SERIES LAND ROVER
The way folk talk about the extortionate prices that Series Land Rovers are fetching, you’d think they were out of reach to all but Arab oil sheiks and Russian oligarchs. But the truth is you can buy a brilliant example for less than £10,000, with even 60-year-old Series Is within your spending bracket.
It won’t buy you a real rarity, of course. Very early 80in Series Is from 1948 to ’ 53 are unlikely to be found for less than five figures, unless they are neglected farm finds in need of total restoration. Some rare but prized variants like the 107in Station Wagon (the one that looks like it’s assembled from Meccano parts) and Tickford Station Wagons are also getting very expensive.
But the later Series Is are within your £10,000 budget. And the good news is that the later the model, the more suitable it will be for everyday driving. Series Is improved a lot, incrementally, by Land Rover’s engineers over their ten-year-old production run. Late 88in models, for example, are very different beasts to those original 80-inchers.
In 1958 the SI was replaced by the Series II, which was much less spartan and its rounded body lines were far removed from the austere flat panels of its predecessor. Some minor changes resulted in it being rebadged Series IIA in 1961, but it did coincide with a new 2.25-litre diesel engine to replace the underpowered 2.0-litre of the SII.
The 1971 launch of the Series III saw the introduction of an all-new synchromesh gearbox, and stronger halfshafts, and the reliability of the 2.25 petrol engine was improved with five main bearings instead of three, but the most obvious cosmetic difference was the distinctive plastic grille that replaced the steel grille of its predecessor. The electrics were also uprated and the dynamo replaced with an alternator. Inside, the instrument cluster was moved from the centre to in front of the driver and the metal dash was covered in soft plastic.
Series III production coincided with the British Leyland era and during this time investment in Land Rover was miserly. Improvements continued to be made though – the most important being the introduction of the Stage One V8 in 1979, which saw the Range Rover’s powerful 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine installed. To make room for that big aluminium lump, the grille had to be moved forwards, giving an early preview of what the later Defenders would look like.
Apart from these models, Solihull also turned out Forward Control variants, the SIIA, SIIB and V8-powered 101 FC, and models aims at the military, including the commonplace SIII Lightweight.
All V8-powered models – especially the 101 FC – are very thirsty. Diesels are sluggish by modern standards. Most reckon the best compromise is the 2.25 petrol, which is reasonably economical, delivering over 20 mpg, yet much nippier than the oil-burners.
For £10,000 you can expect to find a decent 80in Series I, or a very good later model. The same money will also buy you an excellent Series II, SIIA or SIII. Forward Controls and ex-military Lightweights all fall in the same sort of price bracket.
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