1966 Land Rover – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

A classic car doesn’t have to be a car that lives for no other reason than to be pampered. It’s entirely possible to have a classic that is rugged, and that can take a beating. Of course, we’re not suggesting you fit chunky tyres to your E Type. Instead, we would like to recommend a classic 4×4, of which there are many. But out of them all, the legendary Land Rover has to be the most recognisable, the most iconic and possibly the most fun, right? It’s a vehicle that’s famous around the world. It’s tougher than the toughest of old boots and you can repair almost anything with some cable ties and a hammer. Perfect vehicle for adventures, then. 

Introduced in 1948, the original Land Rover, or series Land Rover as some people refer to it, was Britain’s answer to the American Jeep. In fact, early prototypes featured Jeep parts, including the chassis. However, it soon became its own vehicle, and featured a design consisting entirely of Land Rover parts. 

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Land Rover was the newest division of Rover Cars, and was the backbone of the company. The small, light, but incredibly utilitarian vehicles were what a broken, post-war Britain needed to get back on its feet. But more than that, the success of the original Land Rover would serve to cement the name forever, and also secure the future of Rover for the coming decades. A deeply, deeply important car, then. 

What is it? 

What you’re looking at here is a 1966 Land Rover 109, which means the longer 109-inch wheelbase. Many will tell you that the short wheelbase models are the one to have, but if you have a family or you want to lug lots of stuff about, the longer chassis is much better. This one is also a Safari model, which makes it quite rare. The Safari spec meant a double-skinned roof, meaning it’s a bit more comfortable and warm inside. The roof also featured vents and slim side windows for extra light. The roof alone is worth a couple of quid, as they’re getting hard to find in serviceable condition. 

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Engine-wise, this one is the 2.25 four-cylinder petrol engine. The vendor states it’s a smooth unit, which it may well be. However, lugging all that steel and alloy about, it won’t be at all fast. If you’re a speed demon, this isn’t the machine for you. Though happily, the four-speed ‘box does have overdrive which will help on the open road. 

This old beast certainly looks to have lived a life of much use, but it’s in sound condition and is running, driving and ready to go as is. The interior, while basic, looks to be in fine fettle, and all the electrics work according to the vendor.  

Why is it a project? 

The vendor is keen to state that the new buyer could actually use the Land Rover as is. The chassis is apparently sound, the bulkhead is good having been repaired, the engine is in rude health, the electrics work, it’s all pretty good really. That said, to make it truly special, there is still some work to do. 

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As you can tell, the paintwork has seen better days, so it would be nice to refresh that and make the old girl shine again. The vendor also states that some of the sill sections could benefit from a tickle from the welder. There’s a slight brake binding issue, and the gearbox makes a noise under light load. These are the things you’d want to sort out. The gearbox should be simple enough to repair or exchange, and the brakes more than likely need a rebuild, which should be easy as parts are plentiful. 

The other big thing is that this old Landy doesn’t have an MOT. Admittedly, it doesn’t need one. For peace of mind though, it would be wise to stick it in for a test and see what gets flagged up. It looks like a very honest old vehicle, but even so, an inspection from an MOT tester won’t hurt. 

Five things to look for:

1) Gearbox

The vendor states that the gearbox makes a noise when under light load. It would be advisable to hear this yourself to help decide the severity. If it’s a whine or groan, it may just be a case of it needing a service. If it’s a more severe crunching or grinding, metallic noise, you’re well into rebuild territory. 

2) Sills

The steel sections of the sills need to be welded. Get under the old Landy and assess how bad they are. There is a considerable difference between complete replacement or simply needing to carry out a few patch repairs. 

3) Chassis

The vendor is confident the chassis is in fine fettle. However, this is a Landy and it’s not hard to get underneath, so do exactly that and have a look at it yourself. Has it been repaired? Is there any sign of rust coming through? Are there any signs of accident damage? 

4) Axles 

This might be a difficult one to check, given the gearbox is noisy. However, if you can, try and have a listen for any noise coming from the differentials both front and back. Any whining noises are going to mean a rebuild is on the cards. 

5) Bulkhead

Again, the vendor says the bulkhead – which is a known Land Rover point of failure – is solid having been repaired. That said, still check it. Is the repair to a standard you’re happy with? Is the repair still holding, or are you going to need to do it again?

What should you do with it? 

If it was ours, we’d sort the mechanical niggles out, give it a full-on service from front to back, top to bottom and then we’d stick it in for an MOT. No, it doesn’t need an MOT, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. This is a hard-working vehicle, so you want to be sure it’s safe. 

Once all that was done, we’d treat the body to a fresh lick of paint, the wheels too. Then we’d maybe make this into the ultimate adventure vehicle. Front-mounted winch, roof tent, little camping kitchenette in the back. It could be a perfect vehicle for spontaneous weekend escapes.

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