Land Rover Series 2

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Land Rover Series 2

Land Rover

Land Rover Series 2

1958 - 1971
United Kingdom
4 cyl. Petrol & Diesel
2.286 litre
52 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
2 star
Land Rover Series 2
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


It was originally intended that the Land Rover be a low volume workhorse for primarily rural use - attributes already defined by the wartime Jeep. Originally introduced in 1948, Rover's expectations of the popularity of the vehicle were exceeded only one year later when, in 1949, they were in fact making more Land Rover's than actual Rover cars.

After 20 years of uninterrupted production Rover claimed that 600,000 Land-Rovers were operating in more than 170 different territories all over the world. Over that time the outward appearances changed remarkably little, but major developments, particularly to the power unit, had been introduced over the years.

Still, every car needs an occasional makeover no matter how well sorted they are, and a decade on the Land Rover needed a freshen up. Launced in 1958, the new Series II sported a larger petrol engine and new styling. The new petrol engine was bored out to 2.2 litres to produce 52bhp at 4000 rpm and 101 lb/ft torque at 1500 rpm. This was comparable to the diesel, although the diesel engine revved at a lower speed, and was only capable of 87 lb/ft torque at 2000 rpm.

The new gearbox was similar to the Series 1 gearbox, but incorporated synchromesh on the 3rd and 4th gear. Rear wheel movement was improved by moving the rear springs, and the turning circle was reduced by improving the steering lock. The new body styling was still conservative, but added rounded corners and sills to the Land Rover design. Window perspex was replaced with glass.

The Land Rover - A Great Success Story

The reliability of the Land Rover owed much to its very simple, well-tried layout. Both axles were live, and longitudinal leaf springs were used with telescopic dampers. The engine was mounted fairly high in the chassis and drove through a combined gearbox and transfer gearbox unit to the rear wheels or to all four wheels. Behind the gearbox was a drum brake ahead of the prop shaft to the rear transmission, for parking only; ordinary braking was by drum brakes front and rear, with servo assistance only on the forward control model.

In town, owners found their Land-Rovers to be a little clumsy and unmanoeuvrable, and on the open road they were relatively slow. But venture off road and it was an entirely different story. Journalists of the day were astounded as to how the Land-Rover could keep going in only two-wheel drive, and criticism of the on-road harshness of the suspension was soon forgiven when it demonstrated its ability to absorb monstrous gulleys and potholes withhout any need to reduce speed. The huge ground clearance payed off, too, 8in. on the 88in. wheelbase Regular and 9 in. on the 109in. wheelbase Long model.

Amazing Ability Even In 2 Wheel Drive

When the Land Rover finally started to struggle in 2 wheel drive, or if the driver could see really soft ground ahead, they only needed to kick down on the yellow knob on the transsmission hump beside their left foot to add drive to the front wheels, and this could be done without any reduction in speed. For very exacting work, such as towing or climbing really steep gradients (1-in-2 was the limit) the Land Rover had to come to a complete halt so that the red knobbed lever could be pulled backwards engaging the lower ratio in the transfer gear box.
Land Rover Series 2 Short Wheel Base
The Land Rover Series 2 SWB...

The driver still changed gear and used the clutch as before, but the effective gearing was very much lower. The overrall ratio in bottom gear with transfer gearbox in use was 39.7-to-1, and the road speed at 4,000 rpm was only 8 mph.

Maximum speed of the four-cylinder in top gear with low ratio selected was 33 mph. The transfer gearbox automatically engaged four-wheel drive even if it had not been previously selected, so that the enormous torque multiplication was shared by the two final drives.

If only four-wheel drive was used by depressing the yellow knob, it could be disengaged by stopping and pulling the transfer gear lever momentarily back towards the low ratio position and then forward again. It was not recommended that four-wheel-drive be used on the bitumen as it affected the steering and accelerated tyre wear by wind up in the transmission, the front and rear wheels inevitably turning at slightly different speeds.

Engine Changes and the Series IIA

These were the chief features of the Land Rover Series II, so well known to thousands of adventurous enthusiasts as their first four wheel drive. 28,000 were sold in the first year of manufacture, and then 34,000 the year after. In 1961 the diesel engine was bored out from 2.052 litres to 2.286 litres to match the petrol engine. Although the change in diesel option was the only significant change, the Series II was renumbered as IIA.

The first 12-seat station wagon was introduced in 1962. Twelve adults would have been a tight squeeze, but it allowed the vehicle to be classed as a bus and avoid the dreaded UK purchase tax.

The cheaper price hit sales of the more expensive 10-seat 107" station wagon in the UK market, and the 107" was finally dropped from the product range. The next major change occurred with the introduction of a 2.625 litre 6-cylinder petrol engine option on the 109" models in 1967. This engine had been developed for the Rover P4 and P5 cars, but was introduced into the Land Rover range to supply extra power for the anaemic Forward Control 2A. The dashboard was also re-designed in 1967.

Export models had their headlamps moved from the grille area to the wings in 1968, a change that would also occur on UK models in 1969. Another change in 1968 was the introduction of the "1-ton" Land Rover. Externally this looked identical to the standard Series IIA 109" (¾ ton) Land Rover, but was upgraded in a number of areas to handle heavier loads and towing. The most notable upgrade was the use of heavy duty transmission components from the Forward Control models. Overall gear ratios were also lowered to aid with towing.

The utilitarian vehicle born in hard times had managed to help the British economy somewhere in the order of £270 million in foreign exchange in only 2 decades - but as was the case with the Series I a decade earlier, by the late 1960's it was clear that significant changes were required if Land Rover were to keep their edge. The answer came in 1971 with the release of the Series III.
Land Rover Series II

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Laurie Kipping
Posted Recently
I grow up on a farm in the early 60s , I remember the first L/R was an series 1 with the small gauges a few years later the farm owner purchased a 2A landrover from the towns Doctors daughter who shipped it from England when she came back to Australia , as painted on the hard top side was England to Australia , around late 60s just before I left that farm boss purchased a new L/R utility with headlights on gauds , I joint the Military several years later, serving 20 years with L/Rovers , have been out of the military 27 years now have owned L/Rs ever since, recently have just sold a series 3 SWB I owned for 25 years and I currently own a 1963 2A ex military and a 1957 series 1 , you either love them or hate them .
Alexandra Don
Posted Recently
When I was 12 in about 1962, an older person asked me I could drive. I had never driven but had watched others, so said that I could. "Good" he said, then take these boxes over to Mrs Skews. A few miles away. I hopped in and drove off. It was a Series 1 with no doors, no roof or hood.That started my love affair with Landrover. I have owned and loved many since then . I still have a much loved Series 2A truck cab.
Bob Henderson
Posted Recently
Just for the fun of it. The instructions to have the headlights moved to the wings came from the MD of Rover Australia at the time as he knew the current configuration was not good enough for our conditions.
Posted Recently
Having spent several years behind the wheel (although back then on my fathers lap), I can well understand why the guy in the ad has a large grin. You could not help but smile the minute you got into a Land Rover. We gave our old girl the nick name "Herbie", and we loved it. Garaged at our holiday home in Sorrento (Vic), it was always the highlight of our annual trip to the Peninsula when we dusted the old girl off and took her for a spin. Sensational and much loved - dearly missed...
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