their test drive for dinner at the Hotel Mas de Torrent near Pals, Spain.
LRM regular Nick Dimbleby was Land Rover’s photographer on the media drive, and he remembers the CSK attracting huge interest. After the event it was returned to Gem, but there were some at Land Rover who didn’t forget the CSK and when, five years later, the company was concluding its plans for the launch of the new Evoque, they decided the CSK still had a part to play.
Paris Motor Show, September 2010, when CSK001 supported the launch of the Evoque
In the autumn of 2010, JLR arranged for the CSK to be repainted ready for a starring role at that year’s Paris Motor Show. Polished and gleaming, CSK001 was displayed stage left on JLR’s vast exhibition stand when CEO Dr Ralf Speth, designer Gerry McGovern and UK Managing Director Phil Popham introduced the world to the Evoque.
After the show, Gem offered the CSK to Land Rover on long-term loan, and it spent the next couple of years in the company’s care, frequently on display at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon. In 2012 it was used in JLR’s ‘Four generations of Range Rover’ media campaign, and later that year it was back on the stand at the Paris Motor Show, this time supporting the L405 Range Rover reveal.
Gem Mustafa, right, and his son say goodbye to the CSK in January 2013; proud new owner Pusey on the left
Just after the Paris show, I heard from contacts at JLR that Gem was thinking about selling the vehicle to help fund a house move. I made contact, and he and I had lengthy conversations about it, and in November it was advertised on several websites. I’d always regretted losing my CSK company car, a sad consequence of moving to a different job. And just like Gem, I was also seduced by the obvious attractions of CSK number one, which still had only 22,324 miles on the clock. Consequently, a deal was done.
At that time, the DVLA vehicle enquiry service was still providing ownership records, and I immediately sent off my £5 and Form V888. A week later, back came copies of the DVLA’s records of previous owners, change of ownership details and dates and, most importantly, a record of the registration number prior to H1 FAA being fitted in 1992. This was the first confirmation that CSK001 had been registered with the factory plate H35 FAC and I immediately applied to have it reinstated, which proved to be a simple and straightforward task.
Sadly, the V888 service was massively curtailed when the GDPR data privacy legislation was introduced a few years ago, and today it is all but impossible to get any information on the history and previous ownership of your vehicle from the DVLA. A great loss to owners and motoring researchers everywhere.
Range Rover prototype YVB 151H, chassis number one, and CSK001 at a Dunsfold Collection photoshoot by Nick Dimbleby for LRM in 2016
Land Rover was keen to continue its association with the newly re-numbered H35 FAC, and in fact there were some at the company who felt it should have been bought by JLR when it had the chance. In 2013 the company borrowed it again, and it was taken by covered truck to the famous Schlumpf Collection at Mulhouse, France, for a 2014 Model Year media drive event.
I also thoroughly enjoyed driving it and added over 1000 miles to the odometer in the first year. The problem with any original, low-mileage Land Rover is the minute you start driving it you risk undermining both those defining characteristics, so once I reached the limit I’d set myself the usage dropped dramatically. A shame, because it drove superbly and the manual gearbox made it much more fun than my first CSK, which was an auto.
David Edwards is the latest Range Rover enthusiast to be seduced by the undoubted charms of CSK001
Not using a Land Rover eventually leads to a loss of interest, or at least that’s what happens in my case, and during lockdown I started wondering whether to sell it. A friend introduced me to David Edwards, a keen Range Rover Classic enthusiast who wanted to add it to his wonderfully eclectic car collection. He too was smitten by number one. “I fell in love with it at first sight,” he remembers. “A wonderful history and a succession of careful custodians who all appreciated it for exactly what it is. I was delighted to become its fifth owner.”
And as for me, I still miss CSK number one to this day, but at least the problem of how many miles to put under its wheels to keep it in good shape, while at the same time preserving its low-mileage uniqueness, is now David’s challenge, and not mine!
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