The Complete History of the Land Rover

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The Complete History of the Land Rover

The Land Rover is synonymous with off-road capabilities, and has had this place of honour in the minds of the public ever since the vehicle was introduced in the 1940's. The only four-wheeler to have reached many remote parts of the world, the Land Rover holds a place in automotive history that anyone who likes cars should know about.

The complete story of the Land Rover includes the tale of how and why it was designed in the first place. Then comes the story of how the design was tweaked and changed to fit the times and the needs of the people. This vehicle continued to be the workhorse that was equally comfortable on a mountainside as on the highway. While Land Rovers have gotten more into the luxury vehicle market in recent years and somewhat left behind their utilitarian beginnings, anyone in the market for one would do well to know the vehicle's history and how to buy one online at useful websites like eBay.

The Beginnings of the Land Rover

The Land Rover was inspired by the military Willys Jeep made in the 1940's. A British car designer, Maurice Wilks, was an owner of a surplus army Jeep and found it useful around his Anglesey farm. When the Jeep started to fail, and he realised getting parts for it was going to be difficult, he made up his mind to design a similar vehicle and improve on the Jeep's design. As the Chief Designer for the Rover Company, which made cars before WWII, he even remarked that if he could not design a better vehicle, he should not be in the business. The good news is that he did design a better vehicle. The first Land Rover prototype, which came out in 1947, was made with farming needs in mind. It could be used as a power source and as an all-purpose vehicle on all kinds of rugged terrain.

Fun Facts About Land Rover History

The Rover Company was originally in the business of making cars. The Land Rover only took off as a business idea because there was a serious shortage of steel and the company needed something to sell until there was enough steel to make cars again. For this reason, the body panels of the original Land Rover, and of many later models as well, were made of aluminium. Amusingly enough, the product that was only intended to be a stopgap measure until the Rover Company could begin production on their regular cars again became twice as popular as the cars by 1951. 

Land Rover Models

The first Land Rover was a huge success, but that did not stop the Rover Company from improving the design. Far from being a farm vehicle, the Land Rover was sought out for a wide range of uses, from military uses, to expeditions, to remote places. The Land Rover was the first four-wheel vehicle seen by people in many parts of the world for this reason. From its start in 1947 to its evolution through the new millennium, there have been relatively few different models. The basic Land Rover models include the Series I, Series II, Forward Control, Series III, and the Defender. Other Land Rover models include the Range Rover, the Discovery, and the Freelander. 

Land Rover Series I

The very first Land Rover, which made a huge hit at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948, had an 80-inch wheelbase, a 1.6-litre petrol engine, and a four-speed gearbox from Rover's pre-war designs. The power take-off, used to power agricultural implements when the vehicle was at a standstill, was an essential feature, while the roof was optional and extra. This was the only Land Rover model offered until 1951, although a luxury station wagon body was introduced in 1949. This had leather seats, a heater, and seating for seven people. In 1952, the 1.6-litre engine was replaced with a 2-litre petrol engine.

Advancements in Technology

The next big change came in 1954 when the wheelbase was lengthened to 86 inches. A 107-inch "pickup truck" model was also introduced. Again, station wagon models were made, but unlike the first station wagons, these were made for commercial purposes, rather than as luxury vehicles. In 1956, the wheelbase was extended another two inches in order to make room for the 2-litre diesel engine which came out in 1957.

Series II

The Series II came about to answer the need for a bigger engine and better body styling. Although the first 1,500 models of the 88-inch Series II vehicles came out with the Series I 2-litre petrol engine, Rover soon switched to a 2.25-litre petrol engine. A twelve-seater with the 109-inch wheelbase was designed to classify as a bus according to tax laws in the UK. In this way, buyers could circumvent the Purchase Tax and Special Vehicle Tax that made the smaller Land Rovers more expensive. The twelve-seater was a hit, and the smaller 107-inch 10-seater station wagon was dropped from production soon after.

Enhancements to the Series II

In 1961, the capacity of the diesel engine was increased to 2.25 litres. Along with a few other design changes, this became the Land Rover Series IIA. The Series IIA is perhaps the most widely recognised Land Rover model. This is the vehicle that became hugely popular in expeditions throughout Africa and Australia, as well as many other parts of the world.

Series IIA and IIB Forward Control

In response to the demand for a vehicle that could carry big loads, the Series IIA Forward Control model was introduced in 1962. Built as a pickup, the cab was located directly over the engine, creating a much larger cargo space. However, since the engine size was the same, the Series IIA FC was somewhat underpowered. This was fixed in 1966 with the Series IIB Forward Control, which came with more powerful petrol and diesel engine options.

Series III

In 1971, the Series III was introduced. It was not much different from the Series IIA; the biggest change was the gearbox which now had synchromesh on all forward gears. Some metal parts, like the dashboard and grille, were replaced with plastic. The brakes, rear axle, and electrical system also saw improvements.

Range Rover

The Range Rover was designed for more comfort than the bare bones of the utilitarian Land Rover. By 1966, a plan had been made to produce a 5-seater luxury station wagon. Rover used a more powerful V8 3.5-litre engine for this vehicle and then made corresponding modifications to the gearbox and transmission. The suspension was also changed to a vertical coil spring suspension, as opposed to the Land Rover's leaf-spring suspension.

The Range Rover was a huge success, and again, found favour with many more sectors of the public than Rover had imagined. The V8 engine allowed the car to reach almost 100 mph, something that attracted police forces of the time. It was also a great option for families, as a passenger car and a utility vehicle in one. Range Rovers were in production until 1996.


The Discovery was introduced in 1989 and was the first Land Rover model to enter the family car market. Similar in some ways to the Range Rover, the Discovery was intended to be a comfortable family car, but was aimed at a larger market segment at a lower price. It was one of the first SUVs to be made and has since gone through four generations.


Also called the Land Rover Ninety and the Land Rover One Ten, the Defender originally came out as station wagon models with a 90-inch and 110-inch wheelbase. These replaced the Series III and had coil springs and better styling. The Ninety and the One Ten came out in 1983 but were rebranded as the Defender in 1990, as they were to be used by defence forces. Other changes were made in 1990, including the introduction of a 200TDi diesel engine option.


The Freelander broke away from Land Rover tradition to compete with small 4X4s like the Honda CR-V. Despite not having the off-road capabilities of the larger Land Rovers, the Freelander was an immediate success and stayed Europe's best-selling 4X4 from its inception in 1997 until 2002. It was also the first Land Rover to have a Hill Descent Control system. The second generation came out in 2006.

Other Land Rover Models

Many other Land Rover models were made, including the Stage One 109-inch V8, the P38 range Rover, and 1-ton model. Most of these had special uses, for the military or for commercial purposes. The table below gives a summary of Land Rover models since the first one in 1947.

Land Rover Model



Original Land Rover


Light utility vehicle; power take-off; off-road capabilities

Series II


Bigger engines; better styling

Series IIA


Bigger diesel engine option; few other changes

Series IIA Forward Control


First load-carrying model

Series IIB Forward Control


Improved load-carrying with more powerful engine

Range Rover


Luxury SUV

Series III


Improved gearbox with synchromesh on all four gears; minor style changes

Forward Control 101-inch


V8 powered model; takes off with the military

Stage One 109-inch V8


V8 power with load carrying and durability of 109-inch Land Rover

Ninety and One Ten


Replaced Series III; modern styling; coil springs



Mid-range SUV; entered the family SUV market

P38 Range Rover


Remodelled body; on-road luxury SUV with excellent off-road capabilities



Compact SUV; best-selling 4X4 in Europe for 5 years

Range Rover Sport


Mid-size luxury SUV

Range Rover Evoque


Compact SUV with improved fuel efficiency

The models still in production include the Freelander, the Discovery, the Defender, and three models of Range Rovers. Of course, there are also hundreds of modified Land Rover vehicles which were specially made or modified for special uses by electrical companies, law enforcement, the military, and firefighters, and many others.

How to Buy a Land Rover on eBay

Land Rovers are still highly popular utility vehicles although they have changed quite a bit in design from the first boxy off-road vehicles that crossed through the African savanna. Almost every model of Land Rover can still be found for sale, especially online using websites like eBay. By shopping for Land Rovers on eBay, you can find historic models coveted by Land Rover aficionados, as well as new models for seemingly every need imaginable.

Starting the Search

To find a Land Rover on eBay, just start on any eBay page and enter the search term 'Land Rover' in the search box. You can then choose to browse through Land Rover parts and accessories or cars for sale by choosing the appropriate category. If you want to browse through the Land Rovers that are for sale at any given time, choose the appropriate subcategories. Once within the correct subcategory, you can refine the search by model, year, fuel type, price, and many other options. These criteria make it easy to find just the vehicle you are looking for.

Be Thorough with Research

Be sure to read the listing carefully and check what kind of warranty is offered. Always feel free to ask the seller any questions you may have. Choosing a reputable seller is as easy as clicking on the seller's feedback score to see the seller's transactional history on eBay. Make sure you take advantage of this excellent resource on eBay before sealing a deal on any item. 


The Land Rover brand has benefited from a remarkable combination of luck and skill in market assessment. They have done so by coming out with vehicle models that fit the needs of the public perfectly. From the original Land Rover, to the luxury Range Rover, and then to compact Freelander, several Land Rover models completely cornered the market in terms of off-road vehicles. Even though the Rover group was bought and sold various times to different companies, the Land Rover brand has remained synonymous with unmatched off-road capabilities.

Those in the market for one of the modern Land Rover models, like the Discovery or the Range Rover Evoque, may be interested to know how it developed into the powerful and stylish vehicle it is today. Surely Maurice Wilks never imagined that the little workhorse he found so useful on his farm would one day be one of the most famous vehicle brands worldwide. Land Rovers all over the world can be bought and sold on eBay, the world's leading online marketplace.

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