land rover

Land Rover Timeline

1947 The beginning
  • Sept 4: the Land Rover project first fully explained to the Rover Car Company Board of Directors. The project was approved for full production (before the prototype was made)
  • Oct 15: First photos of finished prototype (80″)
  • Oct 16: The name “Landrover” was approved by Board of Directors
  • Apr 20: The Times first publicly reports the Land-Rover
  • Apr 30: Land-Rover shown to public at Amsterdam Car show
  • 1949 First Land Rovers sold into USA and Canada (via Roots Motors, Inc.)
    1950 April. First show of Land Rover in USA at British Automobile and Motorcycle show
    1953 Autumn. Wheelbase lengthened from 80″ to 86″
    1954 Autumn. 100,000th Land Rover built
    1956 Autumn. 107″ introduced
    Land Rover reaches agreement with Metalurgica de Santa Ana, S.A. They build Santana Land Rovers, production reaching 18,000 by 1980.
    1958 March. Series II introduced
    Land Rover ends relationship with Roots Motors, Inc and established a presence in North America as Rover Motor Company of North America, headquartered in Toronto, Canada
    1959 November. 250,000th Land Rover built
    1960 US Land Rover HQ moves to New York, NY
    1961 September. Series IIA announced
    1962 12 Seat 109 announced for home market (to avoid a tax)
    September. 109″ Forward Control announced.
    1966 April. 500,000th Land Rover built
    September. NADA (North American Dollar Area) 109″ announced.
    Rover is first non-US manufacturer to introduce emissions controlled vehicles into USA
    1967 June/July. Range Rover prototype #1 built
    Rover Motor Company merges with Leyland, Leyland becomes dominant
    Leyland merges with British Motor Holdings (owned Jaguar and EMC to form British Leyland Motor Corporation
    1970 June. Range Rover first appears in public (2 door)
    1971 June. 750,000th Land Rover built
    September. SIII announced
    1974 British Leyland abandons North American Market for Land Rover
    Association of Land Rover Owners of Canada (ALROC) established
    4th Quarter: British Leyland nationalized
    1975 British Leyland Motor Company changes its name to British Leyland, Ltd.
    Rover Owners of Virginia (ROAV) founded
    1976 June. 1,000,000th Land Rover produced
    1978 Land Rover, Ltd created
    1979 February. Land Rover V8 (stage 1) announced
    1980 British Leyland collapses in North America
    1981 4 door Range Rover introduced
    1982 Ottawa Valley Land Rovers (OVLR) established as a local chapter of ALROC
    1983 March: Land Rover 110 Announced at Geneva Motor Show
    4th quarter: 127″ (also called 130) Crew Cab made available
    1984 Land Rover Owner Association of America (LROA) founded
    June: Land Rover 90 (92.9″) launched
    1987 16 March. Range Rover launched in USA
    26 October. Official opening of Range Rover of North America HQ in Maryland.
    1988 British Aerospace buys Rover Group from British Government for (pounds)150,000,000.
    1989 Solihull Society founded
    Land Rover Canada established
    Honda buys 20% stake in Rover
    1st half. Production of Discoveries (3 door) starts
    September. Discovery introduced at Frankfurt Auto Show
    2.5L 200 TDi (diesel) introduced, exclusively on Discovery
    1990 Land Rover model name changed to Defender
    200 TDi fitted to Defenders
    June. Land Rover sells its 23% share of Land Rover Santana
    Autumn. 5 door Discovery announced.
    1992 Bay State Rover Owners Assoc. (BSROA) founded
    500 Defender 110’s to the USA, 25 to Canada
    August. Range Rover of North America changes its name to Land Rover of North America.
    August. High Capacity Pick-up announced
    Autumn. 108″ Range Rover introduced
    1993 The SAAB pull at the 10th OVLR Birthday Party
    200 TDi fitted to Range Rovers
    4th Quarter: Defender 90s first sold in US (’94 models)
    1994 11 January. Last 2 door Range Rover built
    31 January. Announcement of BMW buying the Rover Group ( which includes Land Rover) from British Aerospace for UKP 800,000,000
    Discovery launched in Canada
    March. Launch of Discovery (5 door) in USA
    ALROC agrees to be absorbed by OVLR
    200 TDi production ceases.
    1995 2.5L 300 TDi introduced
    February. Last Range Rover Classic built.
    December. Defender imports cease in the United States.
    1996 The Freelander, aka CB40, a new Land Rover model is revalued.
    1997 One final year of Defender imports to the United States starts.
    1999 Discovery Series II introduced.
    2000 May. Ford buys Land Rover from BMW for $2.7 billion
    Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2009. Last modified March 15, 2005.

    The Series One Land Rover

    Series I (General): Flat door hinges. No sills. A single marker light on the front of the wing. The windscreen is taller than on later vehicles. The most famous Series I Land Rover is the “AntiChrist” that stars in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”

    • Series I 80″ (1949-1954): The doors are tapered. Earlier 80″s have the headlamps behind the galvanized metal grill, later 80″ have them peeking through the metal grill. The instrument panel on an 80″ is vertically narrow with rounded ends. The fresh air vents are square ended. There are no side sills.
    • Series I 81″ Rolls Royce B40 Testbed (1951-1952): These would not generally be considered prototypes any more than Land Rovers around the World fitted with various engines from a multitude of manufacturers. The British Army tests never considered the Land Rover as anything other than a platform to test the engine and there were no serious considerations for it’s eventual use in the Land Rovers being developed by the Rover Company at the time. The engine on the other hand was to be the standard 4 cylinder power plant for all British Army “Fighting Vehicles” of that size as there were also B60 and B80 engines destined for larger/heavier vehicles such as the Ferret scout car and the Saracen armored personnel carrier. These later engines were tested using Austin and other trucks as the test plat! form, without intention to use them in the particular brand trucks. Some of the tests on the Rolls Royce B40 engine for the British Army were actually performed by the Australian Army and the reports of those Australian tests can be sourced from the Australian National Archives. Although as a foreign national you may not meet the criteria for access. However having seen and read a number of the original reports, I can attest to the fact that the Army Testing Establishment was very clear that the modified 80″ Land Rovers were nothing more than test beds. In fact simultaneously with the Rolls Royce B40 tests in Australia was the test of a GM 2.28 litre 6 cylinder engine in another 80″ Land Rover, these tests were conducted between December 1951 and mid 1952. The British Army number of the B40/Land Rover used in Australia was 11B C77, you may be able to find out more information as to the chassis number of the car in question. (Contributed by Diana Alan of Sydney, AU)
    • Series I 86″(1954-1956): The instrument panel is similar to a Series II or IIA, being a large rectangular panel in the Centrex of the dashboard. The doors on the 86″ are not tapered like the 80″, but are straight. There are no sills under the doors. The headlamp rims are body colored. From the side, the bottom portion, behind the front tire, of the front wing is equal in length to the bottom portion, ahead of the rear tire, of the rear box.
    • Series I 88″(1957-1958): Very similar to a 86″ Land Rover , but the front bumper is thicker (vertically), chrome headlamp rims, inverted T grille. From the side, the bottom portion, behind the front tire, of the front wing is about 1-2 inches longer than the length of the bottom portion, ahead of the rear tire, of the rear box. Canadian spec. SI 88″ has one piece doors with no galvanized strip to denote where the top and bottom door mated. The interior is well padded with insulation, the front vents do not open. There is a heater box that extends across the cab under the dash, the air inlet being on the inside panel of the right wing in front of the breakfast panel. There are known to be four 107″ Land Rover station wagons imported into Canada with these doors. [If you want to break the rules of this Guide, open the door and look at the Serial Number. A Canadian spec vehicle has a “C” suffix.]

    The Series II Land Rover

    Series II(1958-1961): The Series II has sills under the wing/door/box section. The waist is curved, bulging out from under the side windows. There are a pair of side lights on the front of the wings horizontally mounted. For the observant, the dash vents on the earlier Series II are opened with a large round crank knob. The vents themselves are held on by screws to the hinges (while the IIA are spot welded). The steering differs in that the steering arms are above the axle, unlike below on the IIA.

    Canadian spec. SII 88″ (and a number of American hardtops) Land Rovers have one piece front doors. It is heavily insulated inside and came with two heaters.

    The Series IIA Land Rover

    Series IIA (General)(1962-1972): Unlike the USA, both 88″ and 109″ models were imported into Canada until the end of 1972. In the US the last 109″ SIIAs were imported in 1968 and SIIA 88″ until 1971.

    • Early Land Rover Series IIA(1962-1967): Headlamps are on the breakfast. Tall sills under the doors, about four inches in height. Steering tie rods connect under the axles. Dash is painted body co lour. Separate windscreen wiper motors. Mirrors on the wings. To many, this is the “Classic” Land-Rover.
      Note: There is at least one Canadian Early IIA with factory headlamps in the wings, but this is extremely rare.
    • Transitional IIA Land Rover(1968/9?) (a few thousand built): Headlamps on the wings, but surface mounted giving a “bugeye” look. Grille was an inverted T, but the wide portion is nearly the height of the Centrex portion. Rest of details similar to the Late IIA.
    • Late Series IIA Land Rover(1968/9-1971): Headlamps are on the wings, but the radiator panel is covered by a metal galvanized grill (after 1969). The later IIA had a single, single speed, windshield motor (after 1967). The instrument panel is painted black, and not body co lour as on earlier vehicles. The sill panels are narrower, being approximately two inches tall, unlike the much wider panels on the earlier IIA’s. (1969-71 door latches changed, changed again for III). Mirrors on the top door hinge.

    The Series III Land Rover

    Series III(1972-85): Headlights on the front of the wings, a plastic grill and name badge. Other distinguishing features on a Series III will be the fascia and instruments. The Series III sported a revised fascia in black plastic where the instrumentation was moved from the Centrex of the dash to be in front of the driver. The door hinges are thick and flat, with a mirror mounted on the top hinge. The Series III has a single two speed wiper motor. Variants: The military 88″ & 109″ have a rectangular rear crossmember, generally over riders in the front bumper and straps to hold the bonnet mounted tire down.

    Stage One(summer 1979-1985: Although technically a SIII 109″ Land Rover with a V8 engine, it is always listed as a separate model. The grill is pushed out flush with the wings. The grill itself is a wide pattern, square wire mesh. The Stage One Land Rover had leaf springs and a two piece, square edged windscreen. All Stage ones are 109″, had a sticker on the rear quarter panel that said V8 and just above the wire mesh of the grill was a plate with “Land Rover”. The “V8” sticker is also found below the Land Rover logo in back. The bonnet wraps down over the top of the breakfast. All other specs are as per the SIII.

    90, 110, 127, 130, Defender

    90/110/127/Defender(March 1983 to present): Until 1990 the model name was Land Rover 90, Land Rover 110 or Land Rover 127, after that date the model name was changed to Defender (i.e.. Defender 90), and The name Land Rover was applied to all Rovers. These Land Rovers are very similar to a Series III, but the front grille is pushed out to be even with the front of the wings. The headlamp plate on the front of the wing is painted black, as is the slatted grille. The bonnet extends forward over the grille. The Defender has a one piece windscreen that is about four inches taller than the Series II/IIA/III windscreen with rounded corners. There are black wheel arches that extend outwards over the wheels (which are called eyebrows). The Defender is coil sprung with disk brakes in front. If the badge in front just above the grille says “Defender” (or there are other stickers that say “Defender”, then the vehicle is from 1990 or later. (The contra- positive is not true). Defenders/90/110/127/130s built after 1 October 1979 have a VIN number that begins “SALLD” or “SALD”

    • NAS (North American Spec–1992-1995): Canadian NAS Defenders have daytime running lights, the American doesn’t. Some NAS Defenders have “Land Rover” above the grille, other Defenders have “Defender” printed there. NAS Defender 110s came with a full external roll cage.
    • NAS Defender 90s(1994-1995): Come with a partially external roll cage. They do not have windscreen hinges and the roll cage blocks the ability to hinge the windscreen anyway. The rear cross member has a bolt on step running its full width along the bottom. The tail lights are arranged parallel to and just above i the top of the rear cross member. There are 3 on the left hand side and 2 on the right. A third brake light is mounted on the spare carrier (on the rear swing mounted) above the tire. The door windows are sliding (like the series). There are side corner reflectors.

    Military Land Rovers

    Lightweight(1968-1980): Flat sided with very large wheel arches. The front bumper sports over riders, the rear cross member is rectangular in shape, not being narrow on the ends and angled to a thick Centrex like regular Land Rovers. The wings are sharp edged, and the bonnet is square cornered, unlike the curved edges on regular Land Rovers. The bonnet has a height above the wings of about 8 inches. There is no visible opening for refueling, being under the seat like early Land Rovers. The doors are tapered. If you look carefully you will notice that the firewall/bulkhead is in two pieces with the dividing line flush with the top of the bonnet.

    Series IIA(1968-1972): These Land Rovers have the headlamps mounted on the breakfast protruding through the grill. There are two horizontally mounted side lights mounted on the wings. The front of the wings are cut off to just fit the side lights (about 2 inches), which are flush with edges top and bottom. The wheel arch is parallel to the ground from behind the front tire. to the front of the wing

    Series III(1972-1980): They have the headlamps mounted in the wings. The wings are cut so that the headlight just fits. (so it is thicker (about 6 inches high) in front than the SIIA). The side marker lamps are mounted vertically on the outer edge of the wing. The front wheel arch is cuts up to about 2 inches from the top of the wing, turns parallel to the ground, then aims back down to the ground in front of the wheel. The door hinges are flat unlike any other Land Rover door hinge.

    Forward Controls

    109″ Series IIA Forward Control(1960-1966): Cab over engine and front wheels. The bottom line of the body is a straight line (no wheel arches). There is a small eyebrow over the front wheels. The area covering the driver is usually a standard Land Rover pickup top. The nose extends about 1.5 feet in front of the front doors and has a rounded slope below from the bottom of the windscreen to the flat front grill area. Rounded rear mud flaps. The rear axle is mounted about the spring (like on any 109″). The front grille is rectangular with a curved top. The headlights are mounted about 8 inches above the bumper. Smooth body appearance. The tires are mounted on 5 studs.

    110″ Series IIB Forward Control(1966-1973): It looks exactly like The 109″ FC, except the headlights are mounted about an inch above the bumper, the rear mudflaps are squarer, and the rear axle is mounted below the spring.

    101″ Forward Control(1972-1978): A tall, flat nosed and imposing Land Rover riding on 900/16 tires. If what you are looking at looks like a big army truck and has Land Rover on the front, it is a 101. The 101 has wheel arches for all wheels. The headlights are mounted in the front bumper. The nose in front of the doors is angular and extends about 8 inches in front of the door. The rear body panels show perimeter ribs with sunken panels. The grille is square. The tires are mounted on 6 studs. If the truck is big, angular, yellow, ugly, has Land Rover on it and claims to be a city cab, then it is a 101 FC in disguise for the movie Judge Dredd.

    Fire Appliances These are Land Rovers converted for fire fighting and fire fighting support. They appear in several different forms:

    The Land Rover Series I, II, and III (commonly referred to as “Series” Land Rovers, to distinguish them from later models) are off-road vehicles produced by the British manufacturer Land Rover that were inspired by the US-built Willys Jeep. 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.

    Series models feature leaf-sprung suspension with selectable two or four-wheel drive, the Stage 1 featured permanent 4WD.

    Land Rover Series

    80-inch Series I

    Manufacturer Land Rover
    Production 1948–1985
    Assembly Solihull, England
    Successor Land Rover Ninety & One Ten
    Class Off-road vehicle
    Layout FR layout/All 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 P3 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.[1]

    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. Once car production restarted, however, it was greatly outsold by the off-road Land Rover, which developed into its own brand that remains successful today.

    Now considered collector’s items, the earliest model Land Rover Series were the toughest, most versatile vehicles on and off the road.  Although the model number didn’t change, the engine and wheelbase often did, as engineers had decided from the beginning to identify only major production changes.  Wheelbases for instance – measured from hub center to hub center – changed three times on the Series I, so it’s important to know the model year before ordering parts.  If you’re not sure of the year, these clues may help.

    One word of caution however: many of these vehicles have been in-and-out of garages over the course of their lives and often include retrofitted parts mixed from model to model, so the clues should be considered guidelines only.

    Series I (1948-1958)

    The original Series I had an 80″ wheelbase and a 1.6-liter displacement.  In 1952 the engine displacement increased to 2.0 liters.  In 1954, the wheelbase was extended to 86″ and a 107″ wheelbase pickup model was added.  In 1956, the wheelbase changed again to 88″ and to 109″, and a 2.0-liter diesel engine was offered as an option.

    Series II  – Early (1958 thru 1960)

    More power and a new body style distinguished the Series II from its rough-and-ready predecessor. The alteration from a flat fender treatment to a curved look is the only major styling change here. The new body style included sill panels to hide the chassis and the exhaust. The engine was bumped up to a more powerful 2.25 liters, while the wheelbase options remained at 88″ and 109″.
    A Station Wagon version was introduced (the first SUV?) sporting a full hard top with tropical roof, sliding windows, Alpine glass, roof vent, rear door & full interior trim.

    Look for a steel front grille with three holes for airflow and chrome rings around the headlamps.

    Series IIA  – Late (1961 to early 1971)

    Series IIA’s are often referred to as “early” or “late”…the fall of 1967 being the dividing line.  The big change involved the polarity of the electric system and a centrally located wiper mounted on the dash.

    1967 “late” – single wiper motor is added to center of the dash.
    1969 – headlights moved from the center radiator grille to the wings and the
    sill panels narrowed from 5″ to 3″.

    “Transitional” IIA: Three holes for airflow and an almost rectangular steel grille that looks like an upside-down “T”.

    Late Series IIA: Three holes for airflow and a large steel grille that looks like a fat “+” sign.

    Series III (late 1971 to 1984)

    To keep the owners guessing, the Series IIA became the Series III in the fall of 1971, with some “transitional” alterations along the way.

    The new Series III sported a revised fascia with a modern black plastic safety dash. The instruments were moved in front of the driver, and a fully synchronized gearbox was introduced.
    Series III – a plastic radiator grille and dash.

    Land Rover Defender

    The Land Rover Defender is a British four wheel drive off-road utility vehicle.

    The product of continued development of the original Land Rover Series I launched in 1948, it uses the basic yet robust underpinnings of a ladder frame chassis and aluminium body and is available in a huge variety of body types from the manufacturer, plus many more specialist versions such as fire engines.

    While perhaps best associated with expeditions, Defenders are also used variously in agriculture, industry and the military. In recent years the model has been increasingly utilised as a private car


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