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To start, number one important aspect... FRAME, FRAME, FRAME...

A second thing to bear in mind is when using guides to Land Rover purchase, if the guide is from the UK it will be a lot more tough on potential purchases than necessary. There are a lot of Land Rovers in the UK, so they can afford to be picky. In North America we must take what we can get, within reason of course.

Another thing to bear in mind is that these are old vehicles. Finding someone to service it, who knows what they are doing, is remote. Be prepared to get your hands well and truly dirty. At minimum, buy the Haynes manual. Preferably buy the factory manuals. Read them. Do the regular scheduled maintenance. Land Rovers are oversized Meccano sets and properly maintaining them is *not* difficult.

  • Checking Under the Land Rover

    • Frame

      Check the FRAME carefully for RUST damage. The frame is a thin walled rectangular tube shape, and is made of steel. In some parts of the country, it is not uncommon to find a Land Rover in good condition with a badly rusted frame. Take a hammer with you and firmly hit all crucial areas of the frame. If the frame dents, expect future problems, maybe sooner than later.

      At the front check behind the bumper (the spring hangers rust away), the shock absorber mounts and then the area around each of the bump stops. It is usually the rear bump stops that are the worst affected, where water and mud go between the chassis and the top of the bump stop mounting plate.

      Check the chassis outriggers. SWB cars suffer from problems on the right hand side below the rear edge of the door. The close proximity of the fuel tank encourages a build up of mud, which rarely dries out. This is also a difficult area to repair, with the fuel tank and wiring loom going through the frame at this point.

      Rear outriggers rust, but the big problem at the back is the main chassis behind the spring hangers. This is a major repair job that is both difficult and time consuming. Rot in the rear cross-member is also common. This area is vital for any towing, and on a LWB repair or replacement is made more difficult as the fuel tank must be removed.

      Resale value of a car with a rusted frame (if water gets in from the top, it can rust the frame from the inside) should be should be very low. However, new galvanized frames are available for around $3K. If you have time & inclination, & you stumble across a Land Rover in very good to excellent condition except for a rusted frame in the less than $1K range, you can add a new frame & get a great car.

    • The bulkhead is painted steel. Check it for rust. Repair panels are recently available. Figure repair costs into the value of the car. Check the bulkhead to chassis mounting points, the footwells and inner sides of the lower A-posts. Then check the area at the base of the ventilation flaps. Water gets in here and rots the lower corners of the windscreen surround. Check the metal around the top door hinge on each side. Water gets into the door posts and the plate with the captive nuts holding the hinges rusts away, or the nuts seize and plate rips out. You should expect to find rust around the master cylinders. It is possible to repair great portions of the bulkhead, but the work is awkward.

    • Oil on inside of wheels mean the inner oil seals are history and therefore so are the brakes (oil on the outside is a minor seal problem & doesn't affect the brakes.

    • Next look at the body above where the drive shaft mates to the differentials (front and back). If there is lots of oil on the body, the pinion seal is history and should be replaced before you accidentally run it out of oil.

    • Swivel Balls

        There are two large ball joints on the front axle. Inspect these joints carefully for pitting. A pitted ball joint will leak oil away from the front wheel bearings and steering pivot points. The clean parts of these joints should be smooth, unpitted and rust free. Otherwise they need to be replaced. (actually some pitting is inevitable, but they should feel smooth to the touch.) These ball joints are expensive & require the disassembly of the front end. If the ball joints are badly pitted, subtract $1K for repairs.

        Excessive oil leaks could point to potential problems with a pair of top and bottom steering swivels and an ordinary Hardy Spicer-type universal joint. These run in a protective bath of EP90 gear oil, and though some oil loss is inevitable, excessive loss will lead to rapid wear of the swivels, and to a lesser extent, the universal joints. Dry seals probably mean that the housing is empty of oil.

        Steering swivels can be checked for wear by jacking up the front of the vehicle (with the weight in the suspension) and attempting to move the tyre in and out sharply from the top. SOme movement is acceptable, but if excessive could mean new swivel pins and universal joint overhauls.

    • Look at the drive flanges. If there are missing or broken bolts, it could mean that the threads are shot. The threads are very awkward to fix, so it can be another bargaining point. This is caused by owners over tightening the bolts, or forgetting to put anti-sieze compound on the bolts.

    • Wheel bearings are very large and robust, but the presence of aftermarket road wheels with different offsets could mean that the bearings could be in trouble.

    • Freewheeling Hubs

        Freewheeling hubs can cause problems. Unless the freewheeling hubs are engaged at least 10 miles for every 50 driven, rapid wear can occur in the steering swivels. A secondary problem that can happen to the differential and half shafts if the hubs are not engaged properly. If the vehicle is habitually run in high two or four wheel drive, all should be well. Selecting low ration in the transfer box for off-road automatically engages four wheel drive in order to split the torque and avoid overloading the rear axle. If the front hubs are disengaged, there is the danger of overloading the axle and damaging the rear drive shaft, and possibly the main gearbox output shaft.

        Note: Driving in four wheel drive on pavement can be damaging to the drive train. On pavement, the wheels cannot slip and adjust themselves, so you will "wind up" the drive train until it breaks.

    • Differentials are strong and robust units with most problems occurring in the rear differential when they have been abused. (Note: the crowns and pinions are the same as in the Rover P6 saloon) The problem at the rear is halfshaft failure (Most frequently on Pre-1965 LWB and FC models. Later Series II's have a Salisbury axle (recognized by the squarer casing) and the halfshafts in these are said to be basically unbreakable. Converting between rear axles is possible if the drive shaft is shortened.

    • Expect the engine and gearbox to be leaking oil (The British never could seem to get the knack of oil seals). Just assume that you should check fluids frequently. A leaking rear seal on the gearbox can lead to the gearbox brake drum filling up, but this should affect its operation that much. It should be noted that the vehicle will rock forward and backwards with the gearbox brake engaged as the drive train takes up any slack.

    • All Land Rovers leak. You will never seal one up, either for water getting in, or oil getting out.

    • Heaters are optional & different heaters may have been installed. Least desirable is the Smiths type with the cylindrical core. This is the same that comes in the TR3. The most desirable is called a Kodiak heater. It has a flat core in the firewall. This heater can quickly heat up a 109. Depending upon your location, you can add $$ for this heater.

    • Older Land Rovers have two windshield wiper motors, each controlling one blade. They both should work. These motors are expensive. If the motor runs slow the grease inside is dried up. Regreasing one is an easy afternoon project, so a slow motor should not be a concern. However, I would deduct about $200 for a non functioning wiper motor.

  • Starting the Engine

    • The engine should start easily and run extremely smoothly at 800 RPM.

    • Idle oil pressure should be 20lbs or better. Running oil pressure should be around 50lbs.

    • Pop the radiator cap and leave it off until the engine is warm. There should be no air bubbles (sign of leaky head gasket, cracked head).

    • Let the car idle. Unlike other British cars that shall remain nameless, it should show no signs of overheating in a prolonged idle.

    • You can also check out the electrical system while the car is idling. Cars equipped with push pull switches may require the knob to be wiggled a bit to work. This switch has exposed contacts that get oxidized over time. They are easy to clean up.

    • I do not remember the compression but they should be within 5 lbs or so.

  • Test Driving the Land Rover

    • When you drive a Land Rover, expect it to be noisy (no reason to have an expensive stereo here).

    • When you test drive the car use all gears as well as high and low range. It should be quietest in fourth gear. In pre- series III, DO NOT downshift below third gear while moving. There is no syncro there & the owner may be very unhappy if you were to take off a tooth or two. Be sure to try all 8 gear ratios forward and both reverse ratios. If you have a overdrive that's 16 forward & 4 reverse! The transfer case should smoothly go into & out of 4 wheel drive.

    • Expect series II transmissions to be louder in first, second and reverse gears since they are straight cut. Otherwise the transmission and transfer case should not be overloud.

    • When trying out the 4 wheel drive, make sure the front wheels are locked. If you turn the wheel while in 4WD and on dry pavement, expect to feel the steering wheel wobble a bit. This is normal under these conditions & does not happen on icy roads or off road. If you do not feel a wobble in the steering wheel while making a tight turn on dry pavement in 4WD, there is something wrong or you are not really in 4WD with the front hubs locked.
    • Steering

      The steering should be smooth and have little or no freeplay. There should be no strange vibrations in either 2 or 4 wheel drive. Steering can be conceded as heavy and ponderous, and if in top shape, nearly as good as rack and pinion. The design and number of ball joints will make it feel vague. Check the six balljoints, and if there is vertical motion, us this as a bargaining point to drop the price. They are not difficult to replace, and should run C$30 each to replace.

      Steering vagueness can be adjusted, but beware of your knuckles. A large lugnut needs to be released for the adjuster, and it takes a lot of torque. Adjustment can make a world of difference to the steering. The idler-relay mechanism on the front cross member rarely gives any problem, but if it does, you face real problems. Much of this mechanism lie within the frame and it is not that uncommon to have to chop that piece of the frame out to get it out, and weld a new piece in before refitting it. Before tackling the idler, read a workshop manual. There is a large heavy spring inside, under load, that can be dangerous.

    • Be sure to check he normal things, such as brakes, steering tightness, etc.

    • Its the slowest 4x4 on the road, but it is semi-indestructible, and built to be field striped in a jungle with a screwdriver and crescent wrench.

  • Land Rover Extras

    • A tropical roof with air vents and upper windows is highly desirable. Add 2-3 hundred dollars to value. (This was standard on the 109 Station Wagon)

    • Add $500 for good condition overdrive. (note: 342 pounds from the UK in July 1993 for a new one.)

    • Add $700 to $1000 for Positraction differentials. (Assuming you can even find one. 101 Forward Controls are more common than these diffs.)

    • Newish door seals are worth an extra 2-3 hundred dollars (these are expensive and hard to put on).

    • Subtract $500 if car has LR six engine.

    • Leaky engine/tranny seals should not affect price as this is normal.

    • Dormobile anything are worth more.

    • Factory manuals are desirable.

    • Expect paint to be in bad condition and minor dents.

    • You should get prices for parts that need replacing and subtract those from asking price of LR unless seller has already taken this into account.

    • Engine swaps such as chevy 6 and 4 are common. They do not increase value. Be careful with Chevy 6 as it tends to overheat in LR unless installation compensates for location of cooling fan. Check this carefully for overheating.

    • Stay away from 8 cylinder swaps. They had to play some games to get it in there and value is way down. (Unless done via a kit from the UK and using the Rover 3.5l V8). The Land Rover drive train is designed for the power output of a four cylinder engine. Radically increasing the power to the drivetrain can result in broken half-shafts and other problems.

    • Most LR instrument panels have been modified. If it looks LR it should not change value. Subtract a few $$ if it looks JC Higgins or wood-working 101.

  • Value

    • Since Land Rovers are not common and have not been imported for a long time, many people have no idea what they are worth. Many sellers think that they are worth considerably more than they really are.

    • Note, these prices are several years out of date. Price will be determined on geographical locale, availability and condition. Prices vary dramatically across North America. Cheaper Canadian prices are being driven up by the U.S.A. market which has been much more "Rover-poor" per capita than Canada.
      • TerriAnn (California in the early 1990s):
        • Dormobile $12K
        • 109 2 door $6K
        • 88 $4K
        • 109 four door $3K
      • Dixon Kenner (Eastern Ontario/western Quebec in early 1990s)
        • 109 4 door $6k+
        • 88 $3k+
    • Price will vary with location. Generally areas that saw a lot of Land Rovers will have lower prices. Land Rovers are concentrated in the British Columbia/US northwest and Ontario/ Quebec/US northeast for the most part. Canadian Land Rovers are generally cheaper than their American counterparts because of the greater number of them in Canada.

      Word of advice: If you really, really want a Land Rover, it can be cheaper to fly first class to some place, but a running, safety certified, and drive it home than pay an outrageous price locally for a non-starter. Do your homework. If you can not get a distantly located Land Rover, but have an example nearby that may be over priced, or in poor condition, it may be worth your while to purchase it. It is your call...

    • These are for good condition runners that are essentially stock. If you look about you may find a fixer up in a field for considerably less. Bargains can be had from people who have no idea what they are worth. Excellent condition cars may command up to twice the above values. Ex-military Land Rovers command a higher price. You will pay the most through a Land Rover parts house.

    • Parts vehicles should run in the couple hundred dollar range or less, depending on location.

    • An estimated UK price would be about 1,000 pounds for a Series II with and MoT and years of useful life left in it. LWB models tend to be cheaper, diesels more expensive. A parts vehicle should run around 250 pounds. (1993)
Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2011. Last modified March 15, 2005.
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