Everyone has a favourite, an ‘ultimate’ Land Rover that sticks in the imagination and won’t let go. Growing up, these were the vehicles that plastered our bedroom walls and filled our toy boxes, or the ones we were lucky enough to get a ride in. As grown-ups we still can’t get enough of them.
It’s almost impossible to agree on which is the best of all, though, which Team LRO proved while compiling a shortlist of 50 vehicles that you voted on at LRO.com and at our Peterborough show in September 2015. And, after all that, some of our favourites didn’t even make the final cut.
After all the votes were counted, there was a clear winner: the greatest Series and Defender of them all is… Huey!
1. Pre-production No.1 (1947)
Anybody who wants to learn about Land Rovers and how quickly they came about, very quickly gets to hear about HUE 166, adoringly known as ‘Huey’. He’s the first pre-production 80in Land Rover and has been at the heart of the marque’s folklore and history for decades.
According to company history, Huey, chassis number R01, was the first batch of 48 pre-production vehicles built immediately following the decision to abandon the centre-steer idea. These vehicles were all handbuilt at Solihull and ‘Huey’ really is the grand-daddy of them all. Huey, you’re the best!
‘It had to be the legendary HUE 166, didn’t it? I can’t think of a more deserving winner than Huey. The best. Full stop.’ – Mike Goodbun, LRO Editor
So, what about the rest?
2. Series I (1948-1958)
The original Land Rover saved one company and created another, which is no mean achievement for such a diminutive, basic vehicle. In the process, it helped put Britain back on its feet after the deprivations of WW2, and supported a generation of global explorers, civil engineers, farmers, soldiers and civilians in a hundred walks of life.
‘Once you’ve had an adventure behind the wheel of a Series I you won’t want to drive any other kind of Land Rover’ – Mark Saville, LRO Assistant Editor
3. Series III (1972-1983)
Surprised to see the humble Series III ranking so highly in LRO readers’ affections? We’re not. Values were historically low until the last few years, making them a great entry-point into Land Rover ownership. And who could forget their first Land Rover?
‘The Series III was more passenger-friendly and easier to drive, no longer was it just a tool to do a job’ – Neil Watterson, LRO Deputy Editor
4. Tomb Raider Defender (2001)
The Defender driven through the jungle by Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) in the 2001 Tomb Raider film has to be one of the most instantly recognisable Solihull-built Defenders ever made. And, one of the best sounding! Only 915 roadgoing Lara Croft editions were built, mostly 90 SWs, but thanks to the 110’s role in the film it’s the Double Cab that remains the pin-up of choice.
5. 300Tdi Defender (1994-1998)
The 300Tdi was developed from the rugged 200Tdi and offered a little extra smoothness along with comparable power and torque. Many regard the 300Tdi as the ultimate utility Land Rover, before ‘electrickery’ arrived in the Td5 (their positions in the countdown backs this up!).
6. Td5 Defender (1998-2007)
The five-cylinder Td5 brought considerable power advantages over the Tdi engines, along with subtle but significant bodywork and interior improvements. Better rustproofing from 2002 onwards, and ‘mod cons’ such as electric windows and central locking became available and despite initial concerns over longevity, the Td5 proved hardy, reliable, and a highly tuneable engine.
7. Spectre Defender 110s (2014. Film released 2015)
If you’ve seen Sam Mendes’ latest Bond epic, Spectre, you’re certain to have lusted after the duo of modified 110s that feature in the movie, barrelling through the snow of the Austrian Alps, hotly pursued by an aircraft. They’re the first high-profile vehicles that Land Rover developed especially for a movie franchise since Tomb Raider in 2001. Expect to see enthusiasts’ Spectre lookalikes at Land Rover shows before long!
8. Camel Trophy 110 (1984-1998)
The huge payload, ruggedness and off-road prowess of the One Ten and Defender 110 made them perfect tools for the Camel Trophy. One Tens were used were used on every event from 1984 to 1991 (except 1987), with Tdi-powered Defender 110s taking over from 1992. Relatively low production numbers and their collectability haven’t stopped these vehicles being enjoyed to the max by enthusiasts today.
9. Camel Trophy Ninety (1985-1986)
The 2.5 non-turbo Ninety was only used twice for the Camel Trophy. In Borneo in 1985, heavy rain forced the teams’ 16 Ninetys to wade through swollen rivers and thick mud, until rising waters meant the vehicles had to be abandoned by helicopter. More floods in Australia the following year required rafts to be built, but this time the diesel Ninetys bombed across 2000 miles of desert outback. Early Camel Trophy vehicles like these are rare, and don’t change hands often.
10. Series II/IIA (1958-1971)
The Series II brought significant engineering improvements over the Series I. Widening the axels helped improve stability, and fitting 2.25-litre petrol and later diesel engine beefed up performance. On the outside, that new barrelled shoulder line would come to distinguish the working man’s Land Rover for the rest of its history.
11. One Ten (1983-1990)
12. 50th Anniversary 90 V8 (1998)
13. 110 G4 Challenge (2003, 2006)
14. 2015 Heritage Edition (2015)
15. SAS Pink Panther (1968-1970)
16. Bowler Challenge 90 (2014-on)
17. Defender XD WOLF (1996-on)
18. Camel Series III 88in (1983)
19. Ninety (1984-1990)
20. Series III Stage 1 V8 109in (1979-1983)
21. First Overland Series Is (1955)
22. Defender SVX (2008)
23. Series III Lightweight (1973-1985)
24. TDCi Defender (2007-2015)
25. 200Tdi Defender (1990-1994)
It’s not too late to download a digital version of LRO. Get the January 2016 issue, featuring the Top 25 in full, here.
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