1957 2.0-LITRE PETROL SERIES I 88in
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.
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
Overdrive: Roamerdrive SS
Suspension: Jones Springs leaf springs
Shock absorbers: Bilstein gas dampers
Custom-made railway wheels: 27 13/16in, P1 profile, LN25 cast alloy
Tyres: 7.00x16 Avon Traction Mileage
New rear crossmember: Radfords
Seats: Exmoor Trim
Tilt: Undercover Covers
Replacement front wings and tailgate: Wadsworth Panels
Wiring harness: Autosparks
Rebuilt engine (40,000-miles ago) Cotterell Engineering
Rebuilt gearbox: Dunsfold DLR
Rebuilt transfer box: R Whitehouse
Rebuilt propshafts: Dave Mac Propshafts