Friday, October 17, 2014

The $15,000 Question: Land Rover Series III

I've always had a soft spot for the old Land Rover, but thought I had gotten it out of my system until a friend from San Antonio texted me a picture of one recently.  Rough, crude, and basic to a fault, the original Land Rovers had more in common with a Farmall tractor than today's Range Rover.  The first Land Rover appeared in 1947 and was Great Britain's answer to the World War II Army Jeep.  It was rugged and designed to be simple enough to repair in the most remote locations.

Part of my fascination for the original Land Rover stems from "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."  The Marlin Perkins hosted show featured a animals in their natural habitat.  Each week Marlin, and his co-host Jim, would be on location in the African Serengeti or in the Amazon.  They would use Land Rovers to get to remote locations, chase down animals to be tagged and released, and occasionally get out of harm's way. 

The original Land Rover evolved gradually, adding power, creature comforts, and  weight, but the basic formula remained it production for over 60 years.  It's direct ancestor, the Defender, looks relatively identical to the original model and is still in production today.  Ultimately though, the Land Rover's days are numbered.  It was eclipsed long ago by more comfortable utility vehicles, commonly known as SUVs, including it's kid brothers, the Range Rover and Discovery.  Sales have dwindled since the early 1970s, partly due to the demand for more comfort, but also because of safely regulations.  It hasn't been imported to the US since the late 1990s and will finally be phased out in 2015 because of legislative reasons.      


Today you can buy an original Series II or Series III Land Rover for under $15,000.  The vehicle is slow and crude, even compared to a basic Jeep Wrangler, but is easy to work on.  It can be used as a daily driver, with the only serious drawback being a dearth of parts in the US. 

Think of it as a four wheeled version of the late Steve Erwin, a rough and tumble vehicle that is up for adventure and will do just about anything.