The Land Rover Series I, II, and III are Off-road vehicles produced by the British manufacturer Land Rover. Land Rover say that 70% of these vehicles ever made are still in use today- a claim first made in the 1992 brochure and repeated many times since, being much publicised when cited by Richard Hammond of the BBC's Top Gear (current format).

Series models feature leaf-sprung suspension with selectable two- or Four-wheel drive.


The Land Rover was conceived by the Rover Motor Company in 1946 during the aftermath of World War II. Rover's usual products were luxury cars which were not in demand in the immediate post-war period and raw materials were strictly rationed to those companies building construction or industrial equipment, or products that could be widely exported to earn crucial foreign exchange for the country. Also, Rover's original factory in Coventry had been bombed during the war, forcing the company to move into a huge "shadow factory" it had built during the war in Solihull near Birmingham to construct aircraft. This factory was now empty but starting car production there from scratch would not be financially viable. Several plans for small, economical cars were drawn up, but all would be too expensive to produce.

Maurice Wilks, Rover's chief designer came up with a plan to produce a light agricultural and utility vehicle, of a similar concept to the Willys Jeep used in the war, but with an emphasis on agricultural use. He was possibly inspired by the Standard Motor Company, who faced similar problems and were producing the highly successful Ferguson TE20 Tractor in their shadow factory in Coventry. More likely, he used his own experience of using an army-surplus Jeep on his farm in Anglesey, North Wales. His design added a Power take-off (PTO) feature since there was a gap in the market between jeeps and tractors (which offered the feature but were less flexible as transport). The original Land Rover concept (a cross between a light truck and a tractor) is similar to the Unimog, which was developed in Germany during this period.

The prototype Land Rover was developed in 1947 and had a distinctive feature—the steering wheel was mounted in the middle of the vehicle. It hence became known as the "Centre steer". It was built on a Jeep chassis and used the engine and gearbox out of a Rover Motor Company saloon car. The bodywork was hand-made out of surplus aircraft grade aluminium, mainly an aluminium/magnesium alloy called Birmabright, to save on steel, which was closely rationed. Paint was also in short supply, resulting in the first production vehicles making use of Army surplus green paint.

Tests showed this prototype vehicle to be a capable and versatile machine. The PTO drives from the front of the engine and from the gearbox to the centre and rear of the vehicle to allow it to drive farm machinery, exactly as a tractor would. It was also tested Ploughing and performing other agricultural tasks. However, as the vehicle was readied for production, this emphasis on tractor-like usage decreased. The steering wheel was mounted off to the side as normal, the bodywork was simplified to reduce production time and costs and a larger engine was fitted, together with a specially-designed transfer gearbox to replace the Jeep unit. The result was a vehicle that didn't use a single Jeep component and was slightly shorter than its American inspiration, but wider, heavier, faster and still retained the PTO drives.

The Land Rover was designed to only be in production for 2-3 years to gain some cash flow and export orders for the Rover Company so it could restart up-market car production. It did, but by this time the Land Rover was outselling its normal car products by a huge amount and so the off-road vehicle has remained in production for 60 years. (This Year, 2008 is Land Rovers 60th Birthday)

Series IEdit

Land Rover entered production in 1948 with what was later termed the Series I. This was launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show. It was originally designed for farm and light industrial use, and had a steel box-section Chassis, and an aluminum body.

Originally based on the US Army Jeep the Land Rover was a single model offering, which from 1948 until 1951 used an 80 in (2032 mm) Wheelbase and a 1.6-litre Petrol engine producing around 80bhp. The 4-speed gearbox from, the Rover Motor Company was used, with a new 2-speed transfer box. This incorporated an unusual 4-wheel drive system, with a Freewheel unit (as used on several Rover cars of the time). This disengaged the front axle from the transmission on the overrun, allowing a form of permanent 4WD. A ring-pull mechanism in the driver's footwell allowed the freewheel to be locked to provide more traditional 4WD. This was a basic vehicle, tops for the doors and a roof (canvas or metal) were optional extras. In 1950, the lights moved from a position behind the Grille to protruding through the grille.

From the beginning it was realised that some buyers would want a Land Rover's abilities without the spartan interiors. In 1949 Land Rover launched a second body option called the "Station Wagon", fitted with a body built by Tickford, a coachbuilder known for their work with Rolls-Royce and Lagonda. The bodywork was wooden-framed and had seating for seven people. Tickfords were well equipped in comparison with the standard Land Rover, having leather seats, a heater, a one-piece laminated windscreen, a tin-plate spare wheel cover, some interior trim and other options. The wooden construction made them expensive to build and tax laws made this worse — unlike the original Land Rover, the Tickford was taxed as a private car, which attracted high levels of Purchase Tax. As a result, fewer than 700 Tickfords were sold, and all but 50 were exported. Today these early Station Wagons are highly sought after. Fewer than 10 are still known to exist, mainly in museums, and they can change hands for as much as £15,000.

In 1952 and 1953 the petrol engine was replaced with a larger 2.0-litre unit. This engine was "siamese bore", meaning that there were no water passages between the Pistons. Around this time the Land Rover's legal status was also clarified. As mentioned above, the Land Rover was originally classed as a commercial vehicle, meaning it was free from Purchase Tax. However, this also meant it was limited to a speed of 30 mph on British roads. After an appeal to the Law Lords after an owner was charged with exceeding this limit, the Land Rover was classified as a "multi-purpose vehicle" which was only to be classed as a commercial vehicle if used for commercial purposes. This still applies today, with Land Rovers being registered as commercial vehicles being restricted to a maximum speed of 60 mph (as opposed to the maximum 70 mph for normal cars) in Britain, although this rule is not often upheld nowadays.

1954 saw a big change: the 80 in (2032 mm) was replaced by an 86 in (2184 mm), and a 107 in (2718 mm) "Pick Up" version was introduced. The extra wheelbase was added behind the cab area to provide additional load space.

1956 saw the introduction of the first five-door model, on the 107 in chassis known as the "Station Wagon" with seating for up to ten people. The 86 in model was a three-door seven-seater. The new Station Wagons were very different to the previous Tickford model, being built with simple metal panels and bolt-together construction instead of the complex wooden structure of the older Station Wagon. They were intended to be used both as commercial vehicles as people-carriers for transporting workmen to remote locations, as well as by private users. Like the Tickford version, they came with basic interior trim and equipment such as roof vents and interior lights.

The Station Wagons saw the first expansion of the Land Rover range. Station Wagons were fitted with a "Safari Roof" which consisted of a second roof skin fitted on top of the vehicle. This kept the interior cool in hot weather and reduced condensation in cold weather. Vents fitted in the roof allowed added ventilation to the interior. While they were based on the same chassis and Drivetrains as the standard vehicles, Station Wagons carried different chassis numbers, special badging, and were advertised in separate brochures. Unlike the original Station Wagon, the new in-house versions were highly popular.

Wheelbases were extended by 2 in to 88 in (2235 mm) and 109 in (2769 mm) to accommodate the new diesel engine, to be an option the following year. This change was made to all models with the exception of the 107 Station Wagon, which would never be fitted with a diesel engine, and would eventually be the last series I in production.

Finally, in 1957, the "spread bore" petrol engine was introduced, followed shortly by a brand new 2.0-litre Diesel engine that, despite the similar capacity, was not related to the petrol engines used. The petrol engines of the time used the rather out-dated inlet-over-exhaust Valve arrangement; the diesel used the more modern overhead layout. This diesel engine was one of the first high-speed diesels developed for road use, producing 52 hp at 4000 rpm.

This engine was slightly longer than the original chassis allowed, so the wheelbase was increased from 86 to 88 in (2235 mm) for the short-wheelbase models, and from 107 to 109 in on the long-wheelbases. The extra two inches were added in front of the bulkhead to accommodate the new diesel engine. These dimensions were to be used on all Land Rovers for the next 25 years.

Series IIEdit

The successor to the successful Series I was the Series II, which saw a production run from 1958 to 1961. It came in 88 in (2235 mm) and 109 in (2769 mm) wheelbases (normally referred to as the 'SWB' and 'LWB'). This was the first Land Rover to adopt a relatively modern shape, and used the well-known 2.25-litre Petrol engine, although early short wheelbase (SWB) models retained the 2.0-litre petrol engine from the Series I for the first 1500 or so vehicles. This larger petrol engine produced 72 hp and was closely related to the 2.0-litre diesel unit still in use. This engine became the standard Land Rover unit until the mid-1980s when diesel engines became more popular.

The 109-inch Series II Station Wagon introduced a 12-seater option on top of the standard 10-seater layout. This was primarily to take advantage of UK tax laws, by which a vehicle with 12 seats or more was classed as a Bus, and was exempt from Purchase Tax and Special Vehicle Tax. This made the 12-seater not only cheaper to buy than the 10-seater version, but also cheaper than the 7-seater 88-inch Station Wagon. The 12-seater layout remained a highly popular bodystyle for decades, being retained on the later Series and Land Rover variants until 2002, when it was dropped. The unusual status of the 12-seater remained until the end- such vehicles were classed as Mini and thus could use Bus and (if registered correctly) could be exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

There was some degree of over-lap between Series I and Series II production. Early UK-market Series II 88-inch vehicles were fitted with the old 2-litre petrol engine to use up existing stock (all export models received the new 2.25-litre engine from the beginning), and production of the Series I 109-inch Station Wagon continued until late 1959 due to continued demand from export markets and to allow the production of Series II components to reach full level.

Series IIAEdit

The SII and the SIIA are very difficult to distinguish. There were some minor cosmetic changes, but the most significant change was under the bonnet in the guise of the new 2.25-litre Diesel engine. Body configurations available from the factory ranged from short wheelbase soft top to the top of the line five-door Station Wagon. Also the 2.6-litre straight six petrol engine was introduced for use in the long wheelbase models in 1967, the larger engine complemented by standard-fit servo-assisted brakes.

From February 1969 (home market) the headlamps moved into the wings on all models, and the sill panels were redesigned to be shallower a few months afterwards.

The Series IIA is considered by many the most hardy Series model constructed. It is also the type of classic Land Rover that features strongly in the general public's perception of the Land Rover, from its many appearances in popular films and television documentaries set in Africa throughout the 1960s, such as Born Free. Certainly it was whilst the Series IIA was in production that sales of utility Land Rovers reached their peak, in 1969-70, when sales of over 60,000 Land Rovers a year were recorded (for comparison, the sales of the Defender in recent years have been around the 25,000 level since the 1990s). As well as record sales, the Land Rover dominated many world markets- in Australia in the 1960s Land Rover held 90% of the 4x4 market. This figure was repeated in many countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The oldest Series 2a is called Pilgrim and has just been shipped over to Washington U.S.A

Series IIA Forward ControlEdit

The Series IIA FC launched in 1962 was based on the Series IIA 2.25-litre petrol engine and 109 in chassis, with the cab positioned over the engine to give more load space. Export vehicles were the first Land-Rovers to get the 2.6-litre petrol engine. Most examples had an ENV rear axle, a matching front axle came later. Tyres were large 900x16 types on deep-dish wheel rims to provide extra floatation for this heavy vehicle. These vehicles were somewhat underpowered for the increased load capacity (30 cwt - 1520kg), and most had a hard working life. Less than 2500 were made, and most had a utility body, but surviving examples often have custom bodywork. With an upgraded powertrain, they can be used as a small motorhome.

Series IIB Forward ControlEdit

The Series IIB FC produced from 1966 was similar to the Series IIA Forward Control but added the 2.25-litre diesel engine as an option. The 2.6 L engine was the standard engine for this model, the 2.25 litre engine being only available for export.

Heavy duty wide-track axles (designed by ENV) to fitted to improve vehicle stability, as was a front anti-roll bar and revised rear springs which were mounted above the axle rather than below it. In the process the wheelbase was increased to 110 in. Production ended in 1974 when Land-Rover rationalised its vehicle range. Many IIB components were also used on the "1 Ton" 109" vehicle.

Series IIIEdit

The Series III had the same body and engine options as the preceding IIa, including station wagons and 1 Ton versions. Little changed cosmetically from the IIA to the Series III. The Series III is the most common Series vehicle, with 440,000 of the type built from 1971 to 1985. The Headlights were moved to the wings on late production IIA models from 1968/9 onward (ostensibly to comply with Australian, American and Dutch lighting regulations) and remained in this position for the Series III. The traditional metal grille, featured on the Series I, II and IIA, was replaced with a plastic one for the Series III model. The 2.25 L engine had its compression raised from 7:1 to 8:1, increasing the power slightly (the high compression engine had been an optional fit on the IIa model for several years). During the Series III production run from 1971 until 1985, the 1,000,000th Land Rover rolled off the production line in 1976. The Series III saw many changes in the later part of its life as Land Rover updated the design to meet increased competition. This was the first model to feature Synchromesh on all four gears, although some late H suffix IIa models had used an all-synchro box. In keeping with early 1970s trends in automotive interior design, both in safety and use of more advanced materials, the simple metal dashboard of earlier models was redesigned to accept a new moulded plastic dash. The instrument cluster, which was previously centrally located, was moved to the driver's side. Long-wheelbase series III vehicles had the Salisbury rear axle as standard, although some late IIa 109" vehicle had them too.

From 1979, increased investment by the British Government brought numerous improvements. From that year the more powerful 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine as used in the Range Rover, albeit a detuned version (91 horsepower), was used in the Stage 1 V8 109. This was the first stage in the development of what was to become the 110. It used a variant of the Range Rover engine and drive train making it the only Series III vehicle to have permanent four wheel drive.

In 1980 the 4-cylinder 2.25-litre engines (both petrol and diesel) were updated with five-bearing crankshafts to increase strength in heavy duty work. At the same time the Transmission (mechanics), Axles and wheel hubs were re-designed for increased strength. This was the culmination of a series of updates to the transmission that had been made since the 1960s to combat the all-too-common problem of the rear axle half-shafts breaking in heavy usage. This problem was partly due to the design of the shafts themselves. Due to the fully-floating design of the rear wheel hubs, the half shafts can be removed very quickly without even having to jack the vehicle off the ground. Rover designed the shafts to have a weak point so if the transmission was over-stressed, the easily-replaced half-shafts would break instead of a Differential unit or the main Gearbox. The tendency for commercial operators to overload their vehicles exacerbated this intended flaw which blighted the Series Land Rovers in many of their export markets and established a reputation that continues in many markets to the present day. This is despite the 1982 re-design (mainly the changing of the driveshafts from 12 driving-Splines to 24 to reduce stress) all but solved the problem.

Also, new trim options were introduced to make the interior more comfortable if the buyer so wished (many farmers and commercial users preferred the original, non-trimmed interior).

These changes culminated in 1982 with the introduction of the "County" spec Station Wagon Land Rovers, available in both 88-inch and 109-inch types. These had all-new cloth seats from the Leyland T-45 Lorry, soundproofing kits, tinted glass and other "soft" options designed to appeal to the leisure owner/user.

Of more interest was the introduction of the High Capacity Pick Up to the 109-inch chassis. This was a pick-up truck load bay that offered 25% more cubic capacity than the standard pick-up style. The HCPU came with heavy-duty suspension and was popular with public utility companies and building contractors.

The Series Land Rover in AustraliaEdit

Australia has always been an important export market for Land Rovers of all sorts, but especially the utility models. 80-inch Series I models were imported by the Australian government in the late 1940s for work on civil engineering projects such as dams and road construction, which brought the vehicle to the buying public's attention. Large sales followed and in the 1950s Land Rover established a factory in Australia to build CKD kits shipped from the Solihull factory. The Land Rover continued to sell well throughout the 1960s in Series II guise, commanding some 90% of the off-road market, and with practically every farm having at least one Land Rover. The lack of power was often resolved by replacing the engine with a Holden 172 engine for which conversion kits were readily available.

The Series III continued this success in the early 1970s, but from the middle of the decade sales declined. A combination of increasing competition (mostly from Japanese vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser) and increasingly poor quality of the parts being shipped from Britain meant that Land Rover's dominance slipped. The problems faced by Land Rover were the same throughout its export markets- compared to the Japanese competition, the Land Rover was underpowered, unreliable and slow with a poor ride quality, despite their superior off-road ability. Poor rust-proofing and low-quality Steel in comparison to the Japanese vehicles turned the buyers away in large numbers and by 1983, with the introduction of the One Ten, the Land Cruiser was the best selling 4x4 in Australia.

In the early 1980s, Land Rover Australia had made some changes to the vehicle to try and combat this sales decline. As well as the fitting of the V8 petrol engine in the 1979 "Stage One", as in the rest of the world, Australia also received the same vehicle with the option of a 3.8-litre 89 hp Isuzu diesel engine. This helped slow the sales decline, but the rest of the vehicle's shortcomings let it down. The One Ten was also available with this engine, which was later turbocharged to produce in excess of 100 horsepower.

Stage 1 V8Edit

Produced from 1979 to 1983. The term 'Stage 1' refers to the first stage of investment in the company to improve the Land Rover and Range Rover product offerings. It had a de-tuned version of the Range Rover V8 and shares the same 4 speed permanent four-wheel drive drivetrain.

Other modelsEdit

The 1 Ton 109" - produced from 1968 to approx 1977, covering late IIa and early series III Models. Basically it was a series IIb forward control built with a standard 109 body, featuring 2.6 L petrol engine, lower ratio gearbox, ENV front and rear axles, (Salisbury front and rear on series III) though during the transition period some were fitted with ENV axles in front and Salsbury on the rear. The chassis frame was unique to the model and featured drop-shackle suspension similar to the military series Land-Rovers. 900x16 tyres were a standard feature and these machines were commonly used by utility companies and breakdown/recovery firms. Only 170 IIa and 275 (approx) Series IIIs (1 Ton) were built for the home market.


The Army used Series Land Rovers in large numbers (and continues to use the modern Land Rover versions). The British Army tested the 80-inch Series I Land Rover almost as soon as it was launched in 1948. At that time, the Army was more interested in developing a specially-designed military utility 4x4 (the Austin Champ). However, the Champ proved too complex, heavy and unreliable in battlefield conditions so the Army looked to the Land Rover. In the late 1940s the Mini was keen on the standardisation of its vehicles and equipment. Part of this plan was the fitment of Rolls-Royce petrol engines to all its vehicles (even though most were not actually built by R-R). A batch of Series I Land Rovers were fitted with Rolls-Royce B40 4-cylinder engine, which required modification to an 81-inch wheelbase). However, the engine was too heavy and slow-revving, which stunted performance, and produced torque that the Rover gearbox could only just cope with. Rover convinced the MOD that, considering the quantities of Land Rovers they were considering ordering, that the standard 1.6-litre engine would suffice. The MOD started ordering Land Rovers in batches from late 1949. The initial batches were for 50 vehicles, but by the mid 1950s the Army was buying Land Rovers 200 vehicles at a time.

Land Rovers were deployed to the Korean War and the Suez Crisis, and became standard light military vehicles throughout the Commonwealth.

The Army's Land Rover fleet was initially comprised standard-specification vehicles. However, as the 1960s progressed, more and more specialised versions were developed. As well as the standard 'GS' (General Service) vehicles, a common variant was the 'FFR' (Fitted For Radio', which had 24-Volt electrics and a large engine-powered generator to power on-board radios. There were also Ambulances on the 109-inch Series II chassis. A well-known version was the LRDPV (Long-Range Desert Patrol Vehicle), commonly called the 'Pink Panther', on account of their distinctive light pink sand camoflague. These 109-inch Series IIs were stripped of doors and windscreens and fitted with Grenade launchers, a Machine gun mounting ring and long-range fuel tanks and water tanks. They were used by the SAS for desert patrol and special operations.

By the late 1970s the British Army had acquired around 9,000 Series III models, which were mainly a special 'Heavy Duty' version of the 109-inch Soft Top. These models had improved suspension components and a different chassis cross-member design. These were produced in 12-Volt 'GS' models and 24-Volt 'FFR' versions. There were also 109-inch Ambulances built by Marshall Aerospace. There were small numbers of 88-inch GS and FFR models, but in general the Army used the Air-Portable ('Lightweight') version of the 88-inch model.

The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force also acquired and maintained smaller Land Rover fleets during the 1960s and 1970s. The RAF used 88-inch models for communications, liaison, personnel transport and airfield tractor duties. The Royal Navy's fleet was, understandably, small and consisted mainly of GS-spec and Station Wagon versions for personnel and cargo transport.

In the Falklands War of 1982 the Army ordered 200 'Commercial Spec' (i.e- base model) 88-inch Land Rover Series IIIs for rapid deployment to the South Atlantic. However, the Land Rovers were lost when the cargo ship 'Atlantic Conveyor' was sunk.

All British military Land Rovers used the 2.25-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine. However, some overseas customers (such as the The Netherlands) specified the 2.25-litre diesel unit instead.

The Land Rover has been used as the basis for several Army vehicles including the Land Rover, the Land Rover, and the FV18067 Ambulance.

The Land Rover is also the basis for the Shorland (vehicle) developed by Short Brothers.


Minerva of Belgium produced a vehicle called a Standard Vanguard, which was produced in Belgium, under licence of the Standard Motor Company.

When Belgium's army needed a lightweight 4x4 vehicle, the head of Minerva, Monsieur van Roggen approached the Rover Motor Company company in the spring of 1951. On the 21st of June, Rover discovered that they were competing against Willy's Jeep for the contract. In October 1951, the deal was agreed and in 1952, the Minerva-Land Rover was produced.

The Rover company supplied technical support for Minerva and allowed Minerva to produce Land Rover under licence to Rover.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.