They're great but take care...
The Series Landrover is a popular buy on ebay and there are a few basics that the prospective owner should be aware of....Before considering the potential pitfalls, it might be useful to give a brief description of the various vehicles you might encounter on your exciting journey to the Landrover of your dreams...
The Series I was introduced in 1948 and was in production until 1957-8 and 182,000 or so were produced (80", 86" & 107" wheelbase).
The Series II followed with 128,000 produced between 1958 and 1962. (88" and 109" wheelbase) Then came
The Series IIA which was in production until 1971 with 652,000 built. The last of the series vehicles was
The Series III which was gradually superseded by the Defender 90 and 110 (as against 88" and 109" wheelbase), the last one being built in 1985. Approx 616,000 Series IIIs were manufactured.
It's worth mentioning that the "wheelbase" of a vehicle is the distance between front and rear axle centres. The distance between wheel centres on the same axle is the "track". Hence the overall length of a SWB or 88" Landrover is actually nearer 141" or 11'10".
The 1958 SII was superficially the same as the 1985 SIII. The only instantly obvious difference was the position of the headlights which were moved from the radiator panel to the wings in 1968. Other clues to the vehicle being a SIII are the air vent in the passenger-side wing and the dashboard which has a plastic instrument panel conventionally placed behind the steering wheel, on pre-1971 vehicles the switches and dials were in a central binnacle, a legacy of the earliest pre-production Landrovers which were centre steer like the WWII Jeep.
The reason for all this detail is that a large number of post 1971 SIII Landrovers are mis-sold as late IIAs or earlier. I have even seen an unaltered Defender being sold as a Series I "be aware this vehicle is 50 years old" the listing said!
This skulduggery is due to the then Chancellor (G Brown), who suspended the rolling 25 year historic vehicle status and froze it at 31/12/1971 so any vehicle built after that date is liable for road tax. A Landrover registered in 1972 or later might have been built prior to 31/12/71 and stored or put into MoD service so you can encounter some quite late suffixes which are still classed as historic (Check chassis number and contact Landrover register).
Basically though if you see a Landrover with wing mounted headlights and the numberplate suffix places it as older than 1968"G", be suspicious.
Wings can easily be changed of course but if the bulkhead is SIII then 80% certain it's a post 1971 SIII on an earlier vehicle's identity.
Two interesting developments in the last budget. The 40 year Historic Vehicle status has become a rolling exemption from VED so, at the time of writing (Nov 2014) all L suffix vehicles and most M suffix are now classed as historic. Additionally, vehicles built prior to 1960 will no longer require an MOT! This seems to be because owners of pre-1960 vehicles tend to cherish them and most pass the MOT.
This might not last. I have already seen tatty SIIIs being sold on ebay on the identities of pre 1960 vehicles "Tax and MOT exempt". It only takes a 1985 Defender on a false 1959 identity to be involved in a fatal accident for this happy situation to be reversed.
Some general tips for buyers. Rust in the chassis is the first problem with old Landrovers. If you are intending to do a re-build onto a new chassis (which will cost around £1200 (SWB) and £1500 (LWB) excl VAT and delivery) then a rusty MoT failure is a sensible buy otherwise resist the temptation, spend a couple of hundred more on one with tax and test and you'll save in the long run. I bought a terrible one in 1994 and parts of it are still lying around as a dire warning. The rear end of the chassis from the rear axle back, the front chassis legs (dumbirons) and the various outriggers all suffer as does the radiator panel and the bulkhead (footwells, A posts and around windscreen hinges). Bulkhead rust can be a time and money consuming problem to resolve. It is possible to replace footwells with the bulkhead in situ but it's not recommended. Replacement bulkheads are available but at an eye-watering price.
The canvas top on Landrovers is called a tilt, a full length one is a full tilt and the type used with a pick-up cab is a 3/4 tilt. Tilt's an Anglo-Saxon word for the cover on a hooped wagon.
Try to get to know about them before buying so you know what to expect.
Some vehicles look tired and "worked on" if it doesn't lift your spirits immediately, walk away.
Go to view the vehicle if possible and take overalls, get underneath and have a good poke around. You can tell a lot from the state of the underside. Check fluid levels if practicable.
Test all the lights and other electricals.
Look to see if the engine is cold when you come to start it up.
On the test drive be harsh with the gearbox, rev and decelerate in all gears, Landrovers tend to start jumping out of second gear on overrun (when you remove pressure from the accelerator without de-clutching) when the gearbox is beginning to wear badly. Engage and disengage the overdrive if fitted. It shouldn't be difficult to do or make any additional noise of its own, the overdrive should only be engaged whilst in 3rd or 4th gears.
Landrovers aren't quiet though, don't expect it to be, particularly if it's a diesel.
Your prospective Landrover might have extras fitted. Assuming they're in good order, they should bring your offer price up. For example an MoT'd hardtop without any extras might be £800, if it had an overdrive and freewheeling hubs it would be nearer £1100, if it was a nice IIA with a full tilt and frame included, £2000 upward and if it was rebuilt onto a galvanised chassis, that'd be another £800 - £1000 on top.
Having said all this I love Landrovers and wouldn't be without one. I have taken a chance a few times and bought my present Landrover off eBay without viewing it at all but I did know what questions to ask and got a weeks guarantee. Spare parts are cheap and readily available and cost of ownership is low if you want it to be. Most repairs can be attempted successfully by a vaguely competent owner.
I've collected parts to allow me any conformation I want: full tilt, pick-up, full hardtop with windows or van type.
So go on, buy one, just
Know your limitations and don't get carried away!