18 March 2023
One enthusiast is turning out immaculate restorations of the overlooked Land Rover – and car collectors love them
Have you ever noticed that the Land Rover movement is constantly in flux? Far from a constant, there is instead a perpetual evolution, an ebb and flow as to what the market finds hot and what is definitely not. From tyres to touring, as time passes, so do market trends. Contemporary big ticket Series I and Range Rover restorations may currently be hot property on the motoring scene, but not that long ago they were so plentiful and cheap many ended their lives as off-road hacks.
Historically, there is perhaps one model that has always been overlooked: the Series III. Produced from 1971 to 1985 through the turbulent days of British Leyland’s era of Land Rover, they were bought new as workhorses and lived that working life, partly because of the economic background of the period. After that, they never really found their stride in the market, I think it’s fair to say. Enthusiasts favoured the previous Series Is, IIs and Defenders. Was it the plentiful supply of Series IIIs that kept values down? The BL reputation? Who knows, but certainly, the SIII was side-stepped by the restoration bubble and remained, for a long time, traditionally the cheapest way in to the Green Oval. But is that perception changing?
The ubiquitous but much overlooked SIII
One man to suggest so is Linden Jackson. Despite being retired, he’s become somewhat of a specialist of late in turning out pin-sharp restorations of Series IIIs. More importantly, he’s finding that buyers today are looking for the model and in show condition.
The time-served Land Rover mechanic started work at PRB Services straight from school, rattling spanners on everything from Pink Panthers, Sandringham Six and 101s “and hundreds of Lightweights,” before moving on, eventually to the Halifax main dealer. Work and hobby combined, as on weekends Linden went trialling, both RTV and Comp Safari, with the Pennine Land Rover Club, something he still does to this day. Moving to Essex saw a stint in a Toyota dealer. “I hated it – the most boring job I’ve had,” he says. “Soulless vehicles that made me realise how much I loved Land Rovers and needed to carry on with them.” Jumping back on the tools for a local Land Rover specialist saw him coax a colleague to build a car and the duo entered the British Off-road Championship. “I’ve always mixed the job with the hobby. Part of that has always been buying, tidying and selling Land Rovers.
“They were brilliant times, and the club was huge. The Comp Safari was buzzing and the RTV trials had probably 50 entries. I love the whole restoration and show scene, but my heart is in off-roading,” he says.
Linden says a canvas top is a huge draw
Linden’s final job before retiring was Essex 4x4, where he was offered a Series III by a friend. “I wasn’t interested, didn’t want it, but went to look at it, and ended up buying it,” he recalls. “It wasn’t in bad condition, so I pulled it apart, repainted it and gave it a good refurb: not a restoration. Then I took it to a local classic car show, where it sold.”
He then did a second one, but much more thoroughly, selling that, too. Colleague Fred saw the potential in the cars, and started doing a few of his own. A friendly rivalry had begun. “The cars evolved from having a little refurb to a full restoration to see who was doing a better job,” smiles Linden. With a lifelong background of working on the model, he discovered a penchant for accuracy, chasing down the correct parts to get them just right.
One significant build for him was a Bronze Green 88in, the first car he admits to really trying hard on – and number 55. “It was probably from the first week of production, so I wanted to get it as close as I possibly could,” Linden points out. He’s turned around six cars now, with each one taking around eight months. He isn’t on them full-time, just putting in a few hours here and there, around retirement, family life and working on his comp safari car.
Linden refuses to restore a SIII with a 2.25 engine
What is significant is they are all Series IIIs, all short wheelbases and all soft tops. I mention engines to Linden. “The two and a quarter diesel is a disaster of an engine, so I don’t touch it. Petrol engines are generally okay, usually just needing fresh fuel to run. They get what they need, like new bearings, timing chain, and so on, but not a full rebuild. The values aren’t high enough yet, so you have to stop at some point,” Linden reasons.
Why specialise in the Series III? “Purely because of that first car,” he says, which he only took because it was the right price. “But I’ve stuck with them as I know them quite well.” Because he had some spares left over from the first, the second car made sense, and so it continued. “I also like the character of these cars, and you don’t see that many restored.
Tan leather is the only non-original part of this build but a beautiful contrast to the paint
Note the toolbox: originality is key to Linden’s builds
New bulkheads and chassis are pretty much obligatory
“I think its time is coming though. The Series I has been around a while as quite an expensive vehicle once restored, but isn’t that easy to live with daily. The SIII is easier to live with and they’re still sitting in fields waiting to be found. The difficulty is getting hold of some of the parts. You try finding a lower dashboard, a rear tub or wings for one, they’re just not out there,” he explains.
One of the rarest parts is the most visible – the front grille. One recent new old stock purchase came from Saudi Arabia. Fortunately Linden now has a good stock of tricky to locate parts.
“There’s always a question of how far do you go? While I have to build them to a budget, I strive to get them as close as I can to factory, and put everything back in the right place – clips, grommets and bulkhead stickers.
Vastly experienced Land Rover mechanic, Linden, is at his happiest when rattling spanners
His first three vehicles went to trade buyers, but after Linden saw the instant premiums they added, he is now selling them himself, mainly through high-end auctions, like Sotheby’s or Bonhams, as increasingly that’s where the buyers are. “There’s a point in the auctions where traders back off and real buyers step in,” Linden says. “It isn’t about the money, just about not giving them away. Your average rivet counters are never going to buy them, they build their own.”
Classic Land Rover buyers have indeed changed with the rising values. They may be Land Rovers fans, but firstly they are likely to be mainstream car collectors. The wider classic marketplace now appreciates the Land Rover; rich in driving character and seen as cool. They’re not cheap cars anymore, and buyers are wealthier people who have a story about the cars from their past they are trying to relive. “This seems to be what they’re getting used for, to make memories of a weekend. Most will garage them as they want to keep them looking like this.” The canvas top is a huge draw. “The driver of something like this looks cooler than his mate in a Defender,” reckons Linden.
Linden’s SIII restorations are fine specimens indeed
We leave the workshop and head out for a drive in one of Jackson’s finished 88in cars, deep in gloss paint and idling like a Swiss watch. Tight-riding, quiet, brimming with character, it’s like no other Series III I’ve ever been in, outside of ROG924R, Land Rover’s Millionth showpiece museum car. Modern radial Goodyear MTR tyres and contrasting tan seats are Linden’s trial towards the desires of the modern buyer, but at the core, the Land Rover is factory-correct, and exemplary. Once this car sells, I’m told the next build is planned to be exactly the same standard, but fully electric.
The forgotten Land Rover? The mainstream car collector now knows it’s the one to have.
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