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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
990 39850 GBP
  • Land Rover Series 2a 1972 swb 88" Station Wagon low mileage LHD

    £14,995 £14,995

    We have for sale a Land Rover Santana series 2a 1972 swb 88" Station Wagon 7 Seater, 2.25 Diesel, Left Hand Drive. Vehicle is in Immaculate Condition and Must Be Seen, Totally Original. Low Mileage Only 75000 kilometres. Just Imported, No Rust at All, Original Chassis In Outstanding Condition, and Bodywork in Excellent Order, With No Dents at All, Original Interior In Excellent Condition, Safari Vented Roof with Original Roof Lining and Sun Visors. Drives Excellent, A Rare Opportunity to Own a Immaculate Original Series 2a. Sale includes British registration a Full Service and MOT and John Craddock Ltd's Warranty. Any trial welcome during business hours only.

    • Year: 2018
    • Mileage: 75000 mi
    For sale
    £14,995 £14,995
    John Craddock Ltd
    01543 577207 View contact number
  • LAND ROVER SERIES 3 SWB 88 2.25 Petrol Hard Top.

    £12,500 £12,500

    **** NO VAT **** Only 2 Owners From New with Full Service History, 24 Stamps in the Original Service Book, Very Light Use Only and in Immaculate Original Condition. Totally Standard Throughout, Genuine Low Mileage, Drives Superbly. One Of The Nicest Series 3's in the Country. Lots Of History Present, Including the Original Build Card,. Must Be Seen, Supplied with New Tyres and 12 Months MOT. www.hallambros.co.uk (Family Firm, Est 1932)

    • Year: 1984
    • Mileage: 77000 mi
    For sale
    £12,500 £12,500
  • Land Rover Series one 1955 petrol


    PUC502 Is a 1955 owned since 1965 by the last Gentleman and was a every day driver until about 10 years ago. The vehicle had a mid life rebuild on a new Marsland Chassis in 1997 at the same time the foot wells were done and the whole car waxoiled then finished off with a respray. The hood is new as are the seat bottoms and its just had a new but later fuel tank fitted. The original Engine was replaced 1987 with a Military boxed re-con which now has a SU carburetor on for fuel saving! The gearbox was rebuilt using a MOD unit and is slick.The steering box is the later recirculating unit. The axles have been adapted to use later series 2/3 half shafts and it has the better hub bearings on the rear.There are some nice accessorises such as proper oil/temp gauge, period windscreen de misters, radio, rear seats, grab handles, free wheel hubs,extra lighting and bonnet spare wheel mount The tyres are as new. I have to say it does drive well and has no rust at all.There are odd dings and scratches as its been used not pampered. This is a very practical usable yet sound car that needs a new owner to love it. No i wont split the number plate off it!

    For sale
  • Land Rover Series Series 1 |

    £39,850 £39,850

    Specification MAKE Land Rover Series MODEL Series 1 YEAR 1951 DESCRIPTION ENGINE CAPACITY 2500 PRICE £39,850 Share this car Interested in vehicle × INTERESTED IN VEHICLE Land Rover Series Series 1 Submit Close Form Print vehicle details E-Mail to a friend × E-MAIL TO A FRIEND Land Rover Series Series 1 Bramley have a Land Rover Series Series 1 available for sale. Check it out on their web site: http://www.bramley.com/carsales/details/Land-Rover-Series/Series-1-/13063.htm Submit Close Form Stock Index Go Back

    For sale
    £39,850 £39,850
  • Land Rover Series II 2.3 109 LWB Hard Top

    £5,995 £5,995

    1963 Land Rover Series II 109 LWB Hard Top 2286cc Diesel In Grey with elephant hide Grey Trim Totally Original, never been messed with, ripe for easy restoration or leave as is with its lovely patina showing a lot of alloy through the worn paint work, only had 4 owners (including ourselves on V5 saying Land Rover Truck Historic vehicle Perfect front Panel Solid bulk head had slight repair good chassis needs slight attention, all original lights and mirrors Lovely Engine starts and drives Very VALUABLE No. Plate ( 935 TU ) £6995 REDUCED £5995.00 Must be trailed away WE CAN DELIVER NATIONWIDE PLEASE ASK FOR A 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 1 and 100 characters. Min 5, max 5000 characters. Please complete the captcha. Copyright © 2017 Silkstone 4x4. All Rights Reserved.

    • Year: 1963
    For sale
    £5,995 £5,995
  • Land Rover Series II 3.5 3500 V8 Petrol

    £4,995 £4,995

    1962 Land Rover Serie II 3500 V8 Petrol In Yellow Grey trim Wellor wheels Very solid and straight body work Chassis and bulk head extremely solid and original Starts and runs Rare and hard to find one that's not rotten Plus a valuable registration plate ADE 40A Must trailer away £6000.00 REDUCED £4995.00 WE 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 1 and 100 characters. Min 5, max 5000 characters. Please complete the captcha. Copyright © 2017 Silkstone 4x4. All Rights Reserved.

    • Year: 1962
    For sale
    £4,995 £4,995
  • 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
    £6,999 £6,999
  • 1966 Land Rover Series IIA 109 Station Wagon

    £29,995 £29,995

    This superbly presented Land Rover Series IIA Station Wagon was manufactured in 1966 and was registered new with the Royal Air Force. JAL 356K spent its early life in service, used as a work horse on a UK air base for five years. In 1971 the Land Rover was released by the Royal Air Force and the vehicle was then road registered and allocated with a 1971 registration mark. Over the next forty years the Land Rover had just three owners and having being in fairly regular use, in largely original condition, the vehicle was in need of restoration work. Several years ago the major programme of restoration began with the vehicle being totally stripped down and put in position for a full chassis up restoration. The chassis was stripped, repaired and painted, the body restored as necessary and the Land Rover was professionally re-painted. With the running gear removed from the vehicle, the engine was stripped down and fully rebuilt and all other mechanical components were overhauled as necessary. The Land Rover was treated to a brand new interior including roof lining and the rebuild finished off with a keen eye for detail with areas such as the engine bay and boot really sharply presented

    • Year: 1966
    For sale
    £29,995 £29,995
  • 1955 Land Rover Series I 107

    £29,995 £29,995

    This stunning, fully rebuilt Series I Land Rover 107 was built on the 16th December 1955 and was supplied for the RHD Home Market. VXS 198 was finished Grey from the factory and sold new by Spurling Motor Bodies Ltd, Colchester, Essex. We have a British Motor Industry Heritage Certificate confirming a 2 litre petrol engine was Factory Fitted Equipment and the Label (line) number of the vehicle was 617. The Land Rover has spent the majority of its life in a warm climate, coming back to the UK from Malta during 2016. From paperwork with the vehicle, we believe this Pick Up was exported to Malta in 1964 and has had seven owners before coming back to the UK. During 2016 the Land Rover was shipped back to the UK and has since been MOT tested and re-registered so is now back on UK plates. VXS 198 is beautifully finished and has been subject of a major restoration in Malta. The Land Rover has had very little use since and has come to us in stunning order. The paint finish and bodywork is exceptional, the underside gleaming with a beautiful chassis and underbody. The interior has been fully re-trimmed and the 'Landy' mechanically overhauled. Having not been used since restoration, £2300 ha

    • Year: 1955
    For sale
    £29,995 £29,995
  • Land Rover Series III 2.286 Diesel Hard Top

    £18,000 £18,000

    1981 Land Rover Series III 2.286 Diesel Hard Top Full Body off restoration In Marine Ble with Limestone roof sides an wheels Galvanised chassis Axles sand blasted stripped and rebuilt with new bearings and seals then repainted Healthy engine referred pump new injectors and heater plugs fully repainted in oven baked in 2 pack New Parts Outer wings O/S door top and bottom with new glass and all seals N/S door top and bottom with new glass and all seals rear door complete door hinge set with stainless bolt kit O/S and N/S rear quarter panels complete rubber seals for door etc side steps mud flaps X4 Exhaust Front Bumper Galvanised All iron work re galvanised including front panel Alternator Full engine hose kit Battery head lamps & full light kit Sills Floor footwells and muck guards Mirrors Door Handles x 3 Parabolic springs X4 All brake pikes Brake Pads and Cylinders Ball joint and truck rods four new brake drums Battery - tool box replaced Seal box sides Dash top and bottom in black leather New seats x 3 seat belts rear load mat Heavy duty foot well mats in rubber Original clock Front vent seals Scren seals Refurbished wheels New tyres under rear body rails replaced Hub end caps En

    • Year: 1981
    • Mileage: 82000 mi
    For sale
    £18,000 £18,000
  • 1969 Land Rover IIA Hardtop 2.25


    (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
  • Land Rover Series

    £990 £990

    Looking for all Series 1 Land Rovers Early Series 2 Original/Low Mileage Series 3. Ideally 1948 - 1960. We are interested in complete vehicles, part restored vehicles, museums pieces and all barn finds in any condition. Cash paid and same day collection can be arranged, hassle free sale. Best prices paid we won't be beaten. Please text or call on 078255 87155 or 07767 414000. We Buy Nationwide. http://www.williamsclassics.co.uk Try our new free valuations service http://www.williamsclassics.co.uk/valuations/ Thanks for looking.

    • Year: 1948
    • Mileage: 200 mi
    For sale
    £990 £990
  • 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 1 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
    £20,000 £20,000