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Land Rover

Land Rover Published: 12th Nov 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Any SI/SII
  • Worst model: Anything ropy
  • Budget buy: Santana to Defender
  • OK for unleaded?: Only late ones
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): (110) 4440 x 1790mm (LxW)
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Generally good
  • Club support: Superb
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes apart from newest models
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Unbeatable off-road, can be hard-going on-road
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For many, still the best 4x4 by far despite the design’s obvious age-related shortcomings on the road. Brilliant specialist and club support with a great ever growing social scene but take great care when buying one as many aren’t

The legendary Land Rover was born out of a Rover big wig wanting to do some gardening! Maurice Wilks had a 250 acre farm on the island of Anglesey and there was only one vehicle capable of getting him around the varied terrain – a wartime Willys Jeep. Nearing the end of its working life, Maurice considered getting another to replace it when he realised that there was a gap in the market, which could easily be fi lled by Rover.

Folklore has it that it all started with a simple sketch drawn in the beach sand by Maurice at his Anglesey home. Certainly the design was as simple as an infant’s push bike – it would use Rover P3, mechanicals and there was no need for expensive body dies either as the entire body would be made from aluminium.

Unlike today’s swanky soft-roaders and posey Chelsea Tractors that are too good to put to real work, the Land Rover was and always remained purely a working vehicle to complement a tractor. Seventy years on Land Rover has yet to replace this icon so has started building bespoke classic originals – such is the vehicle’s everlasting appeal. And the beauty of the Land Rover is that it’s classic which can you can buy also as a modern so there’s something for everybody’s taste and club and specialist support is second to none. The question is, are you up to owning one?


1948 First pre-production cars are made; 48 in all, each powered by a 1.6-litre Rover P3 engine. Then, the initial production cars start to roll off the lines after the Land Rover makes its début at the Amsterdam motor show on 30th April. All these early coveted cars feature an 80-inch wheelbase.

1951 The 1600 engine is swapped for a 2.0-litre unit, for easier towing; these cars still have an 80-inch wheelbase.

1953 Still the Series I, but the standard wheelbase is now upped to 86 inches, which also increases luggage capacity by 25 per cent – although the quoted payload remains the same. A longwheelbase (107-inch) edition is also introduced.

1957 The first diesel-engined model goes on sale; a 2052cc four-cylinder unit. Because the diesel unit is two inches longer, the car’s wheelbase also grows by two inches, to 88 or 109 inches across all the models.

1958 Series II is introduced, still with a choice of 1997cc petrol or 2052cc diesel engines, then a 2286cc petrol powerplant becomes available in 88 or 109-inch wheelbases, while body styles consist of a pick-up (with or without truck cab and/or canvas tilt), a hard top (with no side windows) or a Station Wagon (with side windows).

1961 Series IIA line up boasts a significantly upgraded diesel engine, displacing 2286cc and 62bhp, ten more than before; the 2286cc petrol powerplant remains unaltered however.

1966 The 500,000th Land Rover is built.

1967 The Series IIA is now available with a lustier 2625cc six-cylinder petrol engine.

1969 The revised Series IIA now has its headlights located in the front wings, but otherwise things carry on much as before.

1971 The Series III makes its début, fronted with a plastic grille instead of the previous wire mesh item. But there’s also an all-new dash while an allsynchromesh gearbox makes the car much nicer to use. This edition would go on to receive the classic Rover V8 engine, in 1979.

1976 The millionth Land Rover is built.

1979 A 3.5-litre petrol (low compression tune) V8 taken from the Range Rover supersedes the old trusty six-cylinder 2.6-litre engine.

1982 The range is now bolstered by the County and high-capacity pick-up.

1983 The Series III is replaced by the 110 (and from 1984 also the 90), with a fi ve-speed gearbox, servo-assisted front disc brakes and coil spring suspension. The 2286cc diesel engine is replaced by a normally aspirated 2495cc unit, 65bhp.

1985 The V8 gains an LT85 five-speed gearbox and the 2286cc petrol engine is superseded by a new 2495cc unit yielding useful 80bhp (up from 74bhp) and 129lbft of torque @ 2000rpm.

1986 The diesel unit gains a turbocharger at long last, which boosts power by a useful 30 per cent.

1990 The Defender arrives, a new name but the vehicle is little different from the 90 and 110 that it replaces although power steering is now standard and the diesel option becomes the better 200 TDi 2.5-litre unit.

1992 The V8-powered 110 is available only to special order from now on; the 90 V8 had been killed off in 1987.

1993 A more muscular belt-driven 300 TDi 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is now fitted, which is cleaner, more refined and that bit smoother. The 300 TDi engine is mated to a slicker five-speed gearbox dubbed R380. Disc brakes are also now fi tted at the rear.

1998 Excellent all-new TD5 engine replaces the 300 TDi unit, and modern wizardry such as electronic traction control plus anti-lock brakes are now fitted as standard.

2006 All change with a Ford-derived, 2.4 TDCi engine plus six-speed gearbox (both Ford Transit derived) and a heavily revised interior.

2012 A brand new 2.2-litre diesel engine offers the same power and torque as before, but with far greater refinement.

2016 The last Defender is built that January, but not before Land Rover has offered three run-out limited editions to mark the occassion.

Driving and press comments

Even the most ardent fans have to admit that the Land Rover is an anachronism, albeit a eternal endearing one. Noisy, rough and ready and hard going on road but still the master off -roader, yet the Landie has become something of a fashion and style statement of late.

It’s a no nonsense machine with scant creature comforts or interior space if truth be told. The ride is jolty, the cabin is as noisy as war zone plus early engines are extremely sluggish, working hard to maintain a steady 50-60mph cruise. V8s are better naturally, but equally naturally the juicier. As a main car they are really a non-starter, but as second or even third car for occasional use, a Landie provides a wonderful contrast to a modern ‘drives itself’ Eurobox, because it demands genuine effort to get the best from one. If you can put it through its paces off-road, you’ll come away amazed that any vehicle can handle such extremes and of course it will laugh at any future Beast from the East!

The earlier cars (Series I and II) are really for collectors and hard core ones at that. The Series III is far more usable but if you want to go green laning or use the car regularly we’d suggest you start with a 90 or 110 or perhaps a Defender. With a coil spring suspension they’re better on-road. The later the car the more usable and civilised it is, especially in diesel form; the 200 TDi and 300 TDi are far better than anything that came before, while the TD5 taken from the Discovery is even better still.

Cars built within the last decade are even more usable, especially those with the 2.2-litre Transit diesel engine. But they’re also invariably costly to buy and some would argue that they’re not a classic. We’d disagree as they feel refreshingly classic to drive as it retains the vehicle’s innate character. By 2002 the Defender was almost becoming soft because there was even the option of heated front seats!

When Autocar ran a long-term test on a Defender 90 TD5 for a year and 17,000 miles, it was an instructive experience. The verdict came: “To drivers who never investigated its awesome towing and off -road potential it was never better than a characterless truck; to those who towed boats and caravans or needed to traverse boggy terrain, it was always a dependable and versatile friend – and quite capable on the road… Don’t even consider one unless you honestly need, and truly understand, the serious 4x4… If you even suspect that the Defender is not your kind of vehicle, it almost certainly is not”.

Values and marketplace

Richard Eacock runs MM 4x4 (, one of the UK’s biggest independent Land Rover specialists. He recently advised us: “There’s a buyer for any Land Rover, but people will often be drawn towards a particular engine, wheelbase and generation. There are the die-hard fans who want a classic Land Rover for showing or using only occasionally; they’ll typically buy a Series I, II or III.

“Anyone who wants to use their car every day is more likely to buy a newer model with a more efficient engine. Then there are those who want to go ‘green laning’ and will typically buy a 90 or 110, or maybe a Defender TDi or TD5.

Eacock continued: “Pricing older Land Rovers is pretty much impossible as they’re such individual vehicles. The condition and specifi cation can vary enormously but it’s the latter that tends to make the biggest difference to a car’s worth. Short-wheelbase cars are less practical but many buyers gravitate towards them all the same; the 110 is much more usable but less sought after by hard-core off-roaders”. The Worcester company is currently offering a fully restored N-reg Series III for £26,995.00, and a 1996 Defender 90 300 TDi Soft top for some 17 grand less, for example – cheap if you consider that the works Jaguar Land Rover Classic jaguarlandrover. com is asking a cool 50 quid shy of 40 grand for a 600 mile from new 2012XS hardtop! For this reason our prices are sketchy. Buy an early Series I and you can pay £40,000 for a minter, but a project Series II can be picked up for less than £1000 – but you’ll then spend several thousands making it really good and this is what many do for fun.

Typically £5000 upwards get you in a roadworthy version while at the other end of the market, you can buy last-of-the-line examples for around £30,000 (64 reg 1800 miles 90XS); there’s several good mainstream magazines on the shelves and you should use these as your personal guide to real word values.

Richard further comments that this year (its 70th) hasn’t seen significant rise in interest for the vehicle, mainly because it’s always healthy although he wondesr what will happen when a new Defender surfaces. Interestingly, he advises for anyone after a second or third family car, perhaps chiefly for winter work, it may be better to look at a good Discovery II which are currently fine value and share a fair bit of DNA from the original design.


Not so much tuning for GTi chasing, the most popular mods centre on off-road preparation; suspension lifting kits, long-travel dampers etc. Also popular are under-body protection, winches, wheel spacers with extended wheel arches and body protection. Twin battery systems, more supportive front seats and dashboard upgrades are liked as well.

A trend in recent years has tilted towards styling upgrades comprising interior retrims, grille conversions, bigger wheels and tyres plus suspension lowering kits for road driving. The most modern Landies can stand engine tuning by way of chipping and remapping their electronic brains.

Variations of a theme

As you know, Landies come in all shapes and sizes; hard and open top, shooting brake, van and pick-up, short and long wheelbases… the list goes on. And if a standard factory model doesn’t do it for you, then there’s a host of specials to consider.

These vehicles were integral to our armed forces and civilian services and you’ll find a lot of ex-military and municipal Land Rovers in various forms for sale.

Once upon a time the Government used to sell old stock off via dedicated auctions. That’s all changed now, although you still see them at specialist dealers such as Essex-based Witham Specialist Vehicles ( You’ll need to register for the road with the DVLA though for civvy street.

Whatever you wanted a Land Rover to be it could be adapted to suit; fire tenders, ambulances, tractors, agricultural machines and even amphibian vehicles.

Don’t forget there were also the highly coveted lightweight Land Rovers used for military purposes and ‘forward control’ (that’s cab-over-wheels) bodies which were used as lorries.

The main issues

Abused and rotten Land Rovers are common. The key area to check is the substantial chassis. The box sections corrode from the inside out, so a visual inspection isn’t enough. The spring mountings and rear cross-members will probably have seen better days. Chassis outriggers also rot badly but the biggest problem at the back of the chassis is corrosion behind the spring hangers. Because of poor accessibility repairs are costly. It’s especially important to keep this area strong and rust-free if the car is to be used for towing; it’s quite possible for a tow hitch to break away altogether.

The key area to check is the bulkhead, as this can be the trickiest to repair due to the limited access in places. It can be patched up, although if the top section has corroded badly, you’re better off letting in fresh panels.

Finally, scrutinise the bodywork alignment too, as the chassis might be twisted because of poor repairs or a hefty shunt. Really, unless you know what to look for then it’s best to get an expert inspection before signing on the dotted or buy form a good specialist – there’s loads about.

‘Attenshun’ seekers

For anyone interested in the coil-sprung Land Rovers that have served (and still serve) with the British armed forces so well, this book is a must.

It covers first generation Range Rover and Discovery models, as well as the One Ten, Ninety and One Two Seven, their Defender successors and, of course the Wolf XD derivatives. Coverage deliberately ends at 2007 to respect current military sensibilities. It costs £37.50.


What To Look For

Some not so tough points


  • Until 1983, all Land Rovers got a four-speed manual; it was an all-synchro unit on the Series III and later, but the Series I and II didn’t get synchro on first or second. It’s possible to fi t the later type of gear box to an earlier car; whatever is fitted, expect it to be agricultural and noisy as a result though.

  • The five-speed gearbox fitted from 1983 is nice and strong. There are differentials front and rear; the latter is the one most likely to give problems, chiefly leaks.

  • The squarer Salisbury style rear axle that came in with the later Series II 109 is much more durable than the earlier Rover alternative. The two are interchangeable. 4x4 ‘shunt’ is inherent but shouldn’t be outrageous.

  • The front hubs leak oil onto the brakes, so look for signs of lubricant everywhere. Also check the state of the swivels, which should be shiny rather than pitted; replacing these is an involved (but DIY) job.

  • The steering box can wear, although there’s a certain amount of adjustment available to tighten things up. There’s an idler (or steering relay) which also wears, along with six ball joints. While the latter are cheap and easy to fix, the box and relay are more costly.

  • Drum brakes were fitted until the end of 90 and 110 production. Some also have a separate drum for the handbrake, located behind the gearbox. Oil can get into the handbrake drum hindering its effciency


Weak hearts?

A lot of Series Is have now got more recent engines fitted, as the early units were fragile; those early powerplants are now scarce. The six-cylinder engines are durable and easy to maintain, bar the valve gear and oil leaks are par for the course. Core plugs can weep too and so can the water pump.

The 200 TDis are the most reliable; 300 TDi is easier to service, but there’s a gasket at the front of the engine (known as the ‘p-gasket’) that fails leading to coolant leaks, overheating, then if you’re unlucky head gasket failure. Many early versions may have a later Discovery unit installed because of this. TD5s while suffering from weak fuel pumps, fuel pressure regulators, fuel injector O-rings are generally fine if serviced correctly.

The V8 is well known. Excessive tappet noise leading to cam wear is due to infrequent oil changes causing sludging. Head gasket woes are not unknown either. Bear in mind that it’s detuned to 91bhp – but it’s easy to fit a more powerful version from a Range Rover or Disco.

Three Of A Kind

Jeep CJ/Wrangler
Jeep CJ/Wrangler
The CJ stands for Civilian Jeep but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still a tough goanywhere 4x4 that’s short on refinement and dynamics. Things started with the CJ2 in 1945 and went all the way up to the CJ7 which was replaced by the Wrangler in 1987. Later models are more plentiful and available in right-hand drive as well.
Land Rover ‘Santana’
Land Rover ‘Santana’
Built under licence in Spain, the Santana was initially a copy of the Series II Land Rover. Production started 60 years ago but by 1968, maker Santana was fitting its own engines and creating its own variations on the theme. The deal ended in 1983 but it wouldn’t be until 1994 that Santana stopped building Land Rover lookalikes. Becoming quite collectible.
Land Rover discovery
Land Rover discovery
A viable alternative to a Landie and a good all round compromise as it’s as rugged, more refined and probably more practical as family hack yet isn’t half as costly as a classic Range Rover even though they are starting to rise in values. The Disco II TD5 is a good all rounder but all rust badly plus can be prickly so buy on condition rather than prices or spec.


The Land Rover’s never ending popularity with owners and specialists is greater than ever and it’s testament to the design that no sooner had the company halted production that it started up its own Land Rover Classic division specifically to rebuild old ones at the factory! None of the generations are particularly easy vehicles to live with on a daily basis – but be warned, once you’ve had one they become part of the family. There has never been – and never will be – another car like the Land Rover.

Classic Motoring

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