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1962 Land Rover

1962 land rover, at edge of meadow south of Mount Hood, Oregon
1962 land rover, at edge of meadow south of Mount Hood, Oregon

I purchased my 1962 Land Rover 88" series IIA station wagon from a co-worker in 2003. It was very solid and original for the year, but needed a lot of mechanical work. I spent about a year restoring it to running condition. I currently use it for longer trips and Hauling, and of course PCRC (Pacific Coast Rover Club) outings. I use my Toyota MR2 EV for nearly all of my around town driving.


A quick summary of the "features" on this truck:

  • 4-cylinder, 88hp 2.25 liter gas engine
  • 12-gallon fuel tank, for 200 mile range at freeway speed. Considerably better mileage at lower speeds.
  • Top speed: 70mph on a good day.
  • 16 forward speeds, 4 reverse (with aftermarket overdrive unit)
  • Part time four wheel drive system, high range selectable on the fly. Stop to shift into low range.
  • Emergency hand-crank starter attachment (very handy)
  • vintage warn aftermarket locking hubs
  • seating for seven: Three up front, four in folding jump seats in back.
  • Removeable top, doors (fully or just window frames), folding windshield


I don't know a whole lot about the history of this particular truck. I got it from a co-worker after he learned I was into 4x4's and old trucks in general. He had bought it from a fellow on whidbey island who had in turn bought it from some lawyer who had it sitting under a tree, non-running for the better part of a decade. The previous owner to my co-worker managed to get it driving but it needed more work than he wanted to spend, so he took a few parts off of it for his other rover and sold it to my co-worker. My co-worker put a new head on the engine and did a couple other things, but mostly it just sat in his carport for the better part of five years until his wife told him to get rid of it. So, he offered it to me. I had been interested in getting an old land rover, having always thought they were cool, but the few trucks I had managed to look at were either too expensive or total wrecks. His price was agreeable, so the truck was mine.

The engine and transmission on this truck are stock. I know that the engine is not original, and there is a good chance that the transmission is not original either. However the chassis, bodywork, and interior are very original, with the exceptions that the front seats have been reupholstered, and the truck has been repainted bronze green. The original color was beige, as seen on the interior pictures of the truck.

1962 land rover, arrived home
1962 land rover, arrived home
1962 land rover, with many years of dust
1962 land rover, with many years of dust

Arriving Home

These picture were taken when I got the rover home after purchasing it. Lots of dust, and a seized parking brake, but still managing to look regal in a neglected British sort of way.

1962 land rover, bulkhead rust repairs
1962 land rover, bulkhead rust repairs
1962 land rover, bulkhead footwell repairs
1962 land rover, bulkhead footwell repairs
1962 land rover, removal of transmission
1962 land rover, removal of transmission
1962 land rover, overhauled transmission
1962 land rover, overhauled transmission

Rehab Work

When I got the truck home, I knew it needed a fair amount of work, but basically it was quite solid. The engine was badly tuned but otherwise in good condition, and the bodywork was quite good for the age of the truck. Long story short, here is what I ended up doing to get the truck driving:

  • Transmission rebuild. Replaced most internals as originals had melted down due to lack of oil.
  • Front axle steering ball joints overhaul
  • New seals and re-shim both diffs and all wheel bearings
  • Complete replacment of all brake cylinders and soft/hard lines, new brake pads.
  • Rust repairs/stabilization to bulkhead and under-seat tray
  • New gas tank and fuel lines
  • Total re-wiring, add additional fuses and breakers.
  • New clutch and pressure plate.
  • New springs.
  • New water pump and new fuel pump
  • New engine rear main seal
  • Clean up and overhaul carb
  • New tires and wheels
  • New U-Joints
  • Overhaul steering gearbox

I've had to do more maintenance since then of course (It is a 45 year old british truck after all), but basically nothing too major. It is behaving itself fairly well as a daily driver. I'm hoping it continues to do so, at least until such time as I get the EV going, so that if anything does go wrong I won't be totally stranded.

Driveability Enhancements

A stock, original series IIA is useable as a daily driver, but it will be slow. These trucks were not designed for freeway use; they were meant for bumping around on back roads and slogging through dirt and mud. You don't need speed for that sort of thing, you need torque, and so that is how they are geared. The rule of thumb I was told was that if you could be happy driving a stock VW bus, then you could be equally happy with a series land rover, since they have similarly poor performance envelopes.

All that said, however, there are things that can be done to improve the performance of one of these trucks. Of course, you can just drop a newer engine into the truck, but I prefer to keep things more original. Here are some minor things that have been done to my truck to make it a bit more pleasant to drive. There are lots more things that could be done as well.

  • Safety Harnesses. A no brainer. The padded dashboard was still 10 years away when my truck was built. I want it to be the case that I only joke about my truck trying to kill me.
  • PCV (Positive-crankase-ventilation) system for the engine. This is one of the most basic emission control systems, it collects exhaust blow-by that gets into the crankcase and burns it instead of venting it into the engine bay (some of that gas then got into the cabin, making it and me smell like oil if I drove any distance
  • Pertronix electronic ignition module. Much more reliable than the mechanical points system, but still fits inside the distributor to maintain a stock look. There are other "higher performance" ignition module systems out there as well (MSD and Crane come to mind) which would require a separate ignition module in addition to the pickup under the distributor.
  • Better wiring. I used a stock-replacemnt wiring harness, but I made a few minor tweaks here and there to add many more circuit brakers and fuses to improve safety and reliability. The original wiring system had two fuses, neither of which protected critical systems.
  • Alternator conversion. Replacing the stock generator and mechanical regulator with a delco alternator is an easy, inobtrusive and easily reversible (if one wanted to emphasize originality again) reliability upgrade, and my truck has had this done.
  • Overdrive unit. Mine is a new model "Rocky Mountain" overdrive, made in canada. They make a variety of aftermarket components for old and new rovers. The first unit I got failed, but they quickly sent me a second one with no hassles, and it is doing just fine. The Overdrive gives the rover the ability to run at 60+ mph (horsepower permitting) so you can keep up in freeway traffic, and it helps a little bit with the mileage and engine noise. Without OD you will redline the engine at about 60mph.
  • Upgraded brakes. I installed 11" dual-cylinder drum brakes (stock on a 109") on the front of the rover once I decided to start towing a small trailer. The upgraded brakes are a significant improvement over the stock 10" drums. A Power brake booster can be fitted as well for another big improvement. There are even disc brake retrofit kits available from aftermarket suppliers.

Some other things that can be done to improve performance while still maintaining a basically original drivetrain:

  • Weber 2bbl carburetor, pierce manifold and performance air filter. This is the same carb that gets sold as a performance item for air-cooled VW's and BMW 1600/2002's and probably other cars with 2-liter-ish 4-bangers.
  • Replace exhaust manifold with a header, and install larger diameter exhaust. The stock exhaust system on the rover is quite small diameter, and this restricts flow and costs you precious horsepower. There are aftermarket header and exhaust systems that can be bolted in to improve your performance. Down side here is you lose the intake/carb heat exchanger which makes the engine take longer to warm up.
  • 2.5 Petrol cam. Later land rovers were sold with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder instead of the 2.25 that is in my truck. However, the camshaft, which is tuned for better at-speed performance, can be retrofitted to a 2.25 engine to give better top-end power, at the cost of some low-end torque.
  • If the rover in question still has a 7:1 head, replacing it with an 8:1 unit will buy about 10-15% in horsepower.
  • Of course, all the usual internal engine modifications that can be made to any motor could apply here too, but at some point, enough is enough. If you really need more than 80 or 100 horsepower, then drive something else and leave the rover to somebody who will love it for what it is. Besides, once you start pushing past 100 horsepower (stock 2.25 with an 8:1 head is 88hp) other parts of the drivetrain will need upgrading.