Land Rover Series IIA 2.6 Litre 6L
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Series IIA Land Rover 6L was introduced in April 1967, with the 6-cylinder 2.6-litre power unit as an option for the long wheelbase Land-Rover models. Rover were offering an even wider choice, from the basic short wheelbase with canvas canopy the range went right through to the big, forward-control model; which was more or less a Land-Rover truck.
The 6-cylinder engine was previously available only for the forward-control version, on which it was the standard power unit. On the ordinary long wheelbase models it offered useful extra power and torque for both hard cross-country work and higher speeds on the road. The 6-cylinder unit was not available for short wheelbase models. It was a long-stroke engine of 2,625 c.c. capacity.
More Power for Hills
Those that were familiar with the Land-Rover would have found the extra torque of the bigger engine noticeable in the ability of the heavy off-roader to climb long hills pulling strongly in top gear, where the 2¼
litre four-cylinder Land-Rovers would almost certainly have needed to drop down to third.
A new refinement on all models was the separate starter button beneath the facia being replaced by a combined ignition and starter switch, key operated. Little choke was needed and the mixture control could be pushed home long before the thermostatically-controlled warning light came on.
Matilda - British and Built Like A Tank
"Matilda" was on the move, the noise level of the engine increased a lot, and from being relatively quiet at tickover it produced considerable power roar which made crusing at around 50 m.p.h. ideal if you you wanted to continue to be able to hear once you arrived at your destination. Strangely though, the noise level did not get much worse if the speed was increased right up to the maximum of just over 70 m.p.h. The noise heard was a purposeful sound without any mechanical clatter or signs of distress.
The Long Wheelbase Landy was more than half a ton heavier than the short wheelbase canvas-top model, but pretty much all the weight could be contributed to the extra body size, as the 6-cylinder engine had an aluminium cylinder head
and weighed hardly any more than the 4-cylinder. In spite of this 10cwt penalty the 6-cylinder was a lot quicker, and accelerated from rest to 60 m.p.h, in 29 sec compared with a time of 36·1 sec for the four-cylinder s.w.b. version.
The same gear ratios were used with either engine and regardless of wheel-base, but although the 6-cylinder unit develops its maximum power of 90 (gross) b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., against 77 b.h.p. at 4,250 r.p.m, for the 4-cylinder, maximum speeds in the gears were a little lower. Third gear was good for 56 m.p.h. in the 4-cylinder Land-Rover, but the 6-cylinder reached its (realistic) limit at 53 m.p.h. Sure, you could belt out another 3 m.p.h. to prove nothing was lost, but in reality you would be simply abusing the engine.
The indirect gears were well spaced, and the light but very positive gear change, with rather long travel, was deemed by most of the motoring press to be "particularly appropriate to a heavy duty vehicle of this kind". It becomes natural practice to change gear rather slowly and definitely with double-declutching both up and down, although this was not entirely necessary. Even with no synchromesh
on first or second gears (on the early versions), changes into these ratios could be made without crashing the gears - provided the movement was not hurried.
In acceleration testing there was a nasty crunch of gears each time the lever was pulled smartly back into second. The clutch took up smoothly over quite a long range of travel, but was heavy for repeated use in traffic. Naturally the Land Rover was at its worst in congested traffic, when its considerable size and blind front corners took any enjoyment out of being behind the wheel. The steering
at low speeds was heavy and the turning circle was so big that it was difficult to manoeuvre the vehicle. Although you sat high and had a commanding view with the ability to see over the top of most cars (in an era when 4 wheel drives were few and far between), it was easy to forget that the flush sides saved width, and the business-like front bumper did not stick much.
It was when wide open spaces were available, and on tracks which would be impassable to ordinary traffic, that the Land-Rover really showed its mettle. The suspension
was very hard, and on ordinary roads the ride was far too bumpy for comfort, but when pounding over really rough going it absorbed huge bumps and potholes impressively well. Occupants had to hold on hard to prevent being thrown about, but you never had any fear of hitting a ridge or ditch too fast and damaging the vehicle. Its ground clearance of nearly 10 in. enabled it to climb over the sort of humps and gulleys encountered in real cross-country driving without fear of scraping the chassis.
Even when the angle of the vehicle would seem quite alarming from inside (although well within the 45 deg. safety limit before it would roll over), you could negotiage nearly anything with some patient to and fro work using 4-wheel drive and the transfer gearbox. Pitting the 2.6 litre Land Rover against what seemed near-vertical hills showed dramatically how well it would climb in the lowest of its eight available ratios.
The Land Rover Series 2A 6L LWB...
Sharing The Torque Multiplication By Both Differentials
Cross-country controls were the same with the 6-cylinder as with earlier models. A spring-loaded vertical lever beside the gear lever
was pushed downwards to bring drive to the front wheels in addition to rear wheel drive, and this could be done while on the move, when sticky conditions were seen ahead. If you were already preoccupied at the steering
and needed both hands, you could work the lever by stamping on it with your left foot - something we can say from experience. For very exacting work, such as climbing a really steep hill or tackling a ditch, the red lever to the right of the gearbox was pulled backwards through a neutral position to engage the low ratio of the transfer gearbox. This automatically brought in 4-wheel drive as well, so that the torque multiplication was shared by both differentials.
In first gear with the low ratio of the transfer gearbox engaged, the overall ratio is nearly 40 to 1, and in top gear in this condition the ratio was roughly the same as that of second gear when the transfer gearbox was not in use. As soon as reasonable going was available again, the lever could be moved back to the normal direct-drive position, and it was important to remember that to go into or out of the transfer gearbox low ratio, the vehicle had to be brought to rest. To revert to ordinary 2-wheel-drive you simply engaged and then disengages the low ratio, so it was again necessary to stop in order to get out of 4-wheel drive, although, as explained, 4-wheel drive could be brought into action while on the move. Unlike modern four-wheel-drives, excessive tyre
wear and wind-up would result if 4-wheel drive were left in use on hard surfaces.
In two respects it could be argued that the 6-cylinder was less satisfactory than the 2¼
litre four-cylinder models. The first fault was the ease with which the ignition could be flooded after taking a deep water splash at even quite moderate speeds. Motoring journalists noted that water seemed to be thrown up against the bonnet and showered down over the distributor, flooding the electrics. This would make the engine run unevenly, with audible tracking, until the moisture dried. The other weak point was the ease with which exhaust
fumes found their way into the interior. With the six-cylinder LWB the exhaust
protruded through a hole in the rear mud flap on the left side of the vehicle, and fumes could be sucked into the car past the sealing of the tail gate. By opening the vents below the windscreen and small extractors in the roof, you could create a good flow of fresh air through the vehicle to help reduce it.
Included with the extra cost (in the UK, the 6L cost an extra £60) the 6-cylinder version was fitted with a servo for the drum brakes, and the lining area at the front was increased by 12 per cent. The brakes
felt much the same as on the short wheelbase model, in spite of the greater weight of the long wheelbase estate car, and maximum efficiency was appreciably higher, with a commendable 0·95 g available in return for 100 lb load on the pedal. This was exceptionally good for a vehicle on coarse tread tyres, but not surprisingly two thick black lines would be left on the road. The handbrake worked on the rear transmission
and could not be used on the move without causing severe vibration. As a parking brake it was incredibly strong and would hold the Land-Rover securely on the steepest gradient it is able to climb. On the 2A the brake was located beside the driver's left knee and was much more easily reached than before.
In the improvements to the interior, the clumsy separate wiper motors were replaced by paired blades driven from a concealed rack at the base of the windscreen, with single on-off switch between the instruments. They were self-parking and swept good arcs. When ploughing through muddy water at speed a lot of the splash was flung forward on to the windscreen, and washers would have been a nice touch - sadly these too were not fitted to the first models. A new 90 m.p.h. speedometer
was very clear (and optimistic) to read and proved exactly accurate right up to 70 m.p.h. In
the matching instrument on the left were temperature and fuel gauges and an ignition warning lamp. An oil pressure-warning lamp was incorporated in the bottom of the speedometer
, with the rich mixture tell-tale and headlamps main beam indicator.
The direction indicators were self-cancelling and the switch included its own green warning lamp. The few refinements made the interior look less untidy than before, without detracting from its essentially utilitarian character. In the 12-seater wagon/estate car, the row of seats behind the driver could be folded forward to give access to the pair of longitudinal seats at the back, or people could climb in quite easily through the tail opening. With 12 on board, the Land-Rover handled extremely well, although it rolled a great deal on corners while remaining very stable. The extra weight of full load took all the harshness out of the suspension
without introducing any tendency to pitch.
Regular grade fuel was adequate for the 7·8 to 1 compression ratio, and a 7 to 1 ratio was available for countries where only the poorest, low octane fuel was on sale. Up to 18 m.p.g was possible if not too much use was made of the cross-country abilities, and the fuel tank held 16 gallons. A pull-out extension to the filler enabled the Land Rover to be refuelled in the field from a can without spillage, and included a filter.
So - did the fitment of the 6L engine improve what was already very good? The simple answer is yes. The vehicle did not lose any of its character, remaining very much a utility vehicle, specifically designed for hard use and exacting conditions. The 6-cylinder engine option only improved hill climbing and offered better performance. The "character" of the Matilda remained - and that was a good thing.