1981 Land Rover Series III

Guide price: £4,000- £6,000

*This vehicle is currently on a SORN*


・Brand new galvanised chassis in 2012
・Sub-55k mileage believed genuine
・Lead-free cylinder head
・Photographic records of rebuild

The Background

With a production run of over 440,000 and a market life of 14 years, the Series III was the best-selling of the leaf-sprung Land Rovers and was a stalwart of the 1970s and 1980s road (and off-road) scene. 

Distinguishable from earlier models by its distinctive plastic grille and wing-mounted headlamps, the Series III also got a raft of other improvements over the IIA before it, including such “luxuries” as electric windscreen wipers as standard and plastic padding on the bottom of the dashboard to save you whacking your knees on the way in and out. To die-hard Landie fans, such things were positively extravagant.

Engines – both petrol and diesel versions of the long-lived Land Rover “two and a quarter” 2.25-litre were carried over, but were improved in 1980 by the addition of a five-bearing crank and an increased compression ratio, along with a stronger gearbox, diffs and half-shafts. 

It’s these later Series IIIs that are considered the best in terms of their reliability and their driveability, though everything is still relative – you still don’t get power steering or much in the way of comfort, and you’ll still need to take it apart every now and again. And that’s all part of the Land Rover experience. 

The vendor of this example ha thoroughly enjoyed tinkering with it but now wants something gentler and easier to drive (or his wife certainly does), while the owner before him enjoyed twirling the spanners so much that he completely rebuilt MOC 168X onto a brand-new galvanised chassis. That’s great news for the Land Rover’s future owner.

The History

MOC 168X has had eight keepers and while its early history is a bit sketchy there are records of its ownership over the past 20 years, including a massive rebuild in 2012 when it was stripped down and reassembled from scratch. The current owner has kept up with regular maintenance and has kept his own records.

The Paperwork

There are two folders full of papers documenting the repair work and rebuild of the Land Rover, as well as a pile of MOT certificates going back to 1990 (with 39,000 miles on the clock) that make it highly likely that the recorded mileage of 54,221 is correct. 

Among the papers are a receipt for a brand new galvanised chassis in 2012, plus another from well-known Land Rover specialists Turner Engineering for a reconditioned cylinder head with hardened valve seats, meaning the SIII can be safely run on unleaded fuel.

There are bills, too, for four new tyres, powder-coated wheels and the paint, which is a hard-wearing coach enamel.

Of particular interest will be the photographs of the Land Rover’s rebuild, which show how comprehensive the restoration was. The images start with the bare chassis and show it being built up from there, while there are two data CDs containing an even more comprehensive collection of photos.

The Exterior

Make no mistake – this isn’t a Series III that’s designed for show-and-shines and concours lawns. It’s a ground-up rebuild, yes, but it’s not been done to appeal to the rivet counters. 

Instead, it’s a smart, presentable and – above all – guaranteed to be solid example that’s ready to give many, many more years’ worth of dutiful service.

It looks great, but up close you can see where some of the enamel paint has been brushed on. It’s quite a neat job, though. 

The cream wheels have been powder coated and repainted and are excellent, while light guards have been fitted all-round for a more rugged appearance. 

Underneath, it’s rot-free and very clean, the galvanised chassis in excellent order. Rocky Mountain parabolic springs are fitted, giving better ride quality, while ‘spring sleeves’ have also been added to protect against future corrosion. There is also a fully galvanised front bumper.

The bulkhead upper and lower corners (common SIII grot spots) are still rock solid and the panel fit is excellent all-round. 

The Interior

Originally a seven-seater, the front three seats have been stripped out and replaced with a  pair of cloth items from a Series I Discovery, either side of a central cubby box.

It’s easily reversible if you crave originality, but anyone who has ever owned a Series Land Rover will tell you that comfort is probably much more preferable and it’s certainly an improvement to the driving position.

The cabin is clean and in superb order, with an auxiliary rev counter fitted in addition to the normal dials and a set of carpets and vinyl door cards to aid soundproofing.  Another deviation from standard is the small, chunky leather-rimmed steering wheel. 

In the rear, there are two bench seats, while under the load area carpet the alloy boot floor is double-skinned for extra strength.

The Mechanics

The top end of the engine was rebuilt in 2016 at the same time as the head was reengineered by Turner Engineering. It starts on the button and sounds great, with no excess smoke or untoward noises. 

The leaf springs, swivel hubs, steering joints and bushes were all replaced during the rebuild, while the gearbox was also fully serviced. 

According to the vendor, the Land Rover is a joy to drive with no mechanical problems and is in full working order.

The Appeal

The biggest concern when buying any Series Land Rover is with what you might find underneath, so the fact that this one was rebuilt onto a brand new galvanised chassis and has covered very few miles since should be enough to reassure the next owner of this Series III that they have a sound example that’s unlikely to give them any major trouble.

It’s also a hardtop, with rear seats, a believed low mileage and the later five-bearing engine, all of which add further to its desirability. It’s a charming, useable and smartly rebuilt Land Rover that has loads of appeal – and with values of leaf-sprung Landies on a seemingly ever-upward trajectory it could be a pretty shrewd investment, too.

Notice to bidders

Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the sellers discretion.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1981
  • Make Land Rover
  • Model Series III 88” Station Wagon
  • Colour Green
  • Odometer 54,221 Miles
  • Engine size 2286
  • Location Leicestershire
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
70 bids
  • Ra•••• £13,250 14/05/21
  • Gr•••• £13,000 14/05/21
  • Ra•••• £12,750 14/05/21
  • Ra•••• £12,500 14/05/21
  • Sh•••• £12,250 14/05/21
  • St•••• £12,000 14/05/21
  • St•••• £11,750 14/05/21
  • Ra•••• £11,500 14/05/21
  • Ra•••• £11,250 11/05/21
  • St•••• £11,000 11/05/21

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