Our ‘History of a Legend’ series traces the rich and unique lineage of our original Land Rover. The previous chapter discusses the subtle changes, and popular ‘Stage 1 V8’ derivative, that made Series III a best seller.
The differences between the Series III and the new Land Rovers introduced from 1983 were among the most marked in the model’s history.
The ‘Land Rover One Ten’ was introduced in 1983 and the ‘Land Rover Ninety’ in 1984, with the numbers in the product name representing the respective wheelbase length in inches. The 127-inch Land Rover was specifically designed to accommodate larger, heavier loads than the 110. Originally called the ‘Land Rover 127’ it became the ‘Defender 130’ when the name Defender was introduced, to avoid confusion with the new Land Rover Discovery.
Visually, all versions got the flush nose of the Series III V8, although the rest of the body was largely unchanged. But the changes under the skin were more radical. The single most important update was the adoption of coil-sprung suspension, as seen on the Range Rover.
Off-road capability remained paramount, but the coil-sprung suspension transformed the refinement of the new Land Rovers.
Off-road capability remained paramount, but the coil-sprung suspension transformed the refinement of the new Land Rovers, for a quieter, more comfortable ride. The new suspension and a wider track produced better handling, with the flared arches framing the more prominent wheels.
Five-speed manual gearboxes were introduced on the four-cylinder variants; these long-serving 2.25-litre engines were upgraded to 2.5 litres. From 1986, the first turbodiesel engine was offered, with 85BHP.
Deliveries of the 110 began in 1983, although the long-wheelbase Series III it replaced continued to be made until 1985.
- Land Rover 90
- Bottom Left
- Land Rover 110
- Bottom Right
- Land Rover 130
The new Land Rover 90 arrived in 1984 – its wheelbase was actually 92.9 inches – but round numbers were thought to have more showroom appeal. The V8 introduced in 1985 with 113BHP and later 134BHP, remains one of the best-loved Land Rovers for its combination of a big, sporty engine in a short, light body.
The new Land Rover 90 arrived in 1984 – its wheelbase was actually 92.9 inches – but round numbers were thought to have more showroom appeal.
The 127, also introduced in 1983 – later rounded up to 130 – had a 127-inch wheelbase but all the same refinement of the 90 and 110. Its standard configuration was as a six-seat crew cab with a shortened rear body, which was hugely popular as a base for conversions.
The Land Rover remained in huge demand from the military. In the UK, the Land Rover 127 was used as a Rapier missile launcher and a three-axle version was developed. Additionally, Land Rover conversions had featured six wheels for some time, to spread heavy loads.
In 1988, Land Rover celebrated its 40th anniversary, and its first decade as a stand-alone brand. To celebrate this achievement, 40 special models were planned for production, each set to have the number 40 in its registration plate. But a strike at Solihull meant only two were made, both in the ‘window soft-top’ configuration popular in the early years, but by then, no longer offered in the UK.
One of these 40th anniversary models was converted into the most extraordinary Land Rover special edition seen to date. Using designs for military amphibious conversions, the ‘Floating Ninety’ was surrounded by huge rubber pontoons, with power sent to the propeller via its transmission, and steering controlled with a huge aft-mounted rudder. It was ‘sailed’ during Cowes week in 1988, much to the fascination and delight of spectators at the event.