Valuable advice on how you could afford a Series model
LAND ROVERS that left the Solihull works on leaf springs have been appreciating in value big time in the last two decades. It started with early 80in Series Is, then spread like wildfire, with all Series Is quickly attaining classic status – and prices to match. Then, as the supply of sensibly-priced Series Is diminished, demand shifted to the Series IIS and Series IIIS.
Although I’m never entirely comfortable seeing venerable workhorses becoming collectors’ museum pieces (I’d rather see them on the road, as everyday runners), I have to concede that the new-found status and monetary value of SIIS, IIAS and IIIS has saved many of these old warriors from being run into the ground and lost forever. And that applies to first-generation Range Rovers, too – along with any other Land Rover models now getting long in tooth.
But British enthusiasts often forget that it wasn’t just Solihull that produced great Land Rovers back in the day. Series models in kit form – commonly known as CKD (completely knocked down) – were assembled abroad from very early days of production. These can often be picked up at bargain prices.
Take the Belgian Minerva, for example. Like Rover, this company started in the late 19th century by building bicycles, followed in the early 20th century by cars. Production at the company’s Antwerp factory ceased during the Nazi occupation in the second world war, but in the postwar years the company won a contract to build military vehicles for the Belgian Army.
In 1951 Minerva entered discussions with both Land Rover and Willys, builder of the US Jeep, but the 80in Series I impressed them most and in 1952 an order was placed for 2500 CKD kits that included chassis, engines, transmission gear and axles. The body panels, however, were made of steel in Minerva’s own factory. Unfortunately, the Belgians didn’t have sophisticated body presses, so were unable to emulate the curved front wing of the Land Rover. Instead, they had angular, sloping front wings.
Several of these distinctive vehicles ended up in Britain, and can often be found on ebay. The one pictured here is in great condition and is for sale at £5950 – a fraction of the price you’d expect to pay for an 80in Series I. It has just 52,305 miles on the clock – remarkable for a vehicle built in 1954! Recently imported from the Netherlands, it still boasts its original 2.0-litre Land Rover engine, too.
From the same era, but much less common, is the Tempo, another CKD kit-built Land Rover, but this time for the West German border police (Bundesgrenzschutz). Just 328 were known to have been built between 1953 and 1959. At the time of writing, I was unable to find any for sale, anywhere, but if you do find one expect to pay much the same price as you would pay for a Minerva.
But the most famous foreign-built Land Rover was the Santana. From 1958 it was assembled under licence in southern Spain from CKD kits shipped out from Solihull. Unlike the Minerva and Tempo, it was hugely successful and sold in much greater numbers. In fact, it was so successful that from 1968 the company began to diverge from Land Rover, developing new models of its own. Although Santana’s agreement with Land Rover officially ended in 1983, it continued to build leaf-sprung Series Iii-lookalikes powered by Iveco engines through to the 1990s.
If you type 'Santana' into ebay you will get the choice of tens of thousands of CDS from the band fronted by the legendary guitarist Carlos Santana… plus one or two examples of the legendary Santana 4x4s. The best I found at the time of writing this was on the Catawiki site – a stunning 1982 88in with just 7800 kilometres (4847 miles). It looks like a Series III fresh from the factory – an illusion helped by the fact that it shares the same distinctive plastic radiator grille as its Solihull counterpart. It also has a 2.25 Land Rover diesel engine.
Bidding had reached £6527 – a remarkable price for a vehicle in time warp condition. The only snag is that it is in Santa Ponsa on the Spanish island of Majorca. But having spent a pleasurable fortnight in that sun-kissed holiday resort a few years ago, I can recommend a break there followed by a ferry crossing to the mainland and a leisurely drive home through Spain and France. Just a thought…
Both the Belgian Minerva and Spanish Santana make Series I ownership affordable