Jeff Yardis ©2013, courtesy of RM Auctions
Jeff Yardis ©2013, courtesy of RM Auctions

Always designed with strength, mechanical simplicity and durability in mind, Land Rovers have often been the vehicles of choice for individuals looking to take a trip on the road less traveled. Over its 65-year history, the company built up a well-respected name by manufacturing the finest off-road vehicles money could buy for both individual and commercial use.

As such, they are transport for the armed forces of numerous countries across the globe. They are rugged, robust and reliable, and troops can always trust their Land Rovers to help them complete their mission with zero mechanical issues.

This 1969 Series IIA Air-Portable underwent a three-year total restoration, using genuine Land Rover parts, which included a conversion to left-hand drive to make the car easier to drive in its new home in the United States. As Land Rovers of this era are notorious for rust issues, all components prone to rust were replaced with galvanized trim and stainless-steel hardware, including a new steering column and four leaf springs for the suspension. Brake lines, cylinders, and the 2¼-liter petrol engine and transmission were completely rebuilt. Additionally, the original Land Rover chassis was replaced with a Marsland galvanized frame, to ensure that it would not be prone to rust in the future. The results were fantastic, and the car was brought back to as-new — if not better-than-new — condition from when it left the factory.

This Land Rover is a must-have item for any collector of military vehicles, as it represents a vehicle built with a specific task in mind, and it bridges the gap between air and ground forces. This vehicle has been restored to absolutely incredible standards and has only accumulated very limited mileage since its restoration. This Land Rover is ready for regular use, but it would certainly revel outside of the concrete jungle, as all Land Rovers do. It is ideal for your next adventure in the air, on the ground, or both.

 

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Original List Price:N/A
Tune Up Cost:$80
Distributor Caps:About $15
Chassis Number Location:Plate on dashboard or on side of seat box, and stamped in chassis above right-hand front rear spring hanger
Engine Number Location:Stamped vertically at left front of block
Club Info:Internet Land Rover Club
Website:http://www.landroverclub.net
Investment Grade:C

This Land Rover, Lot 263, sold for $41,250, including buyer’s premium, at RM Auctions’ Hershey, PA, sale on October 11, 2013.

It’s the Landie’s 65th birthday, and in its home country there’s been a small bubble of early restored examples fetching big money at auction — topping $50,000 in the shiniest cases, when previously $20k would have been top dollar.

Now it looks as though the Series II Landies are catching up.

The IIA, launched in 1962, is the “classic” Landie, as it is considered the most rugged and reliable model of all the Series (pre-Defender) Land Rovers. It is easily identifiable by its inset lights shared with the SI and SII — but with the new 2¼-liter petrol or diesel engine (the two varieties share major components) under its hood. Late IIAs pre-dated the SIIIs (1971) in having their headlights moved outboard to the fenders from 1969.

Made to drop from the sky

The Air-Portable Lightweight is an interesting animal. Along with its angular looks, it’s four inches narrower than a regular Landie, so it would fit on to the pallets pushed out of the back of a C-130 Hercules airplane or dangled from a helicopter. Land Rover bodies were already aluminum, but for the Air-Portable many components were changed to light alloy to reduce weight, as it needed to be under 2,500 pounds, which was the lift capacity of the British Ministry of Defense’s then-new Westland Wessex helicopter.

The width reduction was accomplished by redesigning the axles and fitting shorter half shafts. The result was the Land Rover Half-Ton, known widely as the Lightweight or Air-Portable. However, this “lightweight” tipped the scales at 2,650 pounds, more than a standard Land Rover. But with its detachable body panels (doors, tailgate and tilt top) removed, it was below the limit, and the British military accepted it for use. Eventually, improvements to the helicopters meant they could lift more anyhow.

The first production models were completed on November 11, 1968, and the run continued until 1984. This is the 2,286-cc (or 2¼-liter ) petrol version. This was the new-for-SII overhead-valve engine, which replaced the ancient inlet-over-exhaust engine derived from those used in Rover road cars.

Time to get it dirty

The biggest problem when restoring a Land Rover is the “New Levi’s” effect. Landies are not meant to be shiny, and like a new pair of Levi’s jeans, they need breaking in. I reckon they don’t look right until they’ve collected some dirt and at least one wrinkle in the body.

Our subject Landie, as the catalog mentions, was recently restored to “better than as-new” condition. Pleasingly, whoever restored it hasn’t gone too far over the top, as they used only slightly too-glossy finishes and tires just a little too big.

It’s non-original in two major respects, although that doesn’t appear to have knocked the value too much. First, the new chassis is about the only practical answer when the original rots (the aluminum body will not have corroded very much), but it has been converted to left-hand drive, where right-hand drive on a vehicle this narrow and open surely cannot be an issue. Second — and less critical, the tires look a bit too modern. They are of a pattern NATO currently uses on their new coil-sprung Landies, but more period-looking treads are readily available.

In its favor, this one isn’t lumbered with the 24-volt electrics, screened ignition systems or 90-amp dynamo fitted to some of them. This should make our subject Landie easier to live with.

This is a perfect, pristine Landie with which to play war games. The odometer and trip meter show 35 miles, which is all it has covered since rebuild. Value-wise, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t differ from any other early Landie, although Series IIs and IIAs have yet to approach the money commanded by early Series 1s and prototypes. This is the most expensive IIA yet.

So did the owner restore this to sell — in which case it’s hard to see where there’s any upside after his costs — or did plans change? Either way, even at this so-far top-dollar price, someone’s got a bit of a deal, as it’s always cheaper to buy a project in which someone’s already poured the money than to start from scratch. I just hope the new owner doesn’t decide that it’s too nice to knock off some of that shine by taking it off-road; which, of course, is what Landies do best. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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