Mark's Series I 'Plimsoll'

1957 2.0-LITRE PETROL SERIES I 88in

Plimsoll has been cleared to run on the Severn Valley Railway on 12 August

Plimsoll has been cleared to run on the Severn Valley Railway on 12 August

The Series I Land Rover is the epitome of cool – ‘just enough essential parts,’ as someone somewhere said at some point about a different vehicle, a long time ago. And that’s the point; Series Is were made a long time ago. My own fine example, christened Plimsoll by my wife, when I bought it in mid-2002, left the Solihull factory gates in April 1957. Driving a vehicle this old is a genuine adventure each and every time you get behind the wheel.

Plimsoll is completely standard and mostly original. That means he’s still sitting on the original chassis, running the original axles, gearbox and transfer box but the 2.0-litre inlet-over-exhaust petrol engine is in fact partly from a 1956 Rover car; everything apart from the block and the alternator are original. As far as I know, most of the bodywork is also original, except the tailgate and front wing outer panels.

Since 2002, I’ve done a lot of maintenance and repair work on Plimsoll, calling outside help for welding expertise on a few occasions. The first major task was to sort out the bulkhead which had been repaired several times prior to my ownership. I cut away the rotten footwells, the lower half of the driver’s door pillar and the bottom few inches of the passenger door pillar; a friend-of-a-friend welded-in new metal in exchange for monies.

Later on, came a new driver’s side bulkhead outrigger and fuel tank front outrigger, but by far the biggest expense and improvement was getting the engine superbly rebuilt by Cotterell Engineering, in Clay Cross, Derbyshire. It’s done well over 40,000-miles since then, taking me to Iceland three times, the Arctic Circle and beyond in Norway, Series Land Rover events in France and Switzerland and all over the UK.

All this use takes it out of a sixty-year-old vehicle, so as well as the engine rebuild, I’ve replaced the road springs (twice), re-bushed the chassis, had the gearbox and transfer box rebuilt, replaced countless oil seals, and even re-painted the bodywork with a roller.

My latest series of adventures has seen me driving Plimsoll on rails. After years of dead-ends, I finally located a company willing and capable of producing a set of custom-made railway wheels. The first outing was in September 2016 at Foxfield Railway, near Stoke-on-Trent, and included a mighty 1 in 19 gradient, in foul weather.

The second rail trip was to drive the full length of the mighty North Yorkshire Moors Railway, from Pickering to Grosmont; all 18 miles. The third occasion saw Plimsoll trundle along The Bluebell Railway, from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes. These three trips are hopefully the beginning of a whole series of spectacular events.

Vital stats

  • 1957 Land Rover Series I, Regular
  • Colour: Deep Bronze Green
  • Engine: 1997cc, IOE, four cylinder petrol
  • Fuel consumption: 20-23mpg
  • Transmission: four-speed main gearbox, two-speed transfer box, selectable 4wd                        

Upgrades, modifications & repairs

Mark's Freelander 1

1999 1.8-LITRE PETROL FREELANDER 1 THREE-DOOR

All proper Land Rovers have names and this particular V-registration, three-door Freelander 1 is known as Victor; by my wife, anyway.

Unlike many older Freelanders, this one hasn’t had a long succession of owners; I’m only the third, which may explain why the mileage is still pretty low. When I bought it in February 2016, it had only covered a little over 53,000 miles, and for £1250 I got myself a great little run about.

Since then, it’s taken me to the West Highlands of Scotland (and brought me back) and helped me cover dozens of feature vehicles for the magazine, all over the UK. It makes an ideal off-road camera car, with the rear window lowered the photographer has a safe and clear view of the target vehicle.

I’ve had to do a few jobs on it, with a good deal of help from Martin Domoney, LRO’s workshop writer; he does the work and I watch – it works for me.

The list includes new centre bearings for the propshaft, a fuel tank cradle, and front discs and pads. Inspired by the remote thermostat upgrade fitted to LRO’s rallying Freelander 1, I fitted the same upgrade to Victor; although successful, I bet I took a good while longer than Martin would have needed.

Victor has been off-road several times for photoshoots and on a recent trip to Tixover, I went a bit ‘off-piste’ and ‘redesigned’ the driver’s sill with a medium-sized scuff and depression. Despite this minor self-inflicted wound, the Freelander continues to impress me, although it’s currently suffering an intermittent fuel starvation problem. Hopefully, a new fuel tank pump will solve the issue.

Vital stats

  • 1999 Land Rover Freelander 1, three-door hard-back
  • Colour: Epsom Green
  • Engine: 1.8-litre four cylinder petrol                                          

Upgrades, modifications & repairs

  • Remote thermostat housing and new expansion bottle
  • Tyres: 195/80 R15 Yokohama Geolander G015 tyres
  • Replacement fuel tank cradle
  • Front discs and pads
  • Propshaft centre bearings

Neil’s Defender 110

1998 300Tdi Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon

Everyone should drive a Defender 110 station wagon at some point in their life. Okay, others may be better in certain respects now, but a 110 station wagon does look right wherever it is – and it’s why I own one.

It’s a very late 300Tdi. I bought it in 2002, re-mortgaging my house to pay for it. Over the years I’ve improved bits of it, but I haven’t gone silly; and everything that has been done can be undone.

It was all-but standard when I bought it and the engine and gearbox still are. I’ve fitted KAM HD rear halfshafts and Paddocks HD drive flanges as the splines were wearing too quickly on standard items. It has Fox dampers all round, valved to match the springs and I use standard hard top rear springs, rather than station wagon items to reduce bottoming out.

Centre-row seats have all been upgraded and I’ve removed the rearmost seats: most insurers won’t insure 12-seaters these days. A Mantec raised air intake keeps the air filter dry and Samco Sport silicone hoses keep all the boosts in check.

I had it Waxoyled when I first bought it, topping it up occasionally, but the rear crossmember is starting to get a bit ropey. It’s rotting where the water thrown up by the rear wheels collects – I’ve fitted some of the Gwyn Lewis mud shields now, but I should have done it years ago.

The paintwork is really starting to fail now, the second-row doors are in dire need of replacement and the bodywork has more than a few greenlaning scars, but it still looks good. I think it’s well overdue some TLC.

Vital stats

  • 1998 Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon
  • 2495cc 300Tdi
  • Five-speed/two-speed transfer box
  • Seven seats

Upgrades and modifications

LRO Freelander

1998 1.8-litre Land Rover Freelander 1

Our Freelander was a few weeks away from being scrapped when we stepped in and saved it. It’s an XEi model, but there’s little of the kit left in it now. After we fixed the problems it had, we bunged a lift kit on it and used it for greenlaning – the traction control helping to make it a great all-rounder.

But we weren’t really using it enough, and if we were just going to use it as a toy, we may as well make it into a real one. So, out went all the trim and seats and a full six-point Safety Devices roll cage, bucket seat five-point harnesses and electric cut-outs were fitted, making it eligible for the Freelander Challenge.

The suspension lift was removed and oversize 225/75 R15 Toyo Open Country AT tyres were fitted to improve clearance slightly.

But, though that was fun, because it has a four-cylinder, non-turbocharged, engine, it’s suitable for many road rallies and targa events. And, as LRO editor Neil likes his navigation, it has found another lease of life as a targa rally vehicle.

It may not have the ability to turn that well, compared to rear-wheel-drive Ford Escorts, but it makes up for it by being quicker across the rough stuff. It is outclassed by most of the other vehicles on this sort of event, but the punishment it can take means it stays competitive – and Neil has managed it to drive to and from all of the events so far; many competitors arrive with their cars on trailers.

1.8 Freelanders don’t have the best reliability reputation, but we’re finding that provided you let the engine warm up, you can treat it as harshly as you like – redlining it through the gears – and it doesn’t complain. In fact, it positively relishes the abuse. The only think is, when you drive it like that you get through a lot of exhaust pipes: the flexible sections keep failing!

Martin’s 300Tdi Discovery

1997 Land Rover Discovery 300Tdi

I bought my Discovery in 2016, to replace the Defender 110 I sold to raise money for a house deposit. Much as I miss the 110, I’m certainly enjoying the comfort and relative refinement the rounder vehicle offers.

This Avalon Blue example was a bit of a rushed buy – I needed transport to replace the Defender and I’d already viewed plenty of D1s that fell short of the standard of vehicle I was after. That said, the car actually had far more rust than I first thought when I handed over the cash for it.

Seller had owned it for 14 years, and it was completely unmolested. Because of this, my initial plan was to throw a set of all-terrains on it and leave it standard, but that plan didn’t last long.

I grew tired of the faded plastic end caps coming loose from the original bumper, so the first mod was an all-steel replacement from First Four Off Road.

Taking care of putting the EDC-equipped 300Tdi’s power to the ground are a set of Yokohama Geolandar G015 all-terrain tyres – they’re certainly getting a good work out on- and off-road.

As this is my daily drive, expect to see loads of updates in the magazine.

Martin’s V8 Discovery

1993 Land Rover Discovery 3.5 V8

This 200-series Disco is my latest purchase, bought just last month. It’s a totally standard, and that’s exactly how it’ll stay. I’ve proclaimed that before and been lead astray by shiny bolt-ons, but I really do mean it this time.

It’s a 3.5-litre V8, with the Lucas ‘hotwire’ EFi system. It’s also an automatic – 1993 was the first year the autobox became an option on Discoverys. It’s got smart factory touches, like the headrest cushions and removable branded carpet mats in that love-it-or-hate-it Conran blue.

The bodywork, while straight, does need some paint sorting out. The roof is almost entirely devoid of lacquer – when time and funds allow, the windscreen and alpine lights will be coming out for the panel to be sprayed, then they’ll go back in with new seals.

Sills and door shuts need only minimal welding, and then the chassis and body will be thoroughly rustproofed. I’ll probably keep the black Disco in storage when it’s all done, and bring it out for the odd show or drive to the coast. Much as I’d love to use it more, the lusty V8 and my bank balance just don’t see eye to eye.

Neil's Series IIA

1969 Land Rover Series IIA 88-inch

July 2017

July 2017

I bought my 1969 Series IIA Land Rover in 1988. It was my first car.

It wasn’t in great nick when I got it – it needed a new rear crossmember straight away and the 6.00X16 Firestone Town and Country tyres were approaching the legal limit, so they were replaced with Avon Traction Mileages of the same size.

I used it like this for a while, greenlaning and trialling and fitted some 7.50X16 Firestone Super All Tractions (SATs) when the Avons ran out of tread.

Eventually time took its toll on the rest of the chassis – I’d been replacing an outrigger a year for the MoT and the bulkhead wasn’t great. Plus I had a Q-plate Series IIA 109-inch, in better nick which no-one wanted, so I decided to rebuild the 88-inch onto a new galvanised chassis, using existing running gear and bodywork, but the 109’s bulkhead.

I ran it like this for a few years until I bought my 300Tdi Defender in 2002, when it go relegated to shed duties on my drive.

Fresh life was breathed into it in 2007 by fitting an ex-Discovery 1 200Tdi engine, complete with Steve Parkers exhaust. Subsequently I fitted a Fairey overdrive, giving improved cruising speed.

I run a variety of tyres on it. Normally I use 6.5-inch 127/Defender 130 rims, but often I’ll throw on 8-spokes, which I bought for the additional steering lock for trialling. At the moment it is shod with 235/85 R16 Cooper Discoverer STT Pro.

Tuckaway-R folded

Tuckaway-R folded

Recently I fitted a Dixon Bate Tuckaway-R recovery crane. There’s no chance of using the SWB to towing in reality, even though it sits on LWB springs – the rear axle loading is just too high. But it’s a quirky item – and I have the Universal Lifting Arms to go with it. I’ll try lifting a more modern vehicle with the crane one day.

The Dixon-Bate Tuckaway-R

The Dixon-Bate Tuckaway-R

It needs a fresh coat of paint and some proper TLC, but it always starts when needed – and the great thing is , it doesn’t cost a huge amount to have sitting around, just the price of an MoT and insurance. So it doesn’t matter if I don’t use it every day.

Vital stats

  • 1969 Land Rover Series IIA 88-inch truck cab
  • 200Tdi engine
  • Four-speed gearbox, two-speed transfer box

Upgrades and modifications

Neil's Lightweight

1979 Land Rover Series III Lightweight

I bought my 1979 Series III Lightweight in 2014. It's not the first one I've owned; I had a later model in the mid 1990s. Its NATO designation was: Truck Utility 1/2T 4x4 Rover Series 3 and had the military registration mark 23HF40. It is tatty, but sound, and had a replacement chassis just before being cast in 1997.

Despite being no beauty queen, it was well looked after by its first civilian owner, before seeing the sort of use Lightweights tend to get at the hands of its second. Stolen, then recovered, it disappeared into a garage for years before reappearing in 2014.

As well as the sound chassis, it has a Fairey overdrive and internal roll cage - giving it a bit of protection as I intend to compete in events with it. I've replaced the engine with one of the correct era (it came with a late Series IIA engine) and fitted a high-torque starter motor.

It's shod with 205/80 R16 Michelin Latitude Cross tyres on tubeless Defender wheels, which are about the same size as the 6.50 X 16 tyres it would have worn in service, so the gearing is spot on, but it can belly out (as you'll see in the video).

The suspension is standard, but I'll probably replace the rear springs with 109in springs as I'm not happy with the ride height and the springs are starting to flatten.

Vital stats

  • 1979 Land Rover Series III ½ Ton Lightweight soft top
  • 2286cc petrol engine
  • Four-speed gearbox, two-speed transfer box

Upgrades and modifications