History of the 1961 - 1971 Land Rover Series IIA
The Land Rover Series I to Series III (SI to SIII) were produced from 1948 to 1958 and these are generally referred to as the “Series Land Rovers” to collectively separate them from later offerings from the company. The designer, Maurice Wilkes, is thought to have been inspired by the Jeeps in use on his farm, foreseeing a market for a similar civilian vehicle post-war. There are a large variety of body styles and seating configurations but all are front-engined with 4-wheel drive, leaf spring suspension and drum brakes all round.
The Series I Land Rover was designed to fulfil the need for export post-war and to be produced using simple tooling. This focus on the needs of the time also resulted in the body, fitted to a steel box section chassis, being made from aluminium and having a minimum of curved surfaces. Initially the Land Rover had permanent 4-wheel drive with the existing Rover “free wheel” device incorporated in the drive to the front axle. Conventional 4-wheel drive was adopted in 1950. Although underpowered for the road and extremely basic (door screens and hood were options) the high ground clearance and integral power take off meant that it was extremely capable in its intended role. The original short wheelbase chassis (SWB) was lengthened in 1954 when a 107” long wheelbase (LWB) was also introduced. A further couple of inches were added in 1956.
The original Station Wagon was produced in 1949 and was built by Tickford. This was expensive and the full-factory Station Wagon with rigid roof and multiple seating replaced it in 1956. The SWB Station Wagon has 3 doors and seats 7 while the LWB version has 5 doors and 10 seats.
The Series II Land rover was introduced in 1958 and was restyled by David Bache who introduced the classic “barrel-sided” shape. He also introduced the familiar cab design for the pickups incorporating curved glass. A Station Wagon with 12 seats was also offered with this update.
1961 saw the SIIA take over with minor changes, mainly seen through an increased range of engines being offered. Servo assisted brakes were brought in during 1967 and in 1969 the headlights moved to the wings. During this time the Forward Control (FC) was brought out with the cab moved to the front of the chassis. These are heavier but have a larger load space and were generally used as the basis for specialist vehicles.
The Land Rover Series III was brought out in 1973 and most obviously had a new plastic grille and a plastic dashboard. Apart from this there was a little more legroom making the driving position more comfortable. The SIII also became more refined with the heater becoming a standard fit and door trims being introduced as an option. In 1980 the complete power train was strengthened and 1982 saw the more civilised “County” spec, aimed at the leisure market. Production ceased in 1985.
As may be expected with such a rugged and long-lived car there are many variations and specials but the “Stage 1” is noteworthy in that it combines a de-tuned Rover V-8 with permanent 4-wheel drive. Likewise the “1 Ton”, which was produced from 1968 to 1977, and combined the beefed up mechanicals of the CF with a normal 109” body.
The Land Rover SI started out with a 1.6-litre engine, the 2-litre being added to the range in 1952 and a 2-litre diesel in 1957. The gearbox was a 4-speed unit with synchromesh on third and top only. A 2.25-litre petrol engine was added early in the SII production run and a 2.25 diesel when the SIIA was introduced. An additional 2.6-litre petrol engine came out in 1967. The Series III saw the introduction of a fully synchromeshed 4-speed manual gearbox and the rear axle changing to a Salisbury unit. In 1980 the engines were upgraded to have five bearing cranks.
The Land Rover was designed as a basic car and that is exactly what they are like to drive. On the road the Series I and II are drafty, noisy and slow; lurching and crashing through surface imperfections. The SIII is better but still a trial to drive on tarmac. Off road though they really come into their own with the low powered but willing engines and high ground clearance showing why they were the vehicle of choice for expeditions at home and across the world.
The chassis and outriggers can be prone to rust and even if the bodywork looks good these should be checked when buying a Land Rover Series. Also check for oil around all of the drive train as this may indicate problems with the seals. Such a large market does mean that most parts are available but cost up potential repairs against better condition cars when buying.
With so many Land Rovers being produced and an estimated 70% still in use the Series Land Rovers are generally cheaper than their younger brethren. However special provenance vehicles are especially sought after so Royal cars, pre-production or early production models and factory specials such as fire engines fetch a premium. The Tickford Station Wagon is the most desirable.
For alternative cars to adventure in look to the Suzuki J1, the Jeep or Lada 4x4.