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Like everyone else who has ever owned one of these, I find it a daily disappointment not to go and play the lottery of "what will fail today" when I go to work.
Let's look at the whole thing rationally -
Is it a comfortable ride? ................No
Is it reliable?..................................Not really
Is it quiet?......................................No
Is it refined?...................................Not as such
Is it economical?.............................No
Is it going to impress anyone?.......Only another Land over owner
Is it fun?.........................................OH YES, YES, YES (to quote Meg Ryan!)
I have owned a couple of these over the years and would very happily go out and spend a pretty small sum on one again, given the chance. (I have just checked on Autotrader, and there are running examples from under a thousand pounds.)
Now when reviewing most "classic" vehicles, there is a lot of talk about panel fit, lustre of paintwork, originality of interior trim and the like, but we are talking about a utility vehicle between 24 and 37 years old so the parameters are slightly different!
Panel fit - the doors will probably close, but may well show daylight around the close line - this is great in hot weather, as the draught will help keep you cool. It is also good in the wet, as the rain water that has leaked in at the top of the windscreen or door top (more likely) has somewhere to leak out again.
Lustre of paintwork - many SIII Land Rovers will have developed their own micro ecosystems, as few owners really believe in polishing their vehicles - similarly the odd encounter with a tree, wall, hedge, ditch, truck or other inanimate object simply adds "character" to the vehicle. For particularly interesting organic developments, check out the canvas lined window channel on an aging Station Wagon - many rare species will have started to colonise this area!
Originality - When the Series III was released onto an unsuspecting world it was designed for farmers and other "rural" types, so was pretty short on frills and extras. You could get 4 sheep in the back of a short wheelbase, six in a long one, or a variable amount of bales of hay in either, depending on the sheepdog count. The seats were vinyl covered, so the interior could be pressure washed as effectively as the exterior. Very few are left today that have not been "improved " by the subsequent owners - some well done, many less so. (Note to potential buyer: If there are lots of wires all the same colour in and around the dashboard and a load of extra switches, buy a multimeter on the way home if you buy the Landy!)
So, unless you are looking for a concourse Land Rover, the interior will have probably moved on from the original. Modifications extend elsewhere too,
Ideally you might find the following changes to the original specifications:
Cloth seats - maybe even high-backed ones
Inertia reel seatbelts (the originals are similar to aircraft ones!) or maybe harnesses (definitely a plus if you intend to play in the mud!)
A decent stereo - you do need something pretty loud to drown out the engine, gearbox and tyre noise or at least compete with it!
An electric fan for the radiator - Kenlowe make very good ones. SIII land rovers are a bit prone to overheating.
Halogen headlights - it makes such a difference to be able to see where you are going at night, rather than guess!
Freewheeling hubs - these turn the Land Rover into a 2 wheel drive vehicle by disconnecting the drive to the front wheels - an aid to fuel economy where every little helps!
Overdrive - effectively a fifth gear. This again helps with the fuel economy and can reduce the noise level in the cab to a merely deafening level.
Soundproofing/deadening - I have fitted this myself, but I'm not sure it really makes that much difference - if it is fitted, fine, but don't think it will give you limo style luxury - it won't!
16" rims (these are standard on the long wheelbase model - the 109" but are a bonus on the short wheelbase 88" ones)
A highlift jack - usually reserved for off roading, but a really useful tool and a lot quicker of you ever need to change a wheel on your landy than the bottle jack they originally came with!
A tow hitch - even if you never have a trailer or caravan, once the snow comes all those who have ridiculed you for your (in their eyes) perverse choice of transport will beat a path to your door when they are stuck and you aren't! (I leave the choice of whether you do help to your conscience!)
Parabolic springs - these are a relatively recent development in leafsprung Land Rover suspension - no coil springs here, but the parabolics do improve the ride a lot - almost to being like a really old car and well worth looking out for.
The practicality of the machine is pretty impressive - they are tough ( I broke a con rod in my diesel one and it still ran on 3 cylinders for long enough to get it to a mechanic to fix it!)
Most repairs are fairly simple - an imperial socket set, club hammer, torque wrench and selection of profanity are often all that is required to complete most jobs from the Haynes manual. Do remember, however, that many of the nuts and bolts you will be working on have remained in place for over 30 years, so they do tend to be a little tight. Judicious use of an angle grinder is far from unheard of!
So - overall, why would you buy one?
They are a really honest vehicle - they will give you the best they can at all times (I know, I am anthropomorphising like crazy here!)
The odd dent or scratch really doesn't matter
You can put anything in the back ( I have used tem for moving builders rubble, compost, wet tents, animals, youth groups, bicycles, gearboxes, furniture, fridge freezers (upright with no roof on in December!)
They become part of the family.
They don't provoke any reaction at the lights (unless you see another, when you are duty bound to wave like a maniac!)
You will wonder how you ever lived without one!
If anyone knows where TPR134S or HYM 434K are, please let me know - I miss them!
I sold it - and wept. Five years later, not a day passes without I think about buying another. I even have a photo of it on my website, alongside my children. So why did it have to go? Too noisy? Certainly not. The noise of one of these things going by is unmistakable, especially if the traditional Avon Rangers are the chosen tyres. But if you think that’s noisy you just try getting in one, and see how you like that noise. Chose the soft-top option, and you also have the pleasure of wind and the clatter of bits of canvas and rigging beating you around the head. But that’s Ok, we’ll forgive it. You can take the roof off and the door-tops off and even the windscreen off if you really want to, and it’s still legal to drive, even if you do get flies in your teeth. The cheapest convertible you can get. Too rough a ride? Never. As you can read in ’Masochism made Easy’ it’s a wonderful, unbeatable ride offroad. But anywhere else, it’s like driving a cow. Yes, including the smell (that’s either burning clutch or muddy exhaust – both smell like, err, well, you know). But once you drive across a field once or twice – and once is never enough – you won’t care. Too hard to maintain? Hardly. Even I managed most of it, and there’s so much room under the bonnet that the most cack-handed of mechanics managed a few simple operations. What’s more, for the bigger job land-rover mechanics are two a penny, and parts are not much more. Buy another Landy and strip it down, if you’ve got the room. So long as the chassis isn’t too rusty nothing else really matters if you’ve got an MOT. Too much fun? Well, almost. In the few years we had it we were wedding car for two different lots of friends, who wanted it shone up and open-topped to drive them to and from the church. Once we were so late that we only polished the side that was going to be in the
photos – the rest was covered in ‘rustic architecture’ straight from the farmyard. They couldn’t work out why we had to back down the road when it turned out to be the wrong side… happy days. Everyone loves it, and asks how old it is, and can they buy it (they never really want to) and can they play with the pretty coloured knobs. It’s a bit like having a big, friendly dog. A nuisance, not really much practical use, but very, very worthwhile. But, like some dogs, even our beloved Landy had to go. ‘Why?’ you may be moved to ask if you choose to indulge me. The answer was in the first paragraph: the great change of life which accompanies the arrival of children into the family. Lots of very nice but impractical things have to go - the Land-Rover was one. After weeks of trying to budget to fit a roll-cage and child-seats in the back, I realised that it just wasn’t going to work. Sure, it could be done. But the result would not be much good. And babies just don’t appreciate that wind in their hair, if they have any. So it went. We bought an old Range-Rover instead on the principle that it would be like a Land-Rover with seats in the back. That was interesting. If you want to know how it went, watch out for the next opinion…
'This has to be the most stressful way of getting from a to b that has ever been invented' I said when I drove my first series III Landrover. Having said that, I always have been a bit of a masochist... After about half an hours driving I was loving it. The brakes are terrible, the steering is heavy and has loads of slop in it, the cart sprung suspension meeans you feel every bump in the road but for some reason this just keeps me coming back for more. Ultimately any old landrover is a hopelessly impractical way of travelling unless you're off road (where, perversely, it is pretty much the best way to travel) but driving pleasure is missing the point - Series III's are cheap, they last forever, they can tow anything, they don't age, but most of all they're incredible offroad. Buying wise thre are loads of them about so you have lots to choose from - walk away if you're worried about one because they'll be another for sale round the corner. The body's aluminium so it doesn't rust and the rest of it is basically so heavy duty that it'll keep going whatever state it's in. As long as it starts, stops and drives then you're laughing, although it's best to make sure the 4wd engages and the overdrive (if applicable) works, as this is one of the few jobs that you might not want to tackle yourself. Model wise, the ones to avoid are the 2.25 petrols, because they're as heavy on the fuel as the V8s but without the power. Personally I prefer the V8s myself, but the diesel is probably the most sensible bet, especially a diesel conversion if it's been done properly. This is all a bit academic for me as I always go for the cheapest one that runs with an MOT - the sort of money you pay for one of those you can go an buy a new one in 12 months time! Definitely one of the alltime classic motors...