Series III 88-inch utilities (1971-1985)

The Series III models were introduced in September 1971. Despite their new name, they were essentially evolutions of the Series IIA types they replaced. Key identifying features were the one-piece moulded grille in ABS plastic, flat hinges for all side doors, and a black plastic dashboard which located the instruments directly in front of the driver. The Series IIIs picked up the all-synchromesh gearbox which had been introduced on the last of the Series IIA models. In the beginning, the engines in the 88-inch models were the same 2.25-litre petrol and diesel four-cylinders as had powered the Series IIAs. From 1980, these were re-engineered with five main bearings instead of the original three, but retained the original 2286cc swept volume despite Land Rover’s habit of calling them “2.3-litre” types. As before, the 88-inch models could be bought as truck cabs, hardtops, seven-seat station wagons or with a full soft top. A few examples were also converted into fire tenders and the like. Colours available up to 1983 were Bronze Green, Light Green, Mid-Grey, Marine Blue, Limestone and (for export only) Sand. From early 1983, Masai Red, Roan Brown, Russet Brown, Stratos Blue and Trident Green were added to the range. Upholstery was invariably black. The Series III 88-inch models were effectively replaced by the new coil-sprung Ninety range from June 1984, but production continued into 1985 to meet orders from overseas. It is not possible at present to give precise production figures for the Series III 88-inch Land Rovers. However, the most reliable estimates available suggest that there were 45,531 between 1971 and 1975, and that a further 111,990 were built between then and the introduction of VINs in 1979. Thereafter, there were probably around 35,000 more before production ended. The grand total would therefore work out at around 101,500. This figure includes the Station Wagons but excludes the Lightweights.

Series III 88-inch Station Wagons (1971-1985)

The Series III 88-inch Station Wagon was a direct replacement for the Series IIA type. It was once again a seven-seater, and differed from its predecessors in the same ways as the Series III utilities differed from their Series IIA counterparts. From April 1982, the standard Station Wagon models were joined by County Station Wagons with a higher specification level and grey cloth upholstery. These models also had distinctive side stripes and came in their own special colours of Masai Red or Russet Brown, and (from early 1983) Roan Brown, Stratos Blue or Trident Green. Roofs and upper rear panels were, as usual, in Limestone. There is no code letter in the VIN to distinguish a County model from an ordinary Station Wagon.

Series III 88-inch Federal De Luxe Hardtop (1971-1974)

As with the last of the Series IIAs, US Federal regulations demanded a special version of the Series III. By this stage, only 88-inch models were on sale in the USA and in Canada, and the only body style available was the Station Wagon. However, the vehicle was actually marketed as a De Luxe Hardtop. The Federal models were available only with an emissions-controlled version of the 2.25-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which was markedly less powerful than the standard engine sold elsewhere. They had side marker lights on front and rear wings, large-diameter front indicator repeaters and 5.00 x 15 wheels with 7.10 x 15 tyres. All seven seats were provided with safety belts as standard, but the tropical roof was an optional extra. Paint colours available were Light Green, Limestone, Marine Blue, and Red – in each case with Limetone roof and upper rear panels. Production of these models ended in 1974, when Land Rover pulled out of the US market because of poor sales and increasingly tough emissions regulations.

Series III 109-inch utilities (1971-1985)

The long-wheelbase Series III models were introduced at the same time as the short-wheelbase types, in 1971. They had the same interior and exterior distinguishing characteristics. However, the four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines were supplemented by a six-cylinder option – the same 2.6-litre IOE engine as had been used in the long-wheelbase Series IIAs. This was the first of the engines to go out of production, lasting only until mid-1980 when it was replaced by the V8 (see next month) which had been introduced for some markets the previous year. The two four-cylinder engines were replaced by the re-engineered “2.3-litre” types (which retained the original 2286cc capacity) with five instead of three main bearings in late 1980. The 109-inch Series IIIs came as soft tops, hardtops, truck cabs or Station Wagons (see below). There were One Ton versions with uprated load capacity between 1971 and 1977 (again, see below). Both types were popular as the basis of conversions. From April 1982, a High-Capacity Pick-Up (HCPU) with optional 1.3-tonne payload was also offered. At the same time, a County (de luxe) cab trim option was made available. Colours available were the same as for the 88-inch models (see last month’s Heritage feature). From August 1980, the four-cylinder models were all fitted with silver headlamp bezels to distinguish them from the V8-engined models (see next month).

The coil-sprung One Ten models introduced in April 1983 replaced the Series III 109s gradually, and the last of these vehicles was built in 1985. It is not possible at present to give exact production figures for the Series III 109-inch Land Rovers. However, the most reliable estimates suggest that there were 63,446 between 1971 and 1975, plus a further 145,408 between then and the introduction of VINs in 1979. Thereafter, there were probably around 66,000 more before production stopped. The grand total would therefore work out at around 274,854, inclusive of Station Wagons and One Ton models but excluding the Stage I V8s.

Series III 109-inch Station Wagons (1971-1985)

The Series III 109-inch Station Wagon was a direct replacement for the Series IIA type. Both 10-seater and 12-seater versions were available throughout. The County (de luxe) Station Wagons introduced in April 1982 had a cubby box in place of the central front seat and were therefore either nine-seaters or 11-seaters. The last production Series III was a 109 Station Wagon, and is now in the Heritage collection at Gaydon. The Station Wagons came with the same range of engines as the Series III utility models. County Station Wagons had cream-coloured side decals and shared their special range of colours with the 88-inch County models. It is not possible at present to give production totals for the Series III 109-inch Station Wagons.

Series III 109-inch “One Ton” (1971-1977)

The heavy-duty “One Ton” specification was carried over from the Series IIA models, and featured the same lower transfer box gearing, 9.00 x 16 wheel-and-tyre combination, and “drop-shackle” springs. Several chassis were probably used for special bodies, such as the Shorland Armoured Car. All vehicles had the six-cylinder petrol engine. Records suggest that there were just 450 of these vehicles built, although the absence of CKD records is not conclusive proof that there were never any CKD variants. The final vehicles (in the LHD 269-series) were built in 1977, but production had run down progressively before then. The last Home Market (266-series) chassis were built in 1976 and the last RHD export chassis (267-series) in 1975.

Series III Half-Ton (1972-1984)

The Series III version of the Half-Ton military Land Rover, or Lightweight, entered production in April 1972, some eight months after production of the Series III civilian models had begun. This was because Solihull had to complete outstanding orders for the Series IIA version first. Series III Half-Tons looked very much like the Series IIA models they replaced. However, changes included a key rather than push-button start, Smiths heater, modified upper bulkhead and windscreen hinges, the latest all-synchromesh gearbox and a larger (9.5in) clutch plate. The 12-volt models had an alternator in place of the earlier dynamo. All vehicles retained the earlier style of instrument panel and did not switch to the civilian Series III type; column switchgear was however the civilian Series III type. From 1980, the wing mirrors were relocated on the doors, and rear fog guard lights were added. The final models were built in 1984, and entered British military service early the following year. Most vehicles were delivered as GS (12-volt) or FFR (24-volt) soft tops, but some were converted by the military into hardtops or Station Wagons, using modified civilian panels. All British military versions had the four-cylinder petrol engine, but diesel models were supplied to the Dutch and Danish military from 1976.

Series III Stage 1 V8 109-inch (1979-1983)

The Stage 1 V8 was the replacement for the six-cylinder Series III 109 but was still essentially a Series III. What made it unique was the use of the permanent four-wheel drive transmission system from the Range Rover in place of the traditional selectable system. However, the V8 engine was savagely detuned from its Range Rover form, to limit maximum speed and maximise low-end torque. Stage 1 V8 Land Rovers were easy to distinguish because they had a unique grille, mounted flush with the wing fronts instead of set back as on all earlier models. Early examples also carried special “Land Rover V8” decals on the rear wings. To the Series III range of colours, the Stage 1s added three borrowed from the Triumph sports car range: Inca Yellow, Pageant Blue and Trident Green. The first Stage 1 V8s were made available for export in February 1979; the six-cylinder 109 meanwhile held the fort in the UK until August 1980. At that date, the V8 Land Rovers took on black headlamp bezels to make them easier to distinguish from four-cylinder types (which were given silver-grey bezels). The Stage 1 V8 could be bought with the usual range of truck cab, soft top or Station Wagon bodies, and was also available as a chassis-cab for aftermarket converters. From April 1982, County Station Wagon and High Capacity Pick-Up models were added to the options list. The final Stage 1 V8 models were probably built during 1983, by which time they had been replaced in most markets by the One Ten V8 models. However, CKD versions continued to be built up in South Africa until 1985. The South African versions of the Stage 1 were in fact very different vehicles. Badged as Series IIIS types, they came with a choice of locally-manufactured engines in place of the V8. A 2.6-litre six-cylinder petrol engine brought 110bhp, while a four-cylinder licence-built Perkins diesel had 74bhp from 3.8 litres.