1950 Series 1 Land Rover – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

A rugged classic doesn’t stop being rugged. A classic van, for example, can be fifty years old – it’s still a van. It can still carry things both to and fro. An old truck can still haul stuff, albeit at a somewhat more gentile pace than a 2021 Scania. And of course, an old 4×4 is still going to be just as happy up its hubs in mud as it was when it was new. The off-road abilities don’t get any weaker as years roll by.

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Okay, so an old 4×4 won’t have the modern niceties of its younger relatives. No leather this, air-conditioned that or hill-descent the other. But who needs all that? All you need is a plucky engine, a tried and tested way of getting power to all four wheels and a willingness to traverse the road less travelled. But which classic 4×4 should you choose? A Land Rover, obviously. And a Series 1 at that. The boss. The daddy. The original.

What is it?

Happily, that’s exactly what we have here. And an early one at that. This is a 1950 Series 1 Land Rover, with the 80in wheelbase and the lights behind the grille. It’s the Land Rover in many respects. This was the car that kick-started what would become a leading brand, it was the vehicle that mobilised a post-war nation and it was also pretty damn good off-road. Originally powered by a four-cylinder 1.6 petrol engine, this one now has the bigger 2 ¼ from a later model. That’s about the only change though, and the original engine is, albeit in kit form, supplied with the car.

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These early models are arguably the most sought after of all the Series 1 Land Rovers. The company was experimenting as it went, and so the Series 1 quickly changed and evolved. As such, to find one of these ‘pure’ versions, pretty much as the designers and engineers intended is a special thing. Of course, this one needs some love. But look at it, how could you deny it?

Why is it a project?

Apparently this Land Rover has been off the road for a number of years, during which time it has been part of a static collection. It obviously had a life before being stored though, as the body has gathered the kind of patina that can’t be faked. It’s better, bumped and scraped, but because this is a Land Rover, it’s all the better for it.

As we mentioned earlier, the original engine has been swapped for a later one. However, the vendor states that the car is being sold as a non-running project, so some investigation is going to be required there. It all seems to be complete, with the exception of the weather gear. Though the frame is still present, so you just need the fabric.

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It’s tired, make no mistake. But this is the kind of car you can strip down to its constituent parts on your driveway (much to the chagrin of your neighbours, but they’ll get over it). There are suppliers and specialists out there aplenty, there is a huge enthusiast following consisting of clubs and forums, and there is nothing too complicated to overcome in terms of restoration. You could even paint it with a brush, should you wish. Is it going to be a simple fix? No, it needs completely going through. But do you need a degree in engineering to do it? Not at all. You just need a socet set and some enthusiasm. And lots of WD40.

Five things to look for:

1) Rust
The body can’t rust, but the bulkhead and the chassis can. The bulkhead is crucial, so check it thoroughly for rust and previous repairs. The chassis is the backbone, so check for the same – poor past repairs in particular. Happily, it’s all pretty much exposed.

2) Engine
The current engine is described as being a non-runner, but why? Does it turn, or has it locked up? Is it leaking all its fluids? And what about the original engine? Can it be saved, or is it scrap? Well worth looking at both, but don’t fret if they are bad. Parts are readily available.

3) Drivetrain
Tricky to check without the car running, but you can still do a visual inspection of the axles and suspension and so on. Are they weeping? Do they look like they have been battered in the past? Give it a push if you can – any grumbling or grinding noises?

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4) Electrics
The electrical system is probably shot given the time this Land Rover has spent off the road. You’ll probably want to completely replace the loom, what with it being so simple to do so. But even so, check the condition of what’s there, as you might be lucky.

5) Body
The body isn’t steel, so won’t rust. However, where it’s mated to steel like on the chassis and bulkhead, it can react and crumble as a result. Check the body over, as Series 1 panels are getting harder to find. Plus, you don’t want to impact the hard-earned patina here with incongruity of panels from a different Land Rover.

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What should you do with it?

If it were our money, we’d get the engine running, give it a complete mechanical overhaul, fit new tyres and then go for a play in the mud. But it’s completely up to you what you do with it, and what you can do is limitless. You could make it a more serious off-roader, you could go down the route of restoring it to factory condition, or you could build in some creature comforts and fit some weather gear and make it a regular driver. Whatever you want to do, this 1950 Land Rover will let you. They’re good like that.

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