Estimate: £19,000 - £21,000
Little introduction is needed in the case of the original, Series 1 Land Rover. This is the car that was at the forefront of rebuilding post-war Britain, it was the car that would play a key role in advancement of the agricultural industry and it was the car that would give so, so many of us freedom the likes of which no other vehicle had ever offered. It was simple, it wasn’t particularly fast, nor was it the last word in comfort. But we forgave its shortcomings because it was reliable, it was capable and like a trusty canine, it was always up for an adventure.
Little did the bosses at Rover know, the birth of the Land Rover would spawn not only many more models, but also an entirely new and different brand. One which, as we all know, would go on to outlive the Rover one that birthed it. Of course, modern Land Rovers, even the new Defender which has bloodlines to the Series 1, are geared up for luxury. They’re still capable off-roaders, but they’re now a premium product rather than being a truly utilitarian vehicle. For that, you have to go back through time and obtain an older model. And there are few older than the Series 1 we have here. But unlike many of its similarly aged peers, this one hasn’t been restored to within an inch of its life. Instead, it’s a bit weathered, it’s a bit scruffy but it’s also ready to be used in the way the original engineers of the 1940s had intended.
First registered on the 11th of May 1950, this Series 1 Land Rover was bought by the Cornish Fire Brigade who, remarkably, kept it in their possession until 1995 - never underestimate just how much one can bond with a Land Rover! That said, its time with the Brigade was hard earned, and as such, the Land Rover was in need of some attention. Happily, that’s exactly what the next owner lavished upon it. He stripped the old workhorse back and rebuilt it from the ground up - there is photographic evidence to show this. Work included full refurbishment of the chassis, a new bulkhead, fresh paint and reassembly. In turn, the Land Rover was given a new lease of life and as such us, was pressed back into daily use.
The second owner parted ways with the Series 1 in 1997, which is when the current owner took over. Land Rovers of this age normally change hands often, so to find one with just three owners to its name is quite the find. It also goes some way to show how people feel about these things. The current owner has used it as a spare workhorse, and also as a machine for ferrying the family about. As such it has lap belts in the back and a centre three-point belt up front. It’s also been used as a workhorse, as a Land Rover should be used. As such, it’s developed a weathered look that suits it down to the ground. However, it in no way detracts from the car’s function - this old Landy has been maintained carefully and generously throughout its life.
For starters, the current owner put it through an MOT last month, which it passed. There were some minor advisories such as an oil leak (but is it really an old Land Rover without the odd drip?), slight play in one wheel bearing and some slack in the steering (again, more a Land Rover trait than a concern), and finally some wear to a propshaft joint. All were merely advisories though, and they don’t stop this Land Rover from being used.
The current owner drives it sparingly - approx. five-hundred miles a year - and when it’s not in use, it’s parked inside a dry garage. As the family has grown, the need to take everyone out in the Land Rover has lessened, and as such, it’s just used for load-lugging or the odd joyride for some wind in the hair thrills. On the note of load-lugging, it’s worth pointing out that the winning bidder will also get a military surplus trailer with the Landy. A recent tow bar has fitted to accommodate this. The trailer is functional, but somewhat battered.
Now, due to a desire to downsize his collection of cars, the seller is looking to find this most trusty of companions a new home. Certainly, as we were chatting to him while taking the pictures, there is a fondness here that few machines can hope to achieve. But reality dictates a new home is needed.
As you can see, this old land Rover certainly has some age to it. But we like that, and we would imagine you do you, too. While there is always an appreciation for a mint, restored Series 1, such vehicles seem so juxtaposed from their intended use. The values for immaculate examples have gone so high as to preclude them from every being used off the beaten path, and that’s sad. But that’s why this one is so perfect. It’s got bumps, scrapes and dings. The paint is faded in places, and there’s a bit of surface corrosion on some of the fittings. But that’s good. It’s like a favourite pair of battered work boots, or that set of dinged, faded sockets that still function beautifully. This Land Rover has lived a life that is befitting of such a vehicle. It’s been cared for, of course it has, it wouldn’t have made it from 1950 through to 2020 if it hadn’t. But while cared for, no owner has been precious about it. They have used it as a tool, as a machine. As, then, a Land Rover.
But as we all know, a tool is only of use if it works. As such, this Landy is in good working order. The canvas top and supporting metal structure are in good order. The doors function, the hinges aren’t bent, and the top sections slide out with ease. The wheels have been refurbished and repainted, and they are all wrapped in good rubber. The seats aren’t bent or buckled, the rear floor is solid, the bulkhead too. The dash is basic, the gauges have some dust in them, but they all work. And while we’re talking about the interior, it’s worth noting that the current owner went to great lengths to find and fit an original steering column and wheel complete with the correct bakelite centre. Details to keep a tool correct and functional. No spit, no polish, just function.
The electrics are in good fettle, too. The current owner has made some modifications, such as electronic ignition, along with retrofitting indicators into the rear lights (it’s a neat job though, and you can’t see them) which makes it a bit safer in traffic (it was hand signals prior to that!). There is also a recent battery fitted, too.
The underside of the Land Rover is also pleasingly solid, but given the mileage of 56k, that’s to be expected. It’s not a concours vision of fresh paint. It’s dirty and wears scrapes earned from tackling the path less followed, but it’s also solid and the chassis is free from rot or sub-par repair.
Finally, as well as the included trailer, we would also be keen to make mention of the spare wings that come with this Land Rover. Unpainted, brand new, and still wrapped in the bubble wrap they were supplied in, these wings are worth some on their own. The owner was going to fit them, as the wings fitted to the car don’t match (one has been changed at some point). However, that never happened. As such, they will be included with the sale. Either for the new biyer to fit, or to pass on to another owner/enthusiast.
In terms of the larger functionality, there is nothing of issue. Everything works as it should. The engine, a 2.0 petrol unit that was fitted at some point in, we think, 1955, fires up on the button. Though if you want to be really old school about it, there is a crank handle included, too! The engine is serviced every year by the owner, though is sent out for more involved work like a new head gasket in 2010.
The four-speed transmission with synchromesh on third and top still works without fault. The steering has a bit of play, but it’s no matter of duress to point the thing where you want it to go. The drum brakes aren’t exactly Formula 1 standard, but they bring the little Landy to a stop without fault.
The current owner had a new clutch fitted in 2014, along with a new exhaust system. There is now electronic ignition fitted, to make staring even easier, aided by a refurbished start motor. The Land Rover was even rolling-road tuned! After a carb rebuild, a run on the rollers made way for some fettling to release an extra 5bhp. Not a lot at first glance, but when you consider it started with 30bhp, that’s good going!
If you want a vehicle that, without fail, will start and get you where you need to be. If you want a vehicle with more charm than any machine should have. If you want a motoring icon that still turns heads. This is the car for you. It’s an old friend, a trusty companion. It’s not trying to be posh, fancy or refined. This old Land Rover has earned its place and it knows where it stands, and it does so with pride. We adore the fact this car has some ‘life’ to it, some wear and imperfections. This, for us, is how a Land Rover should look.
You could buy a mint, restored, immaculate one. But what are you buying? An ornament, a showpiece. You’re buying something that you won’t be able to use without wincing every time it gets close to something. A Land Rover that makes you cringe when it gets muddy? No thanks. We want this one, we want to jump in and pretend it’s 1950 as we go uphill and over dale, and you do too, we’re sure of it.