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Land Rover Series Car of the Week

Rod Halligan
CarsGuide

14 Apr 2009 • 4 min read

With the recent launch of the 2010 Land Rover & Range Rover models we thought it would be a good time to look back at where the marque began.

The Land Rover was born out of what was essentially a pet project for the head designer of Rover, Maurice Wilks. While on his farm Wilks modified a WWII Jeep, utilising its chassis and aircraft grade aluminum sheet from the abundant supply available post WWII. This anti-corrosive aluminum and magnesium alloy was known as Birmabright and as a result of its use the original Series 1 Land Rovers, developed a reputation for durability and longevity. Also in abundant supply was matt green paint utilised during the war for aircraft cockpits. This colour became synonymous with Series Land Rovers.

The production Land Rover Series I was launched at the Amsterdam Motorshow on the 30th of April, 1948. The lightweight flat surface panel design on box ladder chassis and rugged simple drivetrain meant the Land Rover was not only a capable All-Terrain Vehicle but also a favorite workhorse for farmers. All Series Land Rovers had the option of a Power Take-Off unit - an integral part of the philosophy behind the versatile workhorse that Wilks had in mind when he designed the vehicle. This PTO was driven from a driveshaft off the transmission and comprised a case utilising gears, pulleys and pinions with two interchangeable ratios. This PTO unit enable the Land Rover to act as a stationary engine powering a vast array of farm machinery.

The versatile reputation of the Land Rover was further enhanced by the extensive variety of body styles. From the most rudimentary and common 2-seat canvas top pick-up through to troop carriers. The Land Rover has seen virtually all forms of public service including tow wagons, fire engines and ambulances. After market companies have provided conversions including six wheel drive, amphibians and tracked replacements for wheels.

Various countries have put the Land Rover into military and police service. Highly armoured conversions were the backbone of the Northern Ireland Police Force. The most popular of these police conversions was known as the Hotspur, which itself made a significant literary appearance in William Gibsons Sci Fi work, "Virtual Light".

The most notable military version was the Series IIa, "Pink Panthers". About 100 units were converted for use as reconnaissance vehicles by the British SAS. They were named after the choice of body color - pink.

The private enthusiast has also provided a vast array of individual customisation with many popular off-road racer and buggy conversions.

Early Land Rovers utilised four and six cylinder petrol engines from Rover cars. Designed before WWII with rudimentary inlet-over-exhaust manifolds, these engines were seen as the weakest point of early versions. This resulted in a significant after market business replacing engines with more powerful and robust units.

Here in Australia the favorite replacement engine was the Holden 161, 186 and 202 in-line six, or Red Motor. During the late 1940’s the Australian Government had imported many Series I models for use in various large public works projects, many of these went on to become farm workhorses and engine replacements were very common. During the 1960’s the Land Rover accounted for 90% of all 4x4 vehicles in Australia.

There are many active Land Rover enthusiasts clubs in Australia and the original Series attracts passionate followers. One high profile enthusiast is Top Gear's Richard Hammond.

Series I through III Land Rovers where manufactured continuously from 1948 to 1985 at which point they where replaced by the less utilitarian Defender range. The Land Rover range currently comprises:

    * Defender.
    * Freelander.
    * Discovery
    * Range Rover
    * Range Rover Sport

The top of the range Range Rover, while an extremely capable off-road vehicle, is so far removed from the Series I philosophy that is has more in common with a Rolls Royce.

Details

Series I
Production         1948-1958

Engine(s)          1.6 L I4 (1948-1951)
                            2.0 L I4 (1950-58)
                            2.0 L diesel I4 (1957-58)

Transmission  4 speed manual

Wheelbase       1948-1953:        2032 mm (80.0 in)
                            1954-1956:        2184 mm
                            1948-1956:        2718 mm
                            1957-1958:        2235 mm - SWB
                            2769 mm - LWB

Length               3353 mm  / 3569 mm - SWB
                            4407 mm - LWB

Width                 1549 mm

Height               1867 mm

Series II
Production         1958-1961

Engine(s)          2.25 L petrol I4
                            2.0 L I4 diesel

Transmission  4 speed manual

Wheelbase       2235 mm - SWB
                            2769 mm - LWB

Length               3617 mm - SWB
                            4445 mm - LWB

Width                 1676 mm

Height               1969 mm - SWB
                           2057 mm - LWB

Series IIA
Production        1961-1971
Engine(s)          2.25L I4
                            2.6L IOE I6

Transmission  4 speed manual

Wheelbase       2235 mm - SWB
                            2769 mm - LWB

Length               3617 mm - SWB
                            4445 mm - LWB

Width                 1676 mm

Height               1969 mm - SWB
                           2057 mm - LWB

Series III
Production        1971-1985

Engine(s)          54 kW I4 Petrol
                            2.25 - 46 kW I4 Diesel
                            2.6 L - 64 kW I6 Petrol
                            3.5 L - 68 kW V8 Petrol

Transmission(s) 4 speed manual main transmission
                            2-speed manual transfer gearbox
                            Selectable 4 wheel drive

Wheelbase        2235 mm - SWB
                             2769 mm - LWB

Length                3617 mm - SWB
                             4445 mm - LWB

Width                  1676 mm

Height                1969 mm - SWB
                            2057 mm - LWB

 

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