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Living with a Series Land Rover

FunRover Guest Contributor, Lucas Black, tells us how he found this almost mint Series 3 Land Rover and gives some great advice for living with a slice of Land Rover's heritage.

LucasBlack

LucasBlack

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My wife, Chris, works with horses, and has some Ford Fiesta destroying terrain to deal with.   We ideally wanted a Land Rover, but they cost a lot for a good one (because they are the top dogs at what they do), so we were looking at various cheaper alternatives.

We didn't need a fancy 4×4 – In fact the modern 4×4?s aren't that great, as they try to do the thinking for you, and that generally means that the owners rely on the car and not their own skill – or rather the owner thinks they have skills that they don't... Let's face it, a car is only as capable as the driver. Last year Chris was driving her old Fiesta around some pretty fancy 4×4 hardware that were stuck in the snow, with brainless drivers not knowing what to do.

Chris was driving home from a job a few months back and saw an old classic Landy sat outside a farm shop. She took a look over it, pretty much to see what they are like (she’s not really had a lot to do with Landies).

The owner came over and said that he didn't really want to sell it, but they hardly used it, saw no reason to really keep it, just kept MOT’ing it each year for no real reason or need… so said he’d sell to Chris for £1,800…

Chris came home and excitedly told me what she had found & then asked one of our Land Rover experienced friends to take a look. He took a look and said it was the second cleanest original Series Landy he had seen… A solid chassis, the body work is in good shape (a few bumps, but it lived on a farm), good engine, clean bulkhead, interior dusty, with some torn seats (probably from a dog), but in general, incredibly clean, sorted and…… 4,300 genuine miles…. He was pretty excited too.

It was a no-brainer… a deposit was paid, money was scraped together and Frank (as Chris named ‘him’) came home the same day.

Other people in the know have since seen Frank and they can’t believe how lucky we were! This is one of those ‘found in a barnyard’ stories you see sometimes on the news or internet…. but you never think you’ll be that lucky.

So, how much of a deal had Chris spotted? FRANK is an 88? Series III 1977 Land Rover. 2 1/4l petrol engine.

Popular web car sales sites came up with the following:

  • For £1,800 you can buy a similar aged Land Rover that’s good for spares, no tax or MOT… non-runner… (looked a total wreck).
  • To buy one in similar condition to Frank, the nearest I found had 65,000 miles on the clock and was considered in ‘fair condition’… and was selling for £6,500.

Within 24 hours of buying Frank, we were being offered over three times what we paid…

Frank is the perfect vehicle for Chris – Just what we wanted. A simple old school 4×4 that she can use for work, that she can tinker with (she’s becoming pretty handy with the tools) , and that is hardy enough to deal with most situations. We never dreamt we could get a top notch, ready to go Series for this price (it was our ideal choice, but put way to the back of our minds)… and as such is in no way for sale!

Now there are a few things that we quickly learnt as we started our life with Frank.

The older Land Rovers (leading up to the Defenders) are pretty much covered tractors with extra seating. They were never intended as motorway cruising town cars. They were meant as work horses – and they do that well.

This leads to a few eye openers for those who do not know what to expect when they first get in an old Landy.

Driver comfort:

  • Square of foam for a cushion, with another one for a back rest…. some ‘posher’ models have the block of foam shaped slightly.
  • Air filled tyres.
  • Big letter box sized holes under the windscreen for cold air (and anything else that goes in them).
  • Engine for hot air (constant).

Passenger comfort:

  • Same as the driver – less a steering wheel to hold onto for reassurance.

Driving aids:

  • Steering wheel (big, as there is no power steering). Clutch, a brake and a throttle.
  • There are indicators, but no hazard lights or reverse lights.
  • Mirrors. These give an idea of things around you… The vibration doesn’t really help with identifying what the things are though.
  • Gear stick. Ah, yes…. there are several of these. Where it lacks in other areas, it makes up for in the number of selector levers.

Stereo:

  • Really?! Sure! Fit one, but you’re not really going to appreciate the damned thing over the road noise, engine and transmission howl. Saying that though, the old Landies have their own rhythm and beat.. rattle and hum.

Safety:

  • Frank has two normal (modern) belts for the driver and left hand passenger. The middle passenger gets a lap belt.
  • Rear passengers (4 people) get two shiny bench seats – No belts. Plenty of room to tuck and roll though…
  • That being said, the Landy is built on a massive girder chassis. If you do crash into someone, you probably won’t know it until you get home and spot their 'modified with a painted black bonnet' boy racer car embedded on your bumper…
  • A Ford Ka managed to write itself off on my old classic Range Rover whilst the Range Rover was parked and stationary. The Ka hit my front bumper whilst swinging around reversing far too quickly out from a parking space. The Range Rover didn’t suffer a scratch.

Performance:

0-60mph: Ha ha ha…. really? 60mph? What’s a 60mph?

Braking: Eventual. Plan ahead.

Fuel Economy: 20mpg is possible….

From the Highway Code:

(Obviously not intended for drivers of old Land Rovers…)

1st gear – for speeds between 0 and 10mph
2nd gear – for speeds between 10 and 20mph
3rd gear – for speeds between 20 and 30mph
4th gear – for speeds between 30 and 40mph
5th gear – for speeds over 40mph

Reality:

1st gear – for speeds between 0 and 5mph
2nd gear – for speeds between 2 and 10mph
3rd gear – for speeds between 10 and 20mph
4th gear – for speeds between 20 and 45mph
Ear defenders & brave pills – for speeds over 45mph

Cost of running:

Spares are dirt cheap. I mean pocket money cheap for most of the stuff you require. It’s a giant Meccano kit and dead simple to work with (mostly).

Ignore the miles per gallon, as the smiles per gallon make up for it.

To improve of speed (and a little economy) there are various options you can go for, such as overdrives, bigger tyres, engine swaps, gearbox modifications (we are fitting an Ashcroft High Ratio kit) – but it’s an old Land Rover, so I never expected 60mpg and precision handling! The overdrive or gearbox modifications can help with cruising speed though as you can safely sit at 60mph without over-stressing a good engine.

So…..

  • It doesn’t have whistles and bells (it does have a proper loud honking horn though).
  • Its all terrain capability comes from the driver knowing how to use the tools provided.
  • It is geared for two wheel drive in high ratio (road use) and has a high and low ratio four wheel drive – and if used correctly it’ll get you out of anything.

The old Land Rovers were built to plough fields and cross huge distances with really simple maintenance… If anything went wrong, the damned things could still limp home with engines rattling and gear boxes hanging off.

The main question with any car is -  “What do you need?”

A Land Rover makes a useless boy racer car, a Ferrari makes a useless family car, a Clio makes a useless utility car, and a Nissan LEAF makes a useless long range sports car…. You have to buy for what your needs are – and you have to weigh up what your needs are before you start to criticize what any particular vehicle can do…

For us though, Frank leaves a huge grin on our faces. It’s a simple, rugged vehicle that came up at a good price at the right time.

Frank is perfect for Chris and her work with horses, where she needs a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, rain, sun, snow and ice capable vehicle that can take the knocks without any concerns about getting stuck somewhere, and that the dent that's just been put in the wing won't write the car off due to the insurance expense of fixing it… (you can fit a new front wing to Frank for under £30…..).

For more on our Landy : http://moretimespace.wordpress.com/land-rovering/

Lucas Black

I have always been in engineering - mainly aviation, but now I'm mostly office rather than hands on -  so having a Land Rover means I get plenty of 'tool time' to keep myself sane. I write blogs, love engineering of most kinds, work on the Landy, Kick Box, shoot target rifle and keep hens. Not all at the same time (tried that - it got messy).

My web site is SOMETIMESPACE.COM

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3 Comments

  1. Derek Leath says:

    Thanks for the great blog mate, I love the phrase, “smiles per gallon”. I have two Land Rovers a 98 P38A and a 04 Disco. I don’t know what I would do without them.
    I was thinking about buying a new Landy, but decided to get a proper rover and went for a 71 Series IIA.
    Enjoy,
    Cheers
    Derek

  2. LucasBlack LucasBlack says:

    Ahhh, a Series IIa… fantastic!

    Classic through and through!

  3. Mark Janes says:

    An inspiration, as we are about to buy our first Series III!

    I’d love to know how you got the “old Landy ad” effects on your photos.

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