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by Alain Hoffmann

The Series 1

From 1948-1958


1595 cc four-cylinder petrol, 50 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 80 lb./ft @2000 rpm

1997 cc four-cylinder petrol, 52 bhp @4000 rpm and 101 lb./ft @1500 rpm

2052 cc four-cylinder diesel, 51 bhp @3500 rpm and 87 lb./ft @2000 rpm

The very first pilot-production vehicle, chassis R01. Today owned by the Heritage Museum, Gaydon, UK. It was restored in 1956 by Land Rover apprentices but they used a lot of wrong parts from later production

Transmission: Single dry plate clutch, 4-speed main gearbox, sycromeshed in 3rd and 4th, 2-speed transfer box, form 1948-1950 permanent four wheel drive, later selectable with standard rear wheel drive, permanent 4WD in low range (from 1951)
Suspension: Life axles with semi-eliptic leaf springs, hydraulic telescopic dampers



Total produced:

Recirculating ball. worm-and-nut

Drums all around, mechanical parking brake on transmission output shaft


1954 - This vehicle was a present for Sir Winston Churchill for his 80th birthday. Hmm, was there a cigar lighter on the Series I?

The same car almost 50 years later. It was up for sale at Sotheby's in March 2000; they expected to get between 45 and 50.000 Dollar.

It is said Churchill used the car regularly to drive around his Chartwell estate until his death in 1965. His son-in-law sold it later on to a farmer where it was used as hack until 1977. (I suppose that guy paid a lot less than those 50.000 bucks he expects now). The car has an extra wide passenger seat, the middle seat was converted into a padded armrest and an extra grab handle sits on the bulkhead.

There are some nice anecdotes about those early days
Below: This wonderful photo shows a group enjoying the delights of off-roading in Land Rover #R01, probably managers from the factory. Look at their relaxed and joyful expression.

The centre steering: "Things were okay until you were in traffic, then you'd get wiped out overtaking" stated Tom Barton. He was a body designer for Rover at that time. He begun his career as railway carriage designer then went to jet engine design- just the man Rover wanted to design an agricultural vehicle!

"Durability was based on drivers discomfort - we damaged more drivers then vehicles during testing."

"The front wings came flat because we couldn't bend aluminium - and they stayed that way because squaddies liked to put their cups of tea on them."

"When we replaced metal grilles by plastics we got a lot of complaints because they were often used for impromptu barbecues in some parts of the world."

Tony Poole said: "I suggested not putting tropical roofs on export vehicles going to cold countries, like Iceland. But that was no good because it was the only way we could stop the roof vents from leaking."

Roger Crathorne: "We came up with the idea of burying spare wheels in the sand to winch from in the desert - we lost a lot of spare wheels that way. And quite a few doors went missing in muddy areas when we used them as mud ladders."

This is the very first production Land Rover, chassis number R860001. It was registered as HUE 477. It was sold in the 50's to a farmer in a small valley. In 1970 it changed hands again for the pricey sum of 15 Pounds. In 1995 it was discovered by a small bunch of Series I buffs but it took until 1999 to show it to the public. The present owner, David Fairless, intends to restore it to original condition by keeping as much of the old parts as possible.

The interior was very basic, even for the 50's standards but all the commands needed were there. And it could be left open in rain and snow.

Left: An advertisement from 1955...


Right: ...and from 1958 (?)

The series I got named Series I when the Series II came out in 1958 - which is not too much of a surprise. The Series I came in several varieties: 80" wheelbase (1948-1953), 86" (1953-1956), 88" (1956-1958), 107" (1953-1958) and 109" (1956-1958). Engines were the 1595cc (1948-1951), 1997cc (1951-1958) petrol and the 2052cc diesel (1957-1958).

The 1600cc petrol engine

Left: The 1600 (1595cc) petrol engine as used from 1948-1951

The 2litre engine was a large improvement, torque jumped up by 20 %

1997 cc four-cylinder petrol, 52 bhp @4000 rpm and 101 lbs/ft @1500 rpm

1957 saw the first diesel

The reason it took so long although customers demand was high was a contract with the British Army for tank engines. LR simply didn't have the factory space to built the diesels!

2052 cc four-cylinder diesel, 51 bhp @3500 rpm and 87 lbs/ft @2000 rpm

The Station Wagon was a commercial flop at that time.

This wonderful Series I and her trailer were displayed at the Dunsfold Museum Open Days in 1998.

Right: The inside of the caravan. Obviously built a bit sturdier then today's mobile homes.

Between 1948 and 1951 LR built a Station Wagon, forerunner of todays SUV's. Note the one piece windscreen, 35 years before 110's and Santanas got this feature in the 70's. The bodies were made by Tickford (the builder of Aston Martin).However no more records of that time exist, so information are purely based on what ex-workers of Tickford remember.

Two prototypes were built who still had the front window divider followed by only 640 production vehicles of which only 25 still exist.

Picture above taken at the excellent Land Rover display at the 1998 LRO Billing Show.

The vehicle however begun to move the Solihull newcomer more upmarket, away from the agricultural image.

The lack of acceptance was due to many factors: First it was hideously expensive, £949, for which you could buy several houses at that time. An open top Land Rover was only £450. An "purchase tax" of £207 was added as it was partly seen as a car. As it was also a "goods vehicle" it's top speed was limited to 30mph. So the sales on homemarket were slow and the colonies needed something else than this fancy car.

The largest single order came from the UNICEF who sent them to Poland where they come up from time to time. 3 and a half vehicles already turned up.

The Tempo

Both 80" and 86" Land Rovers were converted to a steel body in Germany by Vidal und Sohn under the "Tempo" trademark. They were used by West German border police (Bundesgrenzschutz). The bodywork was made of steel according to police standards. Tempos were delivered as complete vehicles, they never had CKD chassis numbers like Minervas! (Annette)