1978 Land Rover Defender Series III
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1978 Land Rover Defender Series III (Long Wheelbase)
“… the ultimate incarnation of Land Rover's classic lineage.” –Auto Classics website, December, 2018 (“Why the Land Rover Series III remains Britain's ultimate 4x4”)
There really is something special about any of the classic Land Rover Defenders. It's certainly not about luxury, or creature comforts, top speed or 0-60 times. Those metrics are for more ordinary sorts of automobiles. And for sure, this is no grocery-getting, always-on-smooth-roads, suburban-mom SUV. No way.
Auto Classics reviewer, Calum Brown, continued: “While lesser four-wheel-drive vehicles construct off-road ability around on-tarmac refinement, and come with road tires as standard, the Series III took the opposite approach. Building on the unbeatable rough-and-ready formula honed by Rover engineers with the Series I and II/IIA, smoothing out the sharp edges and adding enough refinement – especially in County specification – to maintain serious road use without compromising ability off the beaten track, it remains the ultimate incarnation of the original Land Rover recipe.”
The Series III Defender here is one of the Country-specification, longer wheelbase examples. And with just over 110,000 miles on the clock, you can be certain it's had plenty of interesting "country travels" in its more than 40-year life. No longer powered by a smallish diesel, at some point a 3-liter Ford V6 was substituted in the engine bay. Both performance and reliability were gained as a result. Under the hood, all the factory data plates are present. The undercarriage is tidy with only slight surface rust. Wheels are solid and all-terrain tires (including the hood-mounted spare) have plenty of tread remaining.
The exterior of the vehicle displays some patina, but overall, the re-painted medium-(sea)-blue-with-white-trim paint shows quite well. The glass in all twelve windows—removable cabin-door windows, windshield, and roof “eyebrow” windows included—is all in very good condition. Inside, seat-upholstery fabric—including on the center-facing twin rear-compartment seats—shows minimal wear. Instrumentation and switchgear—including the yellow and red transfer-case controls—are complete and, with the 4-speed manual shifter, properly located on the left-hand side of the RHD steering wheel. An aftermarket radio is in place. Largely surface rust is evident on the interior side of the doors at points where original trim has been removed.
The current owner has been custodian of this Defender for the past ten years since it was first imported from England. Maintenance has been with the assistance of factory manuals included in the sale. Original floor pans have been replaced.
To say that a Land Rover Defender Series III is not for everyone is a simple fact. And that alone is part of its charm. Back to Calum Brown: “On paper, the Land Rover Series III makes little sense. Yet, as an experience and automotive icon, nothing comes close; the undiluted spirit of adventure oozing from the panel gaps is second to none.”
And now comes word there's actually going to be a new Defender for 2020. From the official Land Rover website: “With an all-new exterior and interior design, as well as a suite of the latest driver-assistance and connectivity features available, the next-generation Defender will be a revolutionary product for Land Rover….”
Given the choice between “all-new” versus “well traveled,” we know which Defender we'd take.