Land Rover – Silodrome https://silodrome.com Gasoline Culture Thu, 20 Sep 2018 16:30:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 18077751 A Brief History of the Land Rover Series II, IIA and IIB FC https://silodrome.com/history-land-rover-series-ii-iia-and-iib-fc/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 04:00:12 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=81666 A Brief History of the Land Rover Series II, IIA and IIB FC

When the Land Rover was first created it was only expected to be a stop-gap vehicle that would be in production for three years or so until war ravaged austerity Britain was "back on her feet" and Rover could go back to making nice luxury cars for doctors and other such professional people.

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A Brief History of the Land Rover Series II, IIA and IIB FC

Written by Jon Branch

Introduction: A Star is Born

When the Land Rover was first created it was only expected to be a stop-gap vehicle that would be in production for three years or so until war ravaged austerity Britain was “back on her feet” and Rover could go back to making nice luxury cars for doctors and other such professional people.

Building such an agricultural vehicle as the Land Rover was not at all what Rover had envisaged themselves doing. Land Rover designer Maurice Wilks had spent part of the war years working in top secret on Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine and had developed a gas turbine that had potential for use in passenger and commercial vehicles.

He was without doubt keen to continue work to create a whisper quiet motorway cruising gas turbine Rover passenger car and indeed he would go on to bring that project almost to completion. But with Rover faced with closure if he could not come up with a viable vehicle that would satisfy the government’s demands for utilitarian practical vehicles which could be exported in quantity, Maurice turned his talents to creation of something agricultural and not at all jet powered.

So as he sketched out his original idea for this 4×4 Rover that would be for “the land” (i.e. agriculture) in the beach sand near his farm on the island of Anglesey, it was in all probability not the most exciting thing he’d ever worked on, but he gave it his best shot figuring that if he couldn’t come up with a better vehicle than the American Jeep then he shouldn’t be in the car design business.

A Brief History of the Land Rover Series II

When Maurice Wilk’s Land Rover made its debut in 1948 it became an instant success and this caught Rover by surprise. Sales of the Land Rover would outstrip sales of Rover luxury cars by a margin of two to one, and the humble “Landy” was destined for a 68 year production run. Once it was realized just what a hot seller this vehicle was, and just how much it was promoting the Rover name, as well as filling the Rover coffers, work was begun on figuring out what needed to be improved on this “stop-gap” utilitarian car to keep it ahead of all competitors. Rival car maker Austin were working on similar four wheel drive vehicles for military and agricultural use and so Rover needed to make sure their Land Rover was the best four wheel drive on the market.

Enter the Series II

In improving the original Series I Land Rover Maurice Wilks and his team understood that they needed to keep the valuable features of the vehicle, features that were essential for a military vehicle, an expedition vehicle, a vehicle that was used in the African bush and the Australian outback, places where a vehicle failure could put the occupants in danger of their lives.

The Oxford and Cambridge Trans-Africa Expedition and their even more ambitious Far Eastern Expedition had been a great publicity boost for the Land Rover, but also demonstrated just how much people would rely on this vehicle. So the improved Land Rover was designed not only to be as reliable as possible, but it was also designed so that any repair could be done out in the bush, miles from a workshop.

It was even possible to do an engine overhaul with the engine block remaining in the vehicle. The rear main oil seal could be replaced without removing the engine or gearbox. For those who grew up in a Britain in which the “Meccano” set was a boys favorite toy, this was a grown-up’s “Meccano” set on wheels, perfect for “Boy’s Own” adventures.

Land Rover Series 1 II IIa

Introduced in 1958, ten years after the Series I, the Land Rover Series II required some re-styling to accommodate the improvements that had been made underneath that sporty aluminum body. The axles were changed and gave the Series II a wider track of 4’3½”. The improvements to the axles and steering reduced the vehicle’s turning circle.

The Rover styling department were given the job of re-styling the car but clearly told to keep it as simple and repairable as possible. The modest styling improvements included the curved waist-line that would be a characteristic of all the Land Rovers to follow. This kept the body pressing to a simple curve, and covered the wider track nicely. Rover stylist David Bache kept the changes to the vehicle subtle. He created a neat curved-back cab for the utility version with curved rear side windows and a quite stylish curved roof. He also fitted side skirts to hide the chassis and cover the fuel tanks mounted under the front seats where fitted. The end result was a vehicle that looked a bit less like a cobbled together “Meccano” set car and more like a professionally finished all purpose vehicle.

The Series II was made in 88″ SWB (Short Wheelbase) and 109″ LWB (Long Wheelbase versions). The early examples of the Short Wheelbase being fitted with the same 2 liter four cylinder engine as the Series I until the stock of those engines ran out in the summer of 1958. After that the new 2.25 liter four cylinder OHV engine was fitted, and all Long Wheelbase 109″ Series II were fitted with that engine from the beginning of production.

This new 2.25 liter (2,286cc) overhead valve engine produced 70bhp @ 4,250rpm which was a useful increase over the previous 2 liter engine’s 52bhp. The new engine was fitted with a single Solex carburetor and produced torque of 124 lb/ft at 2,500rpm. In addition to the 2.25 liter petrol/gasoline engine a diesel four cylinder engine of 2,052cc was also offered. The diesel produced power of 51bhp @ 3,500rpm and torque of 87lb/ft @ 2,000rpm. This version of the diesel engine remained in production until 1961.

Land Rover Series IIa SWB Station Wagon

The Series II was fitted with the style of transmission that would remain standard all the way through to the Series III. The gearbox was a four speed manual with synchromesh on third and fourth gears (by 1972 the Series IIa LWB utility would be all synchromesh). Four wheel drive could be engaged by depressing a sprung button just below the gear-lever, which was quite convenient. There was a gear-lever to select low or high range gears, with the need to stop the car to engage low-range.

The Series II had differentials for the front and rear axles, but not between front and rear, so four wheel drive was only to be used on loose surfaces. Brakes were hydraulically actuated and for the 88″ Short Wheelbase model were 10″x 1½” drums front and rear with an additional cable operated drum brake on the transmission for the handbrake. The Long Wheelbase model was fitted with larger 11″x 2¼” drums front and rear. Front and rear suspension was by half-elliptic leaf springs with steering by recirculating ball and nut.

Land Rover 2.25 liter engine

The only Series I version of the Land Rover that was not updated to the Series II in 1958 was the 107″ LWB Safari Station Wagon. This was not taken out of production until 1959 when it was replaced by its Series II version. The 109″ Series II LWB Station Wagon was made with two banks of forward facing seats to seat six, whilst in the small rear section were two side-facing bench seats into which could be crammed another six people, albeit not in much comfort, making the Series II Station Wagon able to be licensed as a twelve seater bus, avoiding some UK taxes and making the purchase price of this version somewhat cheaper.

The Series II would remain in production from 1958 until 1961 after which it was replaced by the Series IIa.

The Series II Cuthbertson Tracked Vehicle

One of the strangest of the Series II Land Rovers made was the Cuthbertson Tracked Vehicle. The Cuthbertson was not actually made by Rover but by James A. Cuthbertson at his workshops in Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland. James Cutherbertson actually began working on Series I Land Rovers but his version fitted to the Series II in 1958 is the more famous.

Land Rover Series II Cuthbertson

The Cuthbertson conversion involved the creation of a sub-frame with tracked wheel bogies front and rear which was bolted to a Land Rover’s chassis. The tracked wheel bogies aligned with the Land Rover’s axles, which were modified to provide the drive to the tracks by fitting sprockets in place of the wheels. The Cuthbertson featured a crankshaft driven power steering system to provide the necessary assistance to make steering the vehicle a reasonably achievable task.

Land Rover Series II Cuthbertson track system

The Cuthbertson was strictly an off-road vehicle with the ability to go places an ordinary Land Rover could not. They found use in vehicle recovery and in the military for mine clearing operations. The Cuthbertson had a large footprint and so put a low pressure on the ground which meant it had a low environmental impact and was used for maintenance by telecom and other service providers. The company continues to this present day making innovative equipment.

The Series IIa

The Series IIa revised version of the Land Rover made its debut in 1961 and is regarded by many Land Rover aficionados as the version that Rover got right. It is generally thought of as the most durable and easily repairable of the “Series” Land Rovers. The “a” suffix of the Series IIa name came about when Rover adopted a new system of adding a letter suffix rather than prefix to chassis numbers of vehicles when significant model changes were made. During production of the IIa the actual suffix on the chassis number progressively moved further down the alphabet, but the model designation remained IIa regardless however.

Land Rover Series IIa

The Series IIa petrol/gasoline engine remained the same 2.25 liter in-line four cylinder unit of the Series II, but the diesel engine was enlarged to 2,286cc in 1962: this engine producing 62bhp @ 4,000rpm and torque of 103lb/ft @ 1,800rpm. The engine used CAV fuel injection.

Land Rover Series IIa diesel engine

In 1966-1967 LWB models could optionally be fitted with a Rover IOE (Inlet Over Exhaust) six cylinder engine of 2,625cc capacity which in its base form for the Land Rover produced 83bhp @ 4,500rpm and torque of 128lb/ft @ 1,500rpm. Vehicles equipped with this engine feature slightly larger 11″x 3″ drum brakes. Interestingly this more powerful 2.6 liter engine acquired something of a mixed reputation by comparison with the 2.25 liter four cylinder despite its greater power and, on paper at least, greater torque at lower revs.

Land Rover Series IIa 2.6 liter six cylinder engine

There are some variations that occurred during Series IIa production. The early models featured headlights in the grille just like their Series I forebears. This had to be changed however because of new regulations in North America. For this market the headlights were moved to the front of the fenders/wings in 1968. These “Federal” models were transitional and the headlights were not recessed, giving these models the nickname “Bugeye”. These transitional cars were made until 1969, by which time the recessed headlights on the fenders/wings became the norm.

Land Rover Series IIa

The Series IIa received progressive improvement over its production life with the LWB 109″ utilities being fitted with the fully synchromesh gearbox and Salisbury axle in 1972, making these last examples a transitional model heralding in the Series III.

The Series IIa LWB “Airportable General Purpose” (APGP) and Amphibious

Between 1963-1964 a lightweight “Air Portable” version of the Long Wheelbase Series IIa was created for British military use. This model did not go into full production and was essentially a development prototype. The “Airportable” was designed so they could be stacked in a transport aircraft, although that stacking required removal of some parts and clamping of the springs. One of the versions of the Airportable was made into an amphibious vehicle by waterproofing the body and the fitting of flat airbags to the front and sides of the vehicle. These amphibious Land Rovers were fitted with a propeller whilst steering was by the front wheels.

Only 28 of the amphibious versions of the Airportable were made and all bar one were fitted with the standard 2.25 liter four cylinder engine. The sole exception was one fitted with a Rover gas turbine engine. This was the period in which Maurice Wilks and his design team were inching closer to a practical gas turbine powered car and had already shown a number of working prototypes.

The Series IIa SWB Half Ton Lightweight

The work done to create the LWB Airportable did not end with that project’s being considered impractical but continued between 1967-1971 with the creation of a SWB Lightweight often called the “Half-Ton”

Land Rover Series IIa Lightweight Airportable Half-Ton

The design parameters of the SWB Lightweight required that the vehicle be made narrower, so that they could be transported two abreast in the transport aircraft of the time. Not only that but the model had to be light enough to be transported by a Westland Wessex helicopter. This version did enter production as a military special model with 2,989 being built. All were fitted with the standard 2.25 liter OHV four cylinder engine.

In order to be lifted by the earlier helicopters the SWB Lightweight had some non-essential parts removed such as doors to lighten it, but later model helicopters were capable of lifting the complete unmodified vehicle.

The LWB North American Station Wagon

Between 1966-1967 Rover built 811 special versions of the LWB Station Wagon in left-hand drive for the North American market. These cars were fitted with the IOE 2.6 liter six cylinder engine in the higher state of tune of the Rover 110 passenger car complete with a cylinder head designed by Harry Weslake. This initially promising model fell victim to the emissions regulations that were coming into force in the United States forcing production to be ended after only about a year.

The Series IIa and IIb Forward Control

In order to maximize the utility of the Land Rover Series IIa a cab-forward model was created which was called the Forward Control. The idea was to make the LWB Land Rover into a four wheel drive small truck with a 30 cwt (1.5 metric tonnes) capacity, by moving the driver’s cab to the front of the vehicle thus greatly increasing the load area at the rear. To create the tray top rear body a sub-frame was created and welded to the chassis. The tray-top body was often fitted with drop-down sides. Wheels and tires were slightly larger than the standard Series IIa being 9.00″x16″.

The Series IIa Forward Control model was originally fitted with the 2.25 liter four cylinder engine for 1962 but this was upgraded to the 2.6 liter six cylinder in 1962. 2,091 of the four cylinder Forward Control models were made and 1,097 of the six cylinder. The diesel engine was also available as an option but only five of the Series IIa Forward Controls were made with diesel power.

This model was made between 1962-1966 when it was replaced by the Series IIb LWB Forward Control.

Land Rover Series IIb FC

The Series IIb Forward control was an improved version with a 110″ wheelbase. The track was widened to improve vehicle stability and it was fitted with the heavy duty ENV axle that was also available as an optional extra for the Series IIa. The gear-lever and handbrake of the Series IIb were re-located to improve general ergonomics.

The Series IIb was only made as a Forward Control model and was in production from 1966-1972. For the UK domestic market the 2.6 liter six cylinder engine was standard but for export markets the 2.25 liter four was offered. The diesel engine was also optionally available. Of the 2,305 built 1,254 were fitted with the 2.6 liter six, 527 with the four, and 524 with the diesel.

The Series IIa One Ton 109″

The Series IIa One Ton 109″ was based on a very similar chassis to the IIb Forward Control but with the standard Land Rover utility body so it looked the same as an ordinary Series IIa LWB utility. The One Ton was fitted with the 2.6 liter IOE six cylinder engine, the lower ratio gearbox used on the Forward Control, and the heavy duty ENV axles front and rear. The chassis of the One Ton is somewhat unique to the model and features a drop-shackle suspension like that of the military Land Rovers, and the 9.00″x16″ wheels and tires of the Series IIb Forward Control.

Land Rover Series IIa One Ton

Production of this model spans both Series IIa and Series III production over 1968-1977, and with numbers of these vehicles made very low there are some variations and the late production Series IIa One Ton, which were fitted with the Salisbury differential instead of the ENV. With total production in the hundreds this is one of the more rare Land Rover versions and is visually difficult to identify because it looks just like a Series IIa utility.

Conclusion

The Land Rover Series IIa is arguably the Land Rover from the “Golden Age” of Land Rovers. Their all metal dashboard may have looked unsophisticated, but access behind the instruments only required four screws to be removed in order to lift out the center panel for repairs. This model earned itself a reputation for being easy to maintain and dependable. About the only area of complaint was that on LWB models fitted with servo assisted brakes it was necessary to lift up the front of the car to an angle of 30 degrees in order to properly bleed the hydraulic brake system, if you did not have access to the equipment to power bleed the brake system.

The Series II and IIa are the movie stars of the Land Rover family. Starring in such movies as “Born Free” and other African adventures. These were a vehicle that featured in many untold adventures, adventures that never made it into a Hollywood script. They were the backbone of Australia’s Snowy Mountains Scheme, and one of the most common sights in Africa and the Australian Outback. They were a standard military vehicle, and saved lives in their role with emergency services and in search and rescue operations. This was the Land Rover that made “Land Rover” a household name.

Land Rover Series II

Picture Credits: Rover, Land Rover, Bonhams, Cool N Vintage, Bring A Trailer.

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A Brief History of the Land Rover Series I https://silodrome.com/history-land-rover-series-i/ Tue, 21 Aug 2018 05:00:05 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=81329 A Brief History of the Land Rover Series I

Written by Jon Branch The Land Rover, like the original Volkswagen, has been a car that defied the norms of automotive marketing. The motor industry has been in a mindset of wanting to constantly create a new model, sometimes every year, and lots of variations on that model, seeming to think that people are constantly...

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A Brief History of the Land Rover Series I

Written by Jon Branch

The Land Rover, like the original Volkswagen, has been a car that defied the norms of automotive marketing. The motor industry has been in a mindset of wanting to constantly create a new model, sometimes every year, and lots of variations on that model, seeming to think that people are constantly craving something new: the Land Rover, like the original Volkswagen, demonstrates that it wasn’t necessarily so.

It is no coincidence that both the Land Rover and the Volkswagen were created around the time of the greatest war the world has ever seen, and in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Wars and economic depressions educate people to be practical, and to shun fads and fashions.

Land Rover Series I Cutaway

The Development of the Land Rover

It was that in the aftermath of the Second World War that in typical “Keep Calm and Carry On” Britishness the management of Rover set about planning a new luxury car model for the new post-war era: a new car for the Land of Hope and Glory. Except that Britain’s economy was completely drained by the war, British people were still using ration books for essentials like food and petrol/gasoline, and raw materials were in very short supply.

So the notion that Rover could just “Keep Calm and Carry On Building Nice Luxury Cars” proved to be a pipe dream. And so instead the leadership at Rover were pushed into thinking outside the box. For Rover’s ailing account ledgers what happened next had an effect somewhat like the accidental discovery of penicillin.

Land Rover Series I advertisement

At the end of the war Rover found itself with its original Coventry factory heavily bombed, and needing to move to a shadow factory in Solihull. Rover’s highly skilled workforce was intact and so their ability to get a new car design up and into production was also intact. Their initial plan was to create a new model which was to be known as the “M Type”, and they expected to be selling around 15,000-20,000 of them per year.

The first reality check came when they did their sums and realized that they could not afford to create a new model, they would have to simply continue to make and sell their pre-war models and hope they could sell the same sort of quantities. Pre-war Rovers were and are absolutely delightful motor cars and were much favored by doctors because of their comfort and reliability. Rover’s hopes were quickly dashed however when the British government told them that Britain could only afford to supply them with enough steel to manufacture 1,100 luxury cars per year. At those low production numbers Rover simply would not survive and her workforce would be making their way to the labor exchange.

Rover’s leadership did not panic, the British consider panic to be a terribly un-British thing to do, instead they got their minds working on a way out of their predicament.

Rival car maker Standard had been faced with the same set of problems and their solution had been to move into manufacturing farm tractors. Rover’s Managing Director was Spencer Wilks and the Chief Designer was his brother Maurice. Maurice had a farm in Anglesey and on that farm he used an ex-US Army Jeep. Maurice and Spencer grabbed hold of the idea that they could make a vehicle for agriculture and mining industry use that was like a Jeep, but with useful features that the Jeep did not have. Maurice got to work on a prototype.

Land Rover prototype

Maurice Wilks quite liked his war surplus Jeep but, as a car designer and manufacturer, he was well aware of its shortcomings and stated that if he couldn’t build a better car that he shouldn’t be in the car making business. His problems were compounded by the lack of steel available, although aluminum was fairly plentiful, so he would need to use as little steel per vehicle as he could and instead use aluminum alloy for the body panels. Maurice and his team got busy building their first proof of concept prototype on an existing Jeep chassis. Because Maurice was thinking of the car as an agricultural vehicle he placed the steering wheel in the center of the car, a feature that would not make it into the production Land Rovers.

Maurice Wilks used as many off-the-shelf Rover car parts as he could in his prototype. The engine was a 1.4 liter in-line four cylinder from the pre-war Rover 10 as was  the gearbox, which featured synchromesh on the top two gears and the Rover free-wheeling feature. The transfer box was a Jeep unit, and Maurice Wilks ensured that the vehicle was provided with a power-take-off feature to make it more useful in agricultural and mining environments.

From this first prototype improvements were made which included a Rover made chassis, re-locating the steering position to the conventional position, and a larger 50bhp 1,595cc engine taken from the Rover P3. The gearbox retained the free-wheeling feature which disconnected the front wheels when the car was on the overrun, but the Land Rover was fitted with a ring pull to lock the car into 4WD if needed.

A new Rover transfer box was created and power-take-off was provided to the front, center and rear of the vehicle. The chassis was a rugged steel box section ladder type whilst the body was made of a British aluminum alloy called Birmabright, which is the same alloy as used for the bodywork of other more exotic British cars such as the Aston Martin. The body panels were kept as flat and simple to fabricate as possible and were attached to the chassis by a steel frame. As even paint was in short supply the Land Rovers were offered in “cockpit green” military surplus paint. Fifty of these improved prototypes were made and the car made its debut at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April of 1948.

Land Rover Series I Amsterdam Motor Show April 1948

The Land Rover – A Surprise Sales Success

The Land Rover surprised everyone when orders literally came flooding in, to say they sold like little hot-cakes is perhaps an understatement. This car was destined to out-sell Rover’s luxury cars by a factor of two to one. The Land Rover proved to be just the shot of penicillin needed to make Rover’s bank balance look decidedly healthy and this little stop-gap utility vehicle was at the beginning of what would turn into a six decade production run.

Land Rover Series I production line Solihull

Rover’s management had hoped against hope that they might be able to sell around 5,000 Land Rovers in the first full year of production. They actually built and sold around 8,000 and the orders just kept on coming in. The Land Rover was purchased by British and overseas farmers and mining companies, as expected, and also by military, police, and rescue services.

Before creating the Land Rover the Rover Car Company had not been in the business of exporting products much at all. But the Land Rover was a very exportable gem that would find its way to Australia where it would become a backbone vehicle of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme, and to Africa where it would become the iconic safari car and star of movies about exotic African adventures.

Land Rover Series I

The Tickford Land Rover

One of the surprises for staff at Rover was the request for a more luxurious version of the Land Rover. This initially seemed an odd request: the Land Rover had been created to be a cross between a car and a farm tractor so it had not been imagined that customers would want a more up-market version. But when it was realized that Land Rover’s customers often wanted a bit more creature comfort for managers on mine sites, clients on African safari, and sports people needing to be transported around a country estate, then what was needed became apparent.

Land Rover Series I Tickford estate car

Rover had a long standing relationship with British coach-builder Tickford and so they approached them with a view to having them create a more comfort oriented body for the humble Land Rover. Tickford were happy to oblige and they created a reserved but more comfortable estate car body built in conventional custom coachwork style using an Ash wood frame with Birmabright aluminum body panels. The windscreen on most Tickfords was a one piece laminated glass unit although some were made with a split screen like the standard Land Rover.

Land Rover Tickford estate car interior

The interior of the Land Rover Tickford estate car featured leather seats with comfort levels better suited to management level posteriors, and a heater/demister. Because of the imposition of a much higher level of Purchase Tax on the Tickford in Britain, as the vehicle was licensed as a car and not an agricultural vehicle, the Tickfords were mostly sold to export markets with only about 50 of the approximately 700 sold in Britain. Sales in Britain were much lower than they might have been because of the Purchase Tax hiking the price of the Tickford up much higher than an ordinary Land Rover. The Land Rover Tickford remained in production into 1950 before being phased out. Tickford’s in good original condition now have collector value.

Land Rover Series I interior

The First Land Rover Upgrades

By 1952 Rover decided to increase the size of the engine of the  Series I Land Rover; the engine was increased in size to 2 liters (1,995cc). This engine had “Siamese Bores”, which means there was no gap between each cylinder, they were connected together, which of course does not make for the most efficient cooling.

In 1952 another improvement was made, the gearbox was strengthened for the new 2 liter engine and was also changed so that 4WD was automatically engaged when low-range was selected: the system incorporating a simple dog-clutch mechanism. With the greater power of the 2 liter engine it was necessary to ensure that 4WD was engaged when the vehicle was put in low-range because the forces applied to the differential and rear axles was sufficiently great to result in axle breakage if the load were not spread between all four axles. Extracting the broken end of an axle from the rear differential was a do-able job but was not particularly easy, and it was of course made much more difficult in places like Africa where there were hungry animals wanting to have a munch on a tasty Land Rover owner.

Land Rover Series I 2 liter engine

In 1952 Land Rover decided to create their own passenger carrying version of the Land Rover and introduced a seven seat Station Wagon built on the same 80″ wheelbase chassis as the other Series I versions. This proved successful but there was a need to increase the space available in the back of the Land Rover, so in 1954 the chassis was lengthened to an 86″ wheelbase, and a long wheelbase 107″ was also introduced. One of the versions built on both the 86″ and the 107″ long-wheelbase chassis was the Safari Station Wagon, the long wheelbase version appearing in September 1955. These were fitted with a “tropical roof”, which is an extra roof fitted on top of the vehicle’s main roof. The effect of this is to make the interior of the car significantly cooler, especially in direct sun, and to reduce condensation in humid conditions. The station wagon was also provided with ventilators in the inner roof to allow air flow. The tropical roof was also available for the 86″ wheelbase Station Wagon.

Land Rover Series I Oxford and Cambridge Expedition

The First Great Land Rover Expeditions

It was just as well that Rover had worked to refine and improve the Series I because as a result of a bet made in a bar in Hong Kong a challenge was set up between graduates from Britain’s two most prestigious universities, Oxford and Cambridge, for a 25,000 mile expedition from the north to the far south of Africa, Cape Town, and back again. The vehicles of choice for this competitive jaunt were of course to be Land Rovers, and Rover provided two, one for each of the three man teams of each university.

After this “Cairo to the Cape” Trans-Africa Expedition in 1954 an even more ambitious expedition was embarked on in 1956 from London to Singapore. The Land Rovers provided by Rover were the new Safari Station Wagon short wheelbase model, both cars taken straight from the production line. For this “Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition” the Land Rovers were fitted with additional 100 gallon fuel tanks, front winches, and jerry-can holders for two jerry-cans on the front. We note that in one photograph (the feature image at the head of this post) one jerry can is marked “Gilbey’s Gin” which we suspect may not be wholly truthful. Storing nice refreshing Gilbey’s Gin in a jerry can would spoil the flavor would it not?

Land Rover Series I Oxford and Cambridge Far East Expedition

The Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition was filmed with film provided by the BBC at the behest of Richard Attenborough, and so it became a superb and subtle promotional video for the Land Rover. The two expedition vehicles and their crews traveled the route successfully and were the last recorded vehicles to traverse the Ledo Road, between Assam in India and Burma, which had been constructed by US General Stilwell during the Second World War. This was an outstanding “Boys Own” adventure with the teams traversing many places that had previously never been driven through. They arrived in Singapore on 6th March 1956 after their journey of 18,000 miles, and enjoyed a three week break in Singapore before heading back to Britain. Because of the difficulty and dangers of the route between India and Singapore the two Land Rovers were shipped to India, one to Rangoon and the other to Calcutta, for the journey back.

The First Diesel Land Rover

By 1956 customers were telling Rover that they really wanted a diesel engine version of the Land Rover and in order for this to be done the chassis would need to be lengthened again. An additional two inches were added to both short and long wheelbase versions between the front axle and the driver’s toe-board to make room for the OHV 2,052cc, diesel engine which produced 52bhp @ 4,000rpm and was made available in 1957. So the short wheelbase Land Rover was now 88″ and the long wheelbase 109″: dimensions that would remain the same throughout the lifetimes of the Series I, II and III. The one model that was not changed was the 107″ Safari Station Wagon which was kept in production only as a petrol engine vehicle until 1959, when it was superseded by the 109″ wheelbase Series II Station Wagon.

Land Rover Series I interior

By the time Rover were deciding that it was time to significantly upgrade the Land Rover the Series I had laid a foundation as an expedition vehicle, a farm and mining industry vehicle, and as a military vehicle. Even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth had one for occasions such as military visits and of course it was the perfect vehicle for running around Balmoral. Rover gave a customized Land Rover to Winston Churchill as a mark of appreciation for his self-sacrificial leadership during the war years.

So the humble Land Rover had grown up from being a farm tractor substitute to being a car fit for a Queen. It had proven itself and exceeded the best expectations of those who created it, who had thought they would only need to make it for three years or so and then they could get back into being a prestige car maker again. The Series I Land Rover was in production for a decade, from 1948-1958, and its last successor remained in production until 2016: that’s a sixty eight year production span at Solihull, where it all began in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Winston Churchill Land Rover Series I

Photo Credits: Land Rover, Bonhams, Silodrome.

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The James Bond “Spectre” Land Rover Defender SVX https://silodrome.com/james-bonds-spectre-land-rover-defender-svx/ Thu, 05 Jul 2018 06:01:27 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=78697 The James Bond “Spectre” Land Rover Defender SVX

Vehicles used in James Bond films typically become almost as iconic as 007 himself, the most famous are the Astons of course, but he’s also given popularity boosts to the Lotus Esprit, a number of BMWs, the Toyota 2000 GT, the Sunbeam Alpine, and even a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1. The most recent James...

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The James Bond “Spectre” Land Rover Defender SVX

Vehicles used in James Bond films typically become almost as iconic as 007 himself, the most famous are the Astons of course, but he’s also given popularity boosts to the Lotus Esprit, a number of BMWs, the Toyota 2000 GT, the Sunbeam Alpine, and even a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1.

The most recent James Bond film brought 007 together with another iconic Brit – the Land Rover Defender. Sony Pictures knew they needed an intimidating 4×4 for a number of scenes in Spectre, so they turned to Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations and ordered 10 vehicles. These 10 black 110 Series Defenders were then sent to Land Rover tuning and racing specialists Bowler who turned them into some of the meanest, and now most famous, Defenders on earth.

The Spectre Land Rover Defender SVX

Only 10 examples of the Spectre Land Rover Defender SVX were built for the film, not all of them survived and many that did survive now look a little worse for wear. The example you see here was used strictly for drive by scenes, not stunts, and it now has just 234 kilometers on the odometer from new, making it one of the best Spectre cars remaining and the only one for sale on the open market.

The transformation Bowler undertook on these vehicles was significant, 37 inch tires were bolted directly to special wheel rims, suspension upgrades include rose joints and Bilstein rally dampers, and there’s a full roll cage both internally and externally. A Warn winch has been installed up front, and a series of LED spotlights have been fitted to keep the road well lit even when you’re pursuing a British secret agent over a mountain pass.

The diesel engine was upgraded so it now produces 185 bhp and 500 Nm of torque, up from 120 bhp in stock trim. Recaro seats with 4-point harnesses were fitted, along with a no-nonsense hydraulic handbrake, and it comes with key tags identifying it as an official film car.

The first private owner had the pick of all 10 Spectre-film Defenders, and he chose this one as it is the most significant.

The Spectre Defender you see here is offered with the owner’s wallet containing the handbook and (blank) service booklet, a current MoT certificate, a UK V5C document for the most appropriate registration ‘OO07 SVX’, and and a framed presentation featuring movie stills, the shooting schedule, and an Austrian licence plate.

If you’d like to read more about the car or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing on Bonhams.

A Brief History of the Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender was the successor to the Series III, it was originally called the Ninety or the One Ten (a reference to the wheelbase length in inches). As the Land Rover model range grew it was decided to rename the line to Defender 90 and Defender 110 to avoid any confusion.

To say the Defender had large shoes to fill would be a remarkable understatement. The Series I, Series II, Series IIA, and Series III Land Rovers took the world by storm and were very often the first motorised vehicle ever seen by people in developing nations.

The new Defender maintained the same basic structure as the Series vehicles, with a body-on-chassis design utilising a steel frame, a steel bulkhead, and aluminium body panels. Under the skin the Defender had been significantly updated with wider track axles, coil springs as opposed to leaf springs, a full-time 4×4 system borrowed from the Range Rover, and a lockable centre diff.

The interior had seen significant (and some would say overdue) upgrades over the Series Land Rovers, much improving the seats, sound-proofing, dashboard and instruments, and even offering amenities like air-conditioning and stereos.

Over the 3 decades of its production the Defender would get progressively more comfortable without sacrificing any of its raw off-road ability, and examples from the final few years of production are now highly sought after. Land Rover stopped making the Defender in early 2016 – largely due to increasingly stringent crash safety laws that the model couldn’t meet with its older-style body-on-frame structure.

Land Rover have announced more recently an intention to introduce a new Defender, likely with a unibody design and significantly updated styling. It’s widely hoped that Land Rover will stay true to the DNA of the model when they officially unveil the new Defender in 2019 – but only time will tell.

Images courtesy of Bonhams

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Icon – The Official Land Rover Book https://silodrome.com/icon-official-land-rover-book/ Tue, 15 May 2018 07:00:19 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=76918 Icon – The Official Land Rover Book

Icon – The Official Land Rover Book is the marque’s own look back at what is arguably their most important model line – the Series and Defender vehicles that defined the company and helped define the very nature of modern 4x4s. The book is made up of 10 chapters with over 200 pages covering the...

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Icon – The Official Land Rover Book

Icon – The Official Land Rover Book is the marque’s own look back at what is arguably their most important model line – the Series and Defender vehicles that defined the company and helped define the very nature of modern 4x4s.

The book is made up of 10 chapters with over 200 pages covering the early Series I right through to the more mordern Defender series vehicles. It includes excerpts on the Camel Trophy, and the rally racing Bowler Defenders that have been built, as well as a foreword written by one of the best known of the Land Rover faithful – Richard Hammond.

Buy Here

Icon - The Official Land Rover Book

Icon - The Official Land Rover Book

Icon - The Official Land Rover Book

Icon - The Official Land Rover Book

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Frame-Off Restoration – 1973 Land Rover Series III SWB https://silodrome.com/land-rover-series-iii-swb/ Sat, 31 Mar 2018 07:00:05 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=75586 Frame-Off Restoration – 1973 Land Rover Series III SWB

The Land Rover Series III The Series III Land Rover was the last to wear the “Series” designation, and some view it as the last of the original Land Rovers. Ever since the first Series I had rolled off the production line in 1948, Land Rover had been constantly updating the design to improve its capability...

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Frame-Off Restoration – 1973 Land Rover Series III SWB

The Land Rover Series III

The Series III Land Rover was the last to wear the “Series” designation, and some view it as the last of the original Land Rovers. Ever since the first Series I had rolled off the production line in 1948, Land Rover had been constantly updating the design to improve its capability off road, its usability on road, and its reliability. The Series I was built between 1948 and 1958, it was then replaced with the significantly updated Series II which was built between 1958 and 1961, before being replaced with the more refined Series IIA.

The Series III made its first appearance in 1971, and in many respects it was an incrementally updated Series IIA. The changes were more subtle things like a new dashboard, a synchromesh gearbox, and a higher compression ratio giving more power.

Many Land Rover aficionados consider the Series III to be the best model if you want balance between originality and day-to-day convenience. One of the great benefits of the Series Land Rovers is their aluminium bodies that were light weight and obviously don’t rust, although that said, they were fitted with steel chassis and bulkheads that were susceptible to the same corrosion problems as their Japanese and American counterparts.

In recent years we’ve seen a surge in popularity around vintage 4x4s, with a huge amount of attention focussed on vehicles like the original Ford Bronco, the Toyota FJ40, the 2-door Range Rover Classic and the Series I/II/III Land Rovers. This trend shows no signs of abating, in fact it’s widely believed that it’ll be the next sector of the vintage car market to see sustained gains in value.

Land Rover Series III

The 1973 Land Rover 88 Series III Shown Here

The Series III you see here is one of the nicest examples we’ve seen in recent memory, it’s had a complete frame-off restoration, with a range of upgrades throughout to make it far easier to live with on a day to day basis. The steel chassis has been galvanized, solving one of the major potential headaches with any vintage 4×4 that spends time off road getting covered in mud and water.

A new canvas roof has been fitted over the new Land Rover Green paint work, colors like this have become deeply associated with the brand however when they were first being painted in the late 1940s the only paint colors available were army green hues, as the paint was military surplus from WWII.

Inside the passenger compartment, the Series III is far better appointed than it would have been from the factory, with tan upholstered seats in the front and rear, upholstered door panels, tan gear lever boots and checker plate panels on the floors of the footwells.

As you’d expect with any vintage Land Rover, this one has its spare tire mounted on the hood, with steel wheels all-round and traditional chunky tires for green laning.

RM Sotheby’s will be auctioning this Land Rover off on the 6th of April with an estimated value of between $25,000 and $30,000 USD, if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

Land Rover Series III

Land Rover Series III

Land Rover Series III Seats

Land Rover Series III

Land Rover Series III

Land Rover Series III

Land Rover Series III Engine

Land Rover Series III

Land Rover Series III Seats

Images Ryan Merrill ©2018 Courtesy of RM Auctions

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Land Rover Defender Multi Tool https://silodrome.com/land-rover-defender-multi-tool/ Fri, 12 Jan 2018 06:59:50 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=70111 Land Rover Defender Multi Tool

The Land Rover Defender Multi Tool is a credit card sized, stainless steel tool designed to go in your wallet or glovebox until needed. It incorporates 11 tools in total, the most commonly used of which will almost certainly be the bottle opener. When you’re not opening a beer after a long day of green...

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Land Rover Defender Multi Tool

The Land Rover Defender Multi Tool is a credit card sized, stainless steel tool designed to go in your wallet or glovebox until needed. It incorporates 11 tools in total, the most commonly used of which will almost certainly be the bottle opener.

When you’re not opening a beer after a long day of green laning you may finds use for the other 10 tools including – a tire tread gauge, a wire cutter, and metric spanners in 5mm, 6mm, 7mm, 8mm, 9mm, and 10mm sizes.

Each multi tool ships out with its own Land Rover branded carry pouch, though I doubt many people use them. When it’s not in your wallet or glovebox it’d probably look pretty good sitting on the desk – it is the profile of one of the most famous 4x4s in history after all.

Buy Here

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Jet Black Custom Land Rover Defender https://silodrome.com/jet-black-custom-land-rover-defender/ Thu, 23 Nov 2017 07:00:59 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=68300 Jet Black Custom Land Rover Defender

Cool n’ Vintage is based in Portugal, they’ve made a name for themselves in recent years for buying all manner of iconic vehicles and then restoring them in their own unique way. Rather than going for a concours restoration, the team behind the garage door at CnV typically aim for what could be described as...

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Jet Black Custom Land Rover Defender

Cool n’ Vintage is based in Portugal, they’ve made a name for themselves in recent years for buying all manner of iconic vehicles and then restoring them in their own unique way. Rather than going for a concours restoration, the team behind the garage door at CnV typically aim for what could be described as a restomod – they keep the spirit of the vehicle, but add a little luxury, reliability, and usability.

The Land Rover Defender you see here started out as a stock 2010 model, but it didn’t stay that way for long after it was acquired by Cool n’ Vintage.

After a full teardown and inspection of parts they decided to create the blackest vehicle they’d ever built. They selected the deepest black paint they could find and decided to pair it with a rich cognac leather interior (seats, dashboard, door trims, steering wheel), raw galvanized cappings and external trim, and Raffia carpets.

All of the suspension was removed and replaced with new heavy duty replacements, along with steel wheels, and new BF Goodrich tires all round. The new owner will have the option of throwing a canvas roof over the top of the galvanized frame, but to be honest you’re going to have the most fun with no top on.

Over the decades the raw nature of the Land Rover Defender was softened somewhat, this custom build offers an excellent balance between luxury and the tough, go-anywhere ability that  the Land Rover Defender is famous for.

If you’d like to read more or enquire after buying it you can click here to visit Cool n’ Vintage.

THE STORY OF THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER

The Land Rover Defender was the successor to the Series III, it was originally called the Ninety or the One Ten (a reference to the wheelbase length in inches). As the Land Rover model range grew it was decided to rename the line to Defender 90 and Defender 110 to avoid any confusion.

To say the Defender had large shoes to fill would be a remarkable understatement. The Series I, Series II, Series IIA, and Series III Land Rovers took the world by storm and were very often the first motorised vehicle ever seen by people in developing nations.

The new Defender maintained the same basic structure as the Series vehicles, with a body-on-chassis design utilising a steel frame, a steel bulkhead, and aluminium body panels. Under the skin the Defender had been significantly updated with wider track axles, coil springs as opposed to leaf springs, a full-time 4×4 system borrowed from the Range Rover, and a lockable centre diff.

The interior had seen significant (and some would say overdue) upgrades over the Series Land Rovers, much improving the seats, sound-proofing, dashboard and instruments, and even offering amenities like air-conditioning and stereos.

Over the 3 decades of its production the Defender would get progressively more comfortable without sacrificing any of its raw off-road ability, and examples from the final few years of production are now highly sought after. Land Rover ended stopped making the Defender in early 2016 – largely due to increasingly stringent crash safety laws that the model couldn’t meet with its older-style body-on-frame structure.

Land Rover have announced more recently an intention to introduce a new Defender, likely with a unibody design and significantly updated styling. It’s widely hoped that Land Rover will stay true to the DNA of the model when they officially unveil the new Defender in 2019 – but only time will tell.

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Ex-James Bond Spectre – Land Rover Defender SVX https://silodrome.com/james-bond-spectre-land-rover-defender-svx/ Tue, 01 Aug 2017 07:01:01 +0000 http://silodrome.com/?p=64582 Ex-James Bond Spectre – Land Rover Defender SVX

Vehicles used in James Bond films typically become almost as iconic as 007 himself, the most famous are the Astons of course, but he’s also given popularity boosts to the Lotus Esprit, a number of BMWs, the Toyota 2000 GT, the Sunbeam Alpine, and even a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1. The most recent James...

The post Ex-James Bond Spectre – Land Rover Defender SVX appeared first on Silodrome.

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Ex-James Bond Spectre – Land Rover Defender SVX

Vehicles used in James Bond films typically become almost as iconic as 007 himself, the most famous are the Astons of course, but he’s also given popularity boosts to the Lotus Esprit, a number of BMWs, the Toyota 2000 GT, the Sunbeam Alpine, and even a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1.

The most recent James Bond film brought 007 together with another iconic Brit – the Land Rover Defender. Sony Pictures knew they needed an intimidating 4×4 for a number of scenes in Spectre, so they turned to Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations and ordered 10 vehicles. These 10 black 110 Series Defenders were then sent to Land Rover tuning and racing specialists Bowler who turned them into some of the meanest, and now most famous, Defenders on earth.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER

The Land Rover Defender was the successor to the Series III, it was originally called the Ninety or the One Ten (a reference to the wheelbase length in inches). As the Land Rover model range grew it was decided to rename the line to Defender 90 and Defender 110 to avoid any confusion.

To say the Defender had large shoes to fill would be a remarkable understatement. The Series I, Series II, Series IIA, and Series III Land Rovers took the world by storm and were very often the first motorised vehicle ever seen by people in developing nations.

The new Defender maintained the same basic structure as the Series vehicles, with a body-on-chassis design utilising a steel frame, a steel bulkhead, and aluminium body panels. Under the skin the Defender had been significantly updated with wider track axles, coil springs as opposed to leaf springs, a full-time 4×4 system borrowed from the Range Rover, and a lockable centre diff.

The interior had seen significant (and some would say overdue) upgrades over the Series Land Rovers, much improving the seats, sound-proofing, dashboard and instruments, and even offering amenities like air-conditioning and stereos.

Over the 3 decades of its production the Defender would get progressively more comfortable without sacrificing any of its raw off-road ability, and examples from the final few years of production are now highly sought after. Land Rover stopped making the Defender in early 2016 – largely due to increasingly stringent crash safety laws that the model couldn’t meet with its older-style body-on-frame structure.

Land Rover have announced more recently an intention to introduce a new Defender, likely with a unibody design and significantly updated styling. It’s widely hoped that Land Rover will stay true to the DNA of the model when they officially unveil the new Defender in 2019 – but only time will tell.

The Spectre Land Rover Defender SVX

Only 10 examples of the Spectre Land Rover Defender SVX were built for the film, not all of them survived and many that did survive now look a little worse for wear. The example you see here was used strictly for drive by scenes, not stunts, and it now has just 234 kilometers on the odometer from new, making it one of the best Spectre cars remaining and the only one for sale on the open market.

The transformation Bowler undertook on these vehicles was significant, 37 inch tires were bolted directly to special wheel rims, suspension upgrades include rose joints and Bilstein rally dampers, and there’s a full roll cage both internally and externally. A Warn winch has been installed up front, and a series of LED spotlights have been fitted to keep the road well lit even when you’re pursuing a British secret agent over a mountain pass.

The diesel engine was upgraded so it now produces 185 bhp and 500 Nm of torque, up from 120 bhp in stock trim. Recaro seats with 4-point harnesses were fitted, along with a no-nonsense hydraulic handbrake – this last item has been disconnected, but enterprising new owners might find a way to get it working again.

If you’d like to read more about this car or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing on RM Sotheby’s.

 

 

Photo Credits: Simon Clay ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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Corvette-Engined Land Rover Defender 90 https://silodrome.com/corvette-engined-land-rover-defender-90/ Mon, 26 Jun 2017 07:01:36 +0000 http://silodrome.com/?p=63473 Corvette-Engined Land Rover Defender 90

Carroll Shelby might not have been the first person to drop an American V8 into a British vehicle, but he’s by far the most famous. Over the years there have been countless examples of Brits and Americans getting their heads together and turning out some genuinely remarkable automobiles – and this Land Rover by East Coast...

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Corvette-Engined Land Rover Defender 90

Carroll Shelby might not have been the first person to drop an American V8 into a British vehicle, but he’s by far the most famous.

Over the years there have been countless examples of Brits and Americans getting their heads together and turning out some genuinely remarkable automobiles – and this Land Rover by East Coast Defender is an excellent modern take on the partnership.

The team at ECD have managed to squeeze a 430 hp Corvette V8 into the Defender engine bay, then coupled it to a new 6-speed Chevrolet T56 manual transmission and an upgraded LSD transfer case to handle the additional power.

There aren’t many Land Rover Defenders that can do the 0-62 mph dash in under 6 seconds, and this is one of them.

A Brief History of the Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender was the successor to the Series III, it was originally called the Ninety or the One Ten (a reference to the wheelbase length in inches). As the Land Rover model range grew it was decided to rename the line to Defender 90 and Defender 110 to avoid any confusion.

To say the Defender had large shoes to fill would be a remarkable understatement. The Series I, Series II, Series IIA, and Series III Land Rovers took the world by storm and were very often the first motorised vehicle ever seen by people in developing nations.

The new Defender maintained the same basic structure as the Series vehicles, with a body-on-chassis design utilising a steel frame, a steel bulkhead, and aluminium body panels. Under the skin the Defender had been significantly updated with wider track axles, coil springs as opposed to leaf springs, a full-time 4×4 system borrowed from the Range Rover, and a lockable centre diff.

The interior had seen significant (and some would say overdue) upgrades over the Series Land Rovers, much improving the seats, sound-proofing, dashboard and instruments, and even offering amenities like air-conditioning and stereos.

Over the 3 decades of its production the Defender would get progressively more comfortable without sacrificing any of its raw off-road ability, and examples from the final few years of production are now highly sought after. Land Rover stopped making the Defender in early 2016 – largely due to increasingly stringent crash safety laws that the model couldn’t meet with its older-style body-on-frame structure.

Land Rover have announced more recently an intention to introduce a new Defender, likely with a unibody design and significantly updated styling. It’s widely hoped that Land Rover will stay true to the DNA of the model when they officially unveil the new Defender in 2019 – but only time will tell.

The East Coast Defender Corvette-Engined Defender

East Coast Defender is one of the pre-eminent Land Rover customisers in the USA, the company has 29 full-time employees and is made up of a mixture of Brits and Americans. They’re based in Kissimmee Florida, and they’ve built a significant number of bespoke Defenders – all of which are far quicker and more luxurious than any examples that left the Land Rover factory.

The Corvette-Engined Defender shown here is their most recent build, with 430 hp on tap it’s quick enough to embarrass many sports cars on the road, and off road it can sling mud half the length of a city block.

In order to improve breathing the LS3 V8 has a Borla exhaust fitted, there’s also a Ron Davis radiator to keep things cool. All brake and fuel lines have been replaced with stainless steel examples, and inside there are Classic Instruments Moal Bomber gauges. It has a full roll cage installed, as well as ivory leather Corbeau seats with black accent stitching, a Quark steering wheel by MOMO, and Porsche Dunkelolive metallic paint.

It’s riding on 18” Sawtooth wheels with BF Goodrich All Terrain KO2 tires, and it’s fitted with a Kenwood infotainment center with a backup camera, wifi, JBL speakers and a subwoofer.

If you’d like to read more about East Coast Defenders or order your own, you can click here to visit their website.

Follow East Coast Defenders on FacebookTwitterInstagram

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The Essential Buying Guide: Land Rover Series I https://silodrome.com/official-buying-guide-land-rover-series-i/ Mon, 01 May 2017 07:01:53 +0000 http://silodrome.com/?p=61008 The Essential Buying Guide: Land Rover Series I

Introduction The Land Rover Series I was never expected to be a sales success. When it was first introduced it was not expected to be in production for more than three years and had you told Rover executives and planners that it would wildly outsell their line of prestigious luxury cars for decades into the...

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The Essential Buying Guide: Land Rover Series I

Introduction

The Land Rover Series I was never expected to be a sales success. When it was first introduced it was not expected to be in production for more than three years and had you told Rover executives and planners that it would wildly outsell their line of prestigious luxury cars for decades into the future they would no doubt have laughed you to derision – until it happened. The Series I Land Rover became an icon of Britishness and it made its way throughout the British Commonwealth being found on safari in Africa, as the backbone car of Australia’s Snowy Mountains Scheme, and throughout all the Land Rover models one of the longest lived automobile designs ever created. Even today Land Rover believe that 70% of all the Land Rovers made are still being used somewhere.

Land Rover Series I Cutaway

History of the Land Rover Series I

The Land Rover Series I was a bit like penicillin, it was sort of created by accident. At the end of the Second World War Britain was financially in quite dire straits and most things were rationed, a situation that would continue up into the 1950’s long after 1945 heralded Victory in Europe and Victory in the Pacific. This was a Britain which had fought the “Great War”, experienced the Great Depression, and then fought the Second World War. The generation who fought the Second World War were primarily the same people who had born the brunt of the Depression and this had made them practical and tenacious.

With the end of the war Rover hoped to get straight back into making and selling their luxury motor cars. Rovers were considered to be “doctor’s cars” in Britain at that time but of course not a very high percentage of the British population were doctors and indeed only a small percentage of Britain’s people could afford a basic car, let alone a more prestigious car such as a Rover. So Rover were not able to simply resume luxury car production, but they needed to make and sell something, and they needed to export large numbers of that something in order to continue to exist as a car maker.

What was needed in post war Britain was industrial and agricultural equipment, and industrial goods that would find a ready export market. Rover were already in a position where they would be effectively starting from scratch. Their original Coventry factory had been bombed during the Blitz as had most of Coventry and so the company moved to a new shadow factory at Solihull near the industrial city of Birmingham.

Rover’s chief designer, Maurice Wilks, had an American Jeep for use on his farm and he also saw that rival British car maker, Standard, had started producing farm tractors. The idea was born to create a British equivalent of the Willys Jeep but to make it as purpose built for agricultural work as could be done. The first prototype was built on a Jeep chassis with the driving position in the centre just as on a tractor and using the engine and gearbox out of a Rover P3 motor car. Whilst the Jeep chassis was made of steel, steel was in short supply in post war Britain but aluminium was obtainable and easy to fabricate into simple body panels. The aluminium/magnesium alloy used was made in nearby Birmingham and was called “Birmabright”. This alloy is the same one used for the body panels of Aston-Martin sports cars. Maurice Wilks kept the body panels just as flat as he could in his design to simplify fabrication.

From that first prototype some lessons were learned and moving towards the production design it was realised that the centre steer idea was impractical so a newly designed chassis was created with a conventional driving position, either left or right hand drive, and the emphasis went from making a tractor like vehicle one could sometimes drive on the road, to making a four wheel drive car like the Jeep that could drive both on and off road, and be used for some agricultural tasks as well by using the power take-off features.

The production prototype did not use any Jeep parts and featured a simple steel box section ladder chassis with a steel frame for the Birmabright body panels. Interestingly in the time from the first decision to use Birmabright alloy to the Land Rover entering production the price of Birmabright progressively increased making it more expensive than steel. Despite this Rover decided to stick with the alloy body panels on a steel frame.
The Land Rover Series I made its world debut at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. The choice of Amsterdam is interesting. Rover were aiming to export this vehicle but were not necessarily expecting to export to the United States as most other British motor car manufacturers were. The Land Rover was aimed squarely at Europe as she sought to re-build after the war, and the European colonies of Britain, Holland, France, Spain and Portugal. This proved to be a wise strategy as the Land Rover would go on to become the vehicle of choice in the various African and Asian colonies, Australia and New Zealand.

Specifications and Models

The first model of the Land Rover Series I was made with a short 80” wheelbase as a two door three seater car similar to the Jeep that had inspired it. The engine was the 1.6 litre (1,595cc) Rover in-line four cylinder that had been used in the prototype and it produced a respectable 50hp. In addition to using the engine from the Rover P3 sedan the gearbox from the P3 was also used and mated to a newly designed four wheel drive system. This new four wheel drive system borrowed the free-wheel system that was used on some Rover cars for fuel economy. This system allowed the front axle to disconnect from the gearbox when the car was free rolling. A ring pull was provided to lock the system when four wheel drive was required not to disconnect.

As first released the Land Rover Series I was an open vehicle like the Jeep but canvas covers for the top could be purchased as optional extras as could tops for the doors and a metal roof. Despite that customers soon made it clear that they’d like a hard top version of the Land Rover with some interior trim and a heater also. These vehicles were to be used not only as rough work vehicles but also as transport for people including managers on mines for example and so a few creature comforts were needed. This led to the creation of the Land Rover Tickford wagon the following year in 1949.

The Land Rover Tickford coachwork was designed and made by British coachbuilder Tickford who were used to making bodywork for Rolls-Royce and Lagonda luxury cars. The Tickford body used a wooden frame with metal panels and was fitted with leather seats as a station wagon. The Tickford body can easily be recognised from its more curved body and roof line. Tickford station wagons originally came with a one piece laminated windscreen but can be found with two piece windscreens also. These station wagons were fitted with a heater, some interior trim, and a metal cover over the bonnet mounted spare tyre.

Very few Tickford station wagons were made. The best estimate of the number made is something less than 700, of which only 50 were sold in Britain. This makes an original Tickford a worthwhile restoration project if you can find one.

Above: Land Rover Series I with a Tickford body.

The first variant of the Land Rover Series I was made from 1948 until 1950-1951 when the engine from the 1.6 litre Rover P3 engine was phased out and a 2.0 litre (1,995cc) in-line four cylinder engine with “Siamese Bores” progressively replaced it. The Siamese Bores means that there is no separation between the cylinder bores in the engine block, which also means that engine coolant cannot get between the bores to cool them more efficiently. At the same time the over run free-wheel four wheel drive system of the early models was replaced with a newly designed system with the front axle being connected/disconnected by use of a dog clutch.

The next major change to the Series I came in 1954 when the wheelbase of the vehicle was increased from 80” to 86”. At the same time a new “pick-up” version was introduced with a wheelbase of 107”. The extra length was used to provide a longer load bed on the back of the vehicle. In the middle of that year the Siamese bore version of the four cylinder engine was upgraded with the bores separated as “spread bores” to improve cooling. This engine had already been introduced in the Rover passenger cars in 1953. There are two versions of the “spread bore” engine. Engine numbers 5710xxxx are the first series of this engine and in 1955 with engine numbers 1706xxxxx are the later “spread bore” engine. If you are buying a Series I Land Rover remember that engine swaps are something that may well have happened to the vehicle you are purchasing, so close attention is warranted.

The creation of the 107” long wheelbase chassis made it possible for Rover to create a “Safari Wagon” five door version of the Land Rover Series I. This was a purpose built people carrier and could carry up to ten people. The Safari Wagon was fitted with a tropical roof, which provided a double roof to reduce summer temperatures inside the vehicle and provide some winter insulation also. Ventilators were provided for the inner (lower) roof to provide air flow and reduce interior condensation.

In 1956 the chassis dimensions were altered again and would remain at the new dimensions through the following Series 2 and Series 3 Land Rovers. In the middle of 1956 the new chassis extended the short wheelbase Land Rover to 88” and the long wheelbase to 109”. This was primarily done to make room to install a new diesel engine which would begin in 1957. The only Series I Land Rover not to get the new chassis was the Safari Station Wagon which was not intended to get the diesel engine. The diesel engine was a new design overhead valve unit and produced 52hp @ 4,000rpm.
Production of the Series I Land Rover ended one year later in 1958 when the model was replaced by the Series II Land Rover.

Buying a Land Rover Series I

If you are planning to buy a Land Rover Series I you need to remember that you are planning on buying a vehicle that was designed to be used in rough conditions as a utilitarian vehicle. This means that you not only have to contend with the probability of rust in the chassis and also in the steel frame that supports the body, but you also need to be looking for damage which will most likely be underneath to the chassis and for deformation of the chassis typically caused by the car having been driven off road or on rough tracks at speed. So, although a Land Rover was built to be rugged and tough it is certainly not indestructible.

Chassis:

This is a mission critical area. The mechanics of the vehicle tend to be easier to repair than rot or damage to the chassis.

– Thoroughly examine the underside of the car. Use a small ice pick or hammer to tap and look and listen for signs of damage and/or corrosion. A flat sound means trouble and a nice ring on tapping means clean metal. The chassis is box section and rust tends to start on the inside and work its way out.

– Check for under-body damage especially signs the chassis has been subjected to impact. Chassis damage is common on heavily used Land Rovers.

– Check behind the spring hangers for chassis rust.

– Check the chassis outriggers.

– Carefully inspect the bulkhead. Repairs to the bulkhead are possible but difficult.
The body panels are made of “Birmabright” which is an aluminium and magnesium alloy. This is bolted to a steel frame. This means there is likely to be “unlike metal corrosion” where the two metals are bolted together. This also means that the steel frame is subject to rust just as the chassis is. Repairs to the steel frame are normally easier than repairs to the chassis.

– Check the door frames and check the fit and operation of the doors. An ill fitting door may point to frame deformation.

– If Birmabright needs to be panel beaten it has to be annealed or it will crack. Workshop manuals normally have the instructions on how to do this.

– Check the floor panels. They can be unbolted and removed as can the transmission tunnel.

Mechanicals:

The mechanicals of a Land Rover Series I aren’t particularly challenging to work on, so if you are pretty competent with checking used cars you can check the usual suspects. If you are not then get the mechanics checked by someone who is.

– Check the radiator coolant to see if there are any milky deposits which would indicate oil leaking into the coolant.

– Check for oil leaks. Common leak areas include the area around the flywheel and clutch housing. A rear main seal is replaceable but will require some effort.

– Listen to the engine running. There will be some tappet noise but it should run evenly and sound smooth. Misfiring indicates trouble which may or may not be easy to fix.

– Check for blue smoke in the exhaust. Do a compression test or cylinder leakage test to check for worn piston rings etc.

– Drive the vehicle and put it through its paces. Get it off road or onto a loose surface and engage four wheel drive and drive it, then try low range four wheel drive. (if it has free wheeling hubs fitted then engage them first). Make sure it doesn’t pop out of gear on the over run and there aren’t any nasty grumbles or knocks coming from the transmission or running gear.

– Listen for differential whine both with only the rear wheel drive operational and in four wheel drive with the front differential engaged. Make sure the clutch engages firmly and smoothly. Remember there is no synchromesh on first or second gear so you’ll need to double de-clutch.

– Check thermostat housing bolts for corrosion and seizing.

– Check for wetness of the temperature sensor at the rear of the cylinder head. This can indicate a head gasket leak.

– Check core plugs and around the water pump for leaks.

– Check the swivel pin housings inside the front wheels. Make sure the surface of the swivel pin housings are not pitted or damaged.

– Check front and rear leaf springs and shock absorbers. Look for signs of corrosion of the leaf springs and for signs of weakness. The rear springs can become weak with age and sag. If they’ve had plenty of rough treatment they can crack and break.

– Check all the electrics work and have a good look at the wiring. Wiring that is old and fragile is an indicator that the vehicle is going to need a re-wiring job.

-Brakes: check they work properly and there are no nasty squeals or grabbing. Also check the handbrake which is located on the transmission.

Conclusion

The Land Rover Series I was the Land Rover that was the birth of a British icon. These are not a fast vehicle, in fact obtaining a standing to 60mph time may depend on whether or not you are on a downhill and have a following wind. They don’t so much “accelerate” as “gain momentum”. A Series I is going to be an old vehicle that may have had a rough life. A well restored example which has been professionally evaluated may be your best purchase option.

A barn find probably isn’t unless you have a good skill and knowledge set or are committed to a professional restoration job. All that being said Land Rovers are fun to drive despite the fact that they are slow. They were designed so that any repair job could be done on them without a workshop. The engine can even be overhauled in the wilderness in-situ. Off road they are a good performer, and they really come alive when you leave the asphalt and head off down a trail in the countryside – preferably with the roof off.

Editor’s Note: If you have tips, suggestions, or hard earned experience that you’d like to add to this buying guide please shoot us an email. We’re always looking to add to our guides, and your advice could be very helpful to other enthusiasts, allowing them to make a better decision.

Images courtesy of Land Rover

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