The Rover Group did some market research in the late 1980s and found out that there was a market for a compact SUV. The success of the small Japanese off-roaders such as the Suzuki Vitara was more of a reason to develop a new vehicle.
Project CB40 started in the early 1990s with two cars being developed, Rover Oden and Land Rover Pathfinder. The finished Freelander design was finished in 1994, but the Rover Oden was never completed because Rover pulled out of the project.
The Freelander test mules were disguised as Austin Maestro vans. All 25 test mules were painted black or cream paint, disguised wheels, fuel fillers and older registration plates to make then as inconspicuous as possible, the van had been heightened which would have made them stand out. I think Land Rover should have used a Discovery as a disguise as that would have made them even more inconspicuous.
The Test mules were powered by the Maestro van’s 2.0 litre Perkins Prima turbo diesel as that was the engine that was originally going to be used in the Freelander’s production. The engine produced 81 BHP @ 4500 rpm and 116 lb•ft of torque @ 2500 rpm. The 1.8 Litre Rover K-Series (The production engine) was put in the Freelander in 1994. The Rover K-Series engine produced 117 BHP @ 5500 rpm and 118 lb•ft of torque @ 2750 rpm.
By 1993 the Land Rover Pathfinder's name had been changed to Freelander and as you can see by the picture above, the styling had pretty much completed. the main difference between the Pre-production and the production models was the Bull bar that was added for testing in Australia. As I've already stated, this car would have had the Maestro's 2.0 litre turbo diesel. It also had the Rover PG1 gearbox which is the same gearbox that was used in the Lotus Elise. There were 150 pre-production vehicles, and only a few of them are left. The rest were crushed.