Land Rover Series 1

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Land Rover Series 1

Land Rover

Land Rover Series 1

1948 - 1958
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
1595/1997 cc
50/77 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
56 mph / 90 km/h
Number Built:
2 star
Land Rover Series 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


It was the post-war shortage of steel which prompted development of the Land Rover. Steel became rationed, like everything else, and it was allocated to British industries in proportion to the value of their exports.

At the time, Rover's fairly expensive quality cars were not selling well abroad, and a new venture was needed to attract overseas buyers. The answer chosen was to build a jeep-type vehicle on a commercial basis, and the first Land-Rover prototypes were built during 1947. The project was launched the following year at the Amsterdam Motor Show.

In the early days you only had to make a noise like a round-the-world trip and you could borrow one, chalked up to publicity and development; but the product was soon proved and established all over the world, and the free loans ended. Demand constantly outpaced supply, and whenever there was a "recession" in car sales, Rover were able to divert their attention to catching up on the backlog of Land-Rover orders.

Made For An Outdoor Life

The Land Rover was made for an outdoor life, washed by the rain and occasionally hosed out to clean the interior. There were two little chrome rims around the headlamps - the only concession to styling; everything else, practically, was either galvanised steel (including the chassis) or painted aluminnium.

The 1.6 litre motor was that used in the Rover P4 60, and the body was made almost entirely from aluminium. Until 1950, the 4 wheel drive system had no central differential which proved fine for tackling up-hill terrain, but was less than adequate when going down hill when the driver would find the wheels turning at different speeds. Cars built after 1950 had a dogleg clutch, allowing the driver to engage either 2 or 4 wheel drive.

Eight Forward Gears

Two differentials and two drive-shafts with a dual ranged gearbox gave optional four-wheel drive. This in conjunction with bar-tread tyres was the reason for the Land Rover's climbing ability. Inside the cabin, which was covered by an oil treated canvas top, the driver was well protected from the weather. Many test drivers found that, without practice, the Land Rover was difficult to drive. After about 40 miles the driving became fun, all controls were well situated, and although the gearbox had synchromesh on only the two upper ratios, changes could be made with the switfness usually associated only with the sports car boxes.

There were two other levers situated directly in front of the driver's left hand, one the transfer lever, to engage either high or low final drive ratio, and the other which required a solid push to operate was used to engage either two or four wheel drive. During one road test, to indicate the strength of the pulling power in the vehicle, a stop was made half-way up a 45 degree hill. Four-wheel drive was engaged, low ratio was selected (high ratio was 5.396 to 1 and low 13.578 to 1), second gear was selected, and with no fuss whatsoever the Land Rover accelerated up the hill. In the centre of a bog top gear could be used in conjunction with the low range final drive for all practical work. To make things really practical a hand throttle was included in the standard equipment.

On The Road

A cruising speed of between 55 and 60 m.p.h. could be maintained for long periods. The top speed was between 56 and 63 miles an hour. Cruising on the open road at speeds approaching its maximum, tyre scream was in evidence; but this was to be expected from a vehicle of this type. Stiff leaf springs front and rear gave a hard, though not uncomfortable ride, and together with a good unladen weight distribution, gave excellent road holding characteristics. The steering at 2.5- turns from lock to lock was quick and afforded very easy control. The turning circle, unfortunately, was large at 37 feet.

Introduction Of The 80" Wheelbase

One of the common criticism's of the early Land Rovers was the relatively small load space. This was addressed in 1954, when the 80" Land Rover was replaced with an 86" wheelbase version. A long wheelbase 107" Land Rover was also introduced. These new models proved expensive, with a surprising number of new parts including new prop-shafts, springs, exhaust , and body panelling. The new models would only last two years. Demand had grown for a diesel engine option, and another two inches had to be inserted to allow space in the engine compartment for the new engine option.

This space was inserted between the front axle and the toe board, adding to the wheelbase. The new wheel bases of 88" and 109" were launched in 1956 but the diesel engine option would not be launched until 1957. Due to production line capacity constraints, the 107" vehicle would remain in production as a station wagon until 1959 when the 109" Series II Station Wagon was launched. As well as the advent of a diesel option, 1957 saw the arrival of fully floating half-shafts on the long wheelbase 109" vehicle. On entering a Land-Rover the first impression was of the great height off the ground, which gave an eye level well above the roof of most cars. The angular front wings were in view, but allowance had to be made for the sturdy bumper out front, and of course it was not a question of what damage the vehicle would suffer so much as what it would do to anything it hit.

On The Farm

Primary producers could purchase the Land Rover in Australia free of tax. To other buyers £116 sales tax was added. Although it could do almost any farm work asked of it, all power tools were not fitted as standard, and Rover claimed it saved the farmer money in the long run if they only needed two or three of the extras. The list of extras available were: capstan winch—£55, heater.—£23, centre power take-off—£12, rear power take-off with governor motor.—£82, folding seats to carry four persons—£10, and a light weight metal detachable top~£75. There was even a trailer, and although it was fitted with Land Rover wheels is was not made by the Rover Company. A tail light extension lead for a trailer was provided at the rear of the vehicle as standard equipment. A starting handle, jack and full range of tools are provided.

After 20 years of uninterrupted producction Rover claimed that 600,000 Land-Rovers were operating in more than 170 different territories all over the world. The car's most notable appearance in a movie was in the South African film 'The Gods Must Be Crazy', and while from our expericence the brakes were never that good, the film version did go to extremes!

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Land Rover Series 1 Specifications
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