There’s something special about a Stage 1 V8. What started as an ambitious plan to update Land Rover’s model line-up and claw back some of the market lost to Japanese rivals resulted in a design that has influenced Defenders to this day. The Stage 1 was the first Land Rover to sport the flush front end and full-length bonnet – style cues that remain 30 years on.
Martin Winterton’s Land Rover may be a fine example of the long-wheelbase V8, but this one is a bit more special than most. It’s had some important responsibilities in its lifetime, having been specially supplied by Land Rover to the Royal Family in 1983 in order to tow the Queen’s Royal Review Land Rover.
It went on to tow a horsebox for its second owner before Martin bought it in 1989 to tow his caravan on family holidays. Martin is no stranger to Land Rovers: he bought his first, a Series II 109, in 1969. It had grass growing out of it and needed a full rebuild to make it roadworthy.
It’s not all been plain sailing on the Stage 1, with the years of hard towing having taken its toll on the chassis. Driving along, Martin heard a loud crack and the doors flew open, forcing him to pull over.
Closer inspection revealed the chassis had broken through the middle, so a replacement was acquired quickly and Martin set to work. He’s been an agricultural engineer all his life, so compared to the tractors and trucks he’s used to working on, replacing a chassis on a Land Rover was not
a major problem.
The original Series wheels had a severe case of metal moth and were swapped for shiny silver modulars. The side frames also needed replacing, but these are hard to find: the only ones Martin could see were at an autojumble and were in no better condition than his own. So he decided to make some himself, as well as some side steps.
The Stage 1 travels only about 2000 miles each year, which is more than enough for Martin, considering the wallet-draining price of fuel these days. With returns of 10mpg while towing and 18mpg solo, it doesn’t take long to empty the two fuel tanks of their 32-gallon capacity – a £189 fill-up.
This owner review appeared in the April 2011 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.