Our 'History of a Legend' series traces the rich and unique lineage of our original Land Rover. The previous chapter, Part 2, charts the rapid rise in popularity of Series II, the latest model when launched in 1958.
The Series III ran from 1971 to 1985 and coincided with some of the darkest days of the British car industry, and the wider UK and global economy. It was a testament to Land Rover’s enduring and global appeal that the Series III sold almost as well as its predecessor did in the stronger economic times of the 1960s.
In 1979 the cult classic Series III Stage I V8 was born. The engine delivered a modest 91BHP, but packed significant torque, much to the delight of off-road enthusiasts.
The vehicle itself didn’t change radically in this time. The most obvious difference between Series II and III was the introduction of a moulded grille and a revised interior. Series III’s new interior featured a slightly less spartan dashboard and instruments were moved from the centre of the dash, to directly in front of the driver. It was also the first Land Rover with an optional fresh-air heater.
With its moulded grille and outstanding capability, the Series III started to appeal to a wider audience
The year 1979 saw some significant developments. The cult classic Series III Stage I V8 was born, built around the 3.5-litre engine, best known from the original Range Rover. The engine was de-tuned to deliver a modest 91BHP versus the 135BHP of a Range Rover, but packed significant torque, much to the delight of off-road enthusiasts. The Stage I also saw the introduction of a longer bonnet and flush front to accommodate the size of the larger engine.
The milestones continued; in 1976, the millionth Land Rover was made, an 88-inch Station Wagon in special metallic green paint and a velour trim.
The V8 was also used in the new Forward Control truck, announced in 1972. It was a military vehicle, designed to haul howitzers, a type of artillery equipment. The design reprised that of the commercial Forward Controls built in the ‘60s, with the cab perched high over the front wheels. It was a capable, reliable vehicle and hugely popular with soldiers, who named it after its carrying capacity: the One-Tonne.
- A fleet of Land Rover Series III Hard Top vehicles, as supplied to the HM Coastguard in 1988
- Land Rover Series III
Land Rovers were also becoming more popular as leisure vehicles. The desire for comfort without compromising the car’s capability would be central to the design of later Land Rovers, but the trend started with the ‘County’ version of the Series III, introduced in 1982, with such refinements as tweed seats and tinted glass.
The milestones continued; in 1976, the millionth Land Rover was made, an 88-inch Station Wagon in special metallic green paint and a velour trim. In 1978, Land Rover Limited became a stand-alone entity within British Leyland. Soon after, Rover car production moved out of Solihull, leaving the facility solely dedicated to Land Rover production. In 1985, the last Series III rolled off the line and into the Heritage collection, an exact copy of the last customer car which preceded it. True to Land Rover’s global reach, it was an Africa-specification Station Wagon.