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Land Rover Series 1, 2 and 3: Buying guide and review (1948-1985)

Land Rover Series 1, 2 and 3: Buying guide and review (1948-1985) Classic and Performance Car
Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1
The name Land Rover has become synonymous with ruggedness and off-road ability, and it all started with the original Series I, II and III models. Rover set out to build a light agricultural vehicle, due to the fact that post-war rationing prioritised resources for companies building exportable machinery. 

Rover’s pre-war luxury cars were not in high demand, so they designed the Series I, inspired by the American Willys Jeep. It had an aluminium body due to the shortage of steel, and focussed on agricultural needs, with options such as the Power Take Off accessory allowing the attachment of farm machinery.

Initially intended for a short production run to get the Rover Company back on its feet, it ended up becoming a worldwide phenomenon, proving itself in the harshest and most inhospitable corners of the globe.

While the 90 and 110 that followed it look very similar, due to the ever-pressing constraints of modern motoring they do not have the same single mindedness to their design that sets the earlier Series cars apart. 
 
Which one to buy?
 
An early Series Land Rover is always going to be a hard-riding, tough-as-nails vehicle, whether you choose the first one that rolled off the production line or one of the last Series IIIs. The car’s agricultural roots are the overriding feature of any trip, so if you’re looking for a comfortable motorway cruiser, then this is not the vehicle for you. As a means of crossing a muddy bog or traversing a three-foot deep river in Africa however, there are few classic vehicles that can compare.

A large variety of body styles and engine choices were made available over the years, from short-wheelbase soft tops to long wheelbase 12-seaters. Series I models started off with a limited number of engine and body style options. The Series II versions were considered to be the most rugged while build quality on some of the Series III cars suffered during the labour strife in the ‘70s. 

It‘s common for cars to have parts installed from different years of production; some are intended to make regular usage more pleasurable such as an overdrive for less deafening highway driving, however modifications to the drivetrain should be checked thoroughly.

A number of military-spec Land Rovers were also built, modified to meet specific needs such as ambulances and infantry support vehicles. Forward Control variants were available in Series IIA and IIB versions. These models had the cabin over the front wheels to allow for an increased loading area. These are quite rare and many have been modified to improve their on-road performance.

Some of the more notable changes over the years were the introduction of the Rover V8 to the range in 1979, and an updated five-bearing crank for both petrol and diesel 2.25-litre engines in 1980. All models have leaf sprung suspension and except for the V8, selectable four-wheel drive. The ability to start them with a crank and an optional ‘power take off’ for accessories marks these vehicles out as serious machines, this can also mean that some have lead quite a hard life so be sure to check them over thoroughly to avoid any nasty surprises.
 
Performance and specs
 
1973 Series III 2.25 Petrol SWB 
Engine 2286cc 8valve OHV I4 
Power 70.5bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque 119lb ft @ 1500rpm
Top speed 68mph 
0-60mph 29.1 seconds 
Fuel consumption 15mpg 
Gearbox Four-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2235mm
Length 3620mm
Width 1676mm
Height 2007 mm
Weight 1380kg
 
Common problems
 
Parts are available for most of the Series models and working on these cars is a lot easier than tackling tasks on more modern machinery. Some engine and chassis restoration work is best left to the experts, so joining a Land Rover club is advisable.
 
• Bodywork is aluminium-based however corrosion can still occur at any points where the body panels come into contact with the steel chassis or other structural components

• Rust can occur around the bulkhead, footwells, rear cross members and front chassis legs.

• Engines in earlier cars can be problematic and Series II and III engines are an easy swap into earlier cars, so check the engine numbers for originality. Series II engines are easier to source and are more durable than earlier versions, but a Series 1 will be less valuable if unoriginal.

• 2.0-litre petrol engines prior to 1955 can suffer from blown head gaskets and the 2-litre diesel engines are known to crack cylinder heads. Oil usage between services and leaks are normal unless excessive. A low knocking sound may indicate a worn crankshaft and ill require an engine rebuild.

• Gearboxes work well when paired with earlier 1.6 and 2.0l engines however more powerful engines can put strain on them. Any post-1954 Series I cars can be upgraded to one of the newer gearboxes. Series II units seem to be the most hard wearing.
 
Model history
 
1948: Land Rover Series I launched with a 1.6-litre petrol engine producing 50bhp, on 80-inch chassis
1949: Station Wagon body style introduced with body by Tickford
1952: 2.0-litre petrol engine introduced. Four-wheel drive system changed to a more conventional setup
1954: Wheelbase on 80 inch model increased to 86 inches. Pick-up version introduced with 107 inch wheelbase, and upgraded 'spread bore' 2.0l petrol engine introduced with improved cooling
1955: 2.0-litre engine received another modification
1956: New Station Wagon models introduced on 107-inch wheelbase. Wheelbases extended on all models by two inches mid-year
1957: New modern 2.0-litre diesel engine introduced with 52bhp
1958: Land Rover Series II launched available in 88-inch and 109-inch wheelbases. 72bhp 2.25-litre petrol engine gradually replaces original 2.0-litre option. 12-seater Station Wagon variant introduced to take advantage of UK tax laws
1961: Land Rover Series IIA is introduced with most significant change being a 2.6-litre petrol engine option, initially only for export models. 2.25-litre Diesel engine producing 62bhp becomes available. Multiple body styles available in both SWB and LWB forms
1962: Forward Control version introduced with cab over front wheels and strengthened axles
1966: Series IIB Forward Control introduced with 2.25-litre diesel engine now an option
1967: 2.6-litre petrol engine introduced for LWB models
1968: 1 Ton 109 inch wheelbase model is introduced 
1969: Styling changes with headlamps moved inboard of wings on all variants
1971: Land Rover Series III launched with improvements to interior trim but minor exterior changes. 2.25-litre petrol engine gets an increased compression ratio. Synchromesh now available on all forward gears
1974: Land Rover's last year of sales in US market. Forward Control option ends production
1979: 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine fitted to the LWB Land Rover creating the ‘Stage 1’ 
1980: 2.25-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines receive five main bearing crankshafts and transmission and axle is strengthened
1982: County specification introduced with added luxury features. High Capacity Pick-Up introduced with 25 per cent larger load bay and uprated suspension
1985: Final Series III rolls off the production line marking the end of an impressive 37-year run
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.lrsoc.com - Series 1 owners club
• www.series2club.co.uk - Series 2 owners club
• www.thelandroverclub.co.uk - Series 3 owners club
• www.paddockspares.com - Series 2 and 3 spares and parts source
 
Summary and prices
 
Prices start at around £3000 for useable a useable example, do not be tempted by prices much lower than this because a Land Rover that is in bad condition can lead to a frustrating and expensive ownership experience. Fully restored cars, especially ones with upgraded running gear can go for up to £ 20000-00 and totally original early Series cars can top £ 30000-00, but many very useable examples can be found for much less than this .The early cars are both MOT and Tax exempt which can help towards keeping running costs manageable. 
 
These early Series Land Rovers are a rolling piece of motoring history, they refreshingly do not try to be all things to all people and can still provide a great ownership experience for those who are looking for a very capable go anywhere vehicle.
 
Words: John Tallodi // Pictures: Dennis Images
Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1 Land Rover Series 1
Last updated: 30th Nov 2015
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Land Rover Series cars for sale

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Land Rover Series
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  • Land Rover - 109" series 3 station wagon - 1980

    €4,500 - €5,850 est. (£4,012.20 - £5,215.86 est.) €4,500 - €5,850 est. (£4,012.20 - £5,215.86 est.)
    Online Auction
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
    Catawiki Auctions
  • Land Rover Series 111

    £6,999 £6,999

    Tow Pack, Cloth Upholstery, Colour Coded Body, 4x4, Part service history 1973 LAND ROVER LIGHT WEIGHT, FULL RENOVATION, 12 MTHS MOTThis vehicle is currently in our workshops and the engine is being removed to cure large oil leaks plus all new brakes and many other parts being fitted, will be complete early 2015.

    • Mileage: 60811 mi
    • Engine size: 2286
    For sale
  • 1969 Land Rover IIA Hardtop 2.25

    POA POA

    (SOLD) This vehicle was one of the last production runs in late 1968, and was therefore titled as a 1969 due to its delivery date, but bears all the specifications of a 1968 Land Rover. It has had minimal owners since new and previously received a frame off restoration with all systems gone through and documented with photos. It has been maintained in its original condition. The body is all aluminum, fitted with galvanized steel bracing for protection, a heavy box frame for strength, high gear range and rear wheel drive for open road cruising, low gear range for climbing and descending with 4 wheel drive for still more traction. It has been recently serviced by Land Rover professionals as documented by receipts. It is accompanied by an original tool kit, owners’ manuals, instruction booklet, photo album of restoration, and original brochures. This is a true classic all-terrain vehicle that is very sought after for its rarity, and collectability.

    • Year: 1969
    • Mileage: 5833 mi
    For sale
  • 1973 Land Rover Series 3 – Tax Exempt – Galvanised Chassis

    £14,995 £14,995

    PWU 840M – 1973 Land Rover Series 3 – Tax Exempt – Galvanised Chassis Finished in Marine Blue, with Sand Canvas Soft Top – Benefits from Galvanized chassis and resprayed to a very high standard. 3 x deluxe front seats, rear bench seats with belts, front seat belt safety bar. 205 x 16 Michelin Radial tyres Tow Bar & Electrics, bonnet mounted spare, door mirrors and mudflaps. A real pleasure to drive.

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
  • 1981 Land Rover Series 3 Diesel – 36,200 miles from new !

    £22,500 £22,500

    HYT 746W – 1981 Land Rover Series 3 Diesel – 36,200 miles from new ! It is extremely rare to find a good Diesel Series Land Rover – Most were used commercially (often on farms) when new, and few survive in good condition. Many others have had engine conversions with more modern diesel engines – which vary in quality and can be difficult to insure or find correct spares for. Also – the value in these old Land Rovers is in originality – having the “wrong” engine in would have a detrimental effect on future values. This particular example is a great survivor – having just emerged from 22 years in storage and has undergone a sympathetic re-commissioning, which included: Full respray inside and out in original colour (Marine Blue) Rust free chassis (paint finish – not daubed in thick layers of under seal) Rust free bulkhead New door tops and bottoms New deluxe vinyl front seats Brakes completely overhauled Pirelli 205 x 16 tyres (not cheap remolds !) Currently configured as a hard top, but as always with the versatility of the Land Rover design, could be converted to 7 seater with side windows, soft top or even pick up if required – please ask for details. If you are looking for an exce

    • Year: 1981
    For sale
  • 1979 Land Rover Series 3 – Fully Rebuilt – Galvanized Chassis

    £29,995 £29,995

    This Land Rover has been in the same family since it was 6 months old. Originally purchased by Mr Yates Senior on 10.10.1979 it passed to Mr Yates junior in 1994. That equates to one family ownership for 37 years ! In addition to great provenance, this Land Rover has also undergone a full rebuild which has included: Galvanized chassis – fully waxoil protected rebuilt 2286cc 5 bearing petrol engine rebuilt gearbox Turner engineering performance and unleaded cyl head military (aluminium) door tops Fairey Overdrive Fairey Free Wheel Hubs New canvas hood County spec front seats (caviar cloth) 7.50 x 16 tyres – with correct speedo Deluxe bonnet – with dish and bonnet mounted spare Parabolic springs sound proofing mat Genuine rear mudflaps rear bench seats Reconditioned axles overhauled steering components All new brakes New door bottoms Electrics overhauled – including new loom The restoration is topped off with a quality respray inside and out in traditional Land Rover Pastel green. This Land Rover has been built to last another lifetime and is looking for a new family One of the very best you will ever see.

    • Year: 1979
    For sale
  • 1972 Series III – 109 ” Searle 4 Berth Carawagon.

    £19,995 £19,995

    LPD 606K – 1972 Series III – 109 ” Searle 4 Berth Carawagon. 2286cc 4cyl Petrol 3 Owners From New 165,000 Miles Very original condition Free Road Tax – Tax Exempt Classic Car Insurance One of the Rarer Land Rover Conversions – This is a genuine “Civilian” 4 berth Carawagon (Manufactured by Searle / Carawagon International Ltd). As well as being in stunning unspoilt condition, this Land Rover is backed up by the largest history file I have ever seen. When I say “Too much to describe” – I really mean it. There are log books by the original owner (1972 to 2009 / 1000 to 156,00 miles) stating in detail every bit of maintenance carried out – there is a fuel log for the same period, noting every drop of fuel, and calculations for the fuel economy calculated tank by tank, and also year by year (average 18.71mpg over the period). Also included with the Land Rover are: The original build cards from land Rover – rare to find in their own right. Original letters (5) from “Carawagon” during the period of the order for the Land Rover. The original (Itemised) conformation of the order and of course the original Invoice from Carawagon – again itemised, showing all the additional items ordered at

    • Year: 1972
    For sale
  • 1974 LAND ROVER SERIES 111 2.25 Diesel Soft Top - Galvanised Chassis

    POA POA

    Features This vehicle has been sold. Galvanised Chassis , Overdrive, Same Driver from New , 2.25 Diesel, Soft Top - Same Driver from New (The V5 does show 2 owners but this is because the man brought it out of his company) The vehicle had a brand new 2.25 Diesel fitted which has only covered 9000 Miles, A few years back the vehicle had a complete Overhaul and lots of Items were removed and then Galvanised Including the chassis. It has a Stainless Steel Fuel Tank as well. It is fitted with an Overdrive which is quiet and also free wheeling hubs. This really is a great looking vehicle that really has been cared for throughout its life. Vehicle supplied with:- 12 Months Warranty - 12 Months Mot & a Full Service Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the above information but errors may occur. Please check with a salesperson.

    • Year: 1974
    • Mileage: 93000 mi
    For sale
  • Land Rover Series I 86 2.0L Petrol

    £12,000 £12,000

    1954 Land Rover Series 1 86, 2.0L Petrol In Green with Bekini Top, New seats, Original Reg No. from new, Says on buff log book, Loads of old receipts and MoTs, Very solid original VIN tags, Radiator tag, Smiths heater, Does run wants a good service, Would P/X with Defender balance either way £12000 Please fill out the form below and we will contact you shortly. Please let us know the vehicle you are enquiring about. Between 3 and 12 characters. Between 3 and 60 characters. Must be a valid email address. Between 5 and 100 characters. Between 3 and 100 characters. Min 5, max 5000 characters. Please complete the captcha. Copyright © 2017 Silkstone 4x4. All Rights Reserved.

    • Year: 1954
    • Mileage: 66000 mi
    For sale
  • Land Rover Series 111

    £9,995 £9,995

    Tow Pack Two owners, last owner for 29 years. Fitted from new with a very rare Tropical roof. Just refurbished with new brakes and springs after 10 years in storage. New canvas tilt. * Viewing available 9am-5pm Mon-Sat only *

    • Mileage: 106000 mi
    • Engine size: 2286
    For sale
  • Land Rover Series 111

    £6,999 £6,999

    Tow Pack, Cloth Upholstery, Colour Coded Body, 4x4, Part service history 1973 LAND ROVER LIGHT WEIGHT, FULL RENOVATION, 12 MTHS MOTThis vehicle is currently in our workshops and the engine is being removed to cure large oil leaks plus all new brakes and many other parts being fitted, will be complete early 2015.

    • Mileage: 60811 mi
    • Engine size: 2286
    For sale
  • Land Rover Series III 2.25 Factory County Station Wagon

    £17,500 £17,500

    1982 Land Rover Series 3 Factory County Station Wagon, Petrol, super runner, in arrow red, with cloth trim, 6 seats, cubby box, new footwells, pair of wings, 2 complete doors including glass, seals and handles, rear door, sills, all new lights, blasted and refurbished and painted axles, new brake pipes and flexis, safari roof in perfect condition, free wheeling hubs, overdrive new set of wolf wheels and tyres, mud flaps x 4, muck shields replaced, marshland galvanised chassis, new parabolic springs x 4, new shocks brake pipe x lexis, polybrushed, waxoyled chassis, just going through a major refurb comes fully serviced & MoT, 5 owners only covered 43258 miles £17500.00 WE CAN DELIVER NATIONWIDE PLEASE ASK FOR QUOTE Please fill out the form below and we will contact you shortly. Please let us know the vehicle you are enquiring about. Between 3 and 12 characters. Between 3 and 60 characters. Must be a valid email address. Between 5 and 100 characters. Between 3 and 100 characters. Min 5, max 5000 characters. Please complete the captcha. Copyright © 2017 Silkstone 4x4. All Rights Reserved.

    • Year: 1982
    • Mileage: 43258 mi
    For sale
  • Land Rover Series III 88 2.25 Petrol factory station wagon

    £20,000 £20,000

    1974 Land Rover Series III Petrol factory station wagon with Safari roof in Sand Stone, with black trim, 7 seats, FWH, overdrive fitted, taxation class historic vehicle, No road tax to pay, must be one of the best series III's available, chassis never been repaired had waxoyled on the chassis from new, we fit new springs, shocks, poly bush, major service and MoT, new mud flaps x4, 1st owner 36 years 2nd over 5 years which he had only taken it to the Land Rover Shows, covered 3000 miles in the past 5 years, 1 former keeper only covered 63600 miles you won't find a better genuine series 3 ready £20000.00 WE CAN DELIVER NATIONWIDE PLEASE ASK FOR QUOTE Please fill out the form below and we will contact you shortly. Please let us know the vehicle you are enquiring about. Between 3 and 12 characters. Between 3 and 60 characters. Must be a valid email address. Between 5 and 100 characters. Between 3 and 100 characters. Min 5, max 5000 characters. Please complete the captcha. Copyright © 2017 Silkstone 4x4. All Rights Reserved.

    • Year: 1974
    • Mileage: 63600 mi
    For sale
  • Land Rover Series 111

    £4,999 £4,999

    Tow Pack, Cloth Upholstery, Colour Coded Body, 4x4, Part service history 1973 LAND ROVER LIGHT WEIGHT, FULL RENOVATION, 12 MTHS MOTThis vehicle is currently in our workshops and the engine is being removed to cure large oil leaks plus all new brakes and many other parts being fitted, will be complete early 2015.

    • Mileage: 60811 mi
    • Engine size: 2286
    For sale
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