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The first production Land-Rover model, the 80 inch Land-Rover, was introduced in 1948. The Land-Rover was a single model offering, with an 80" (2032mm) wheelbase chassis, and Rover's 1.6 litre IoE petrol engine, producing 50 hp.  It featured full-time four wheel drive with a front free-wheel mechanism which could be locked by a "ring-pull" control. The headlights were mounted behind the radiator grille, which made them hard to clean. The side lights were mounted on the bulkhead. This was a very basic vehicle, tops for the doors and a roof (canvas or metal) were optional extras. In the first full year of sales however, 8000 Land-Rovers were sold compared to a target of 5000.

Red Series I - Gaydon 2008

Series I 80 inch - Gaydon 2008 - Pic by Dave Neeson

In 1949 Rover launched a second body option called the 'Station Wagon', fitted with a coachbuilt body by Tickford. Less than 650 Tickford-built vehicles were sold, and all but 50 were exported. Today these early Station Wagons are highly sought after.

Tickford Station Wagon

Tickford Station Wagon.

In 1949, the standard 80" model had it's first update with the headlights moving from their position behind the radiator grille to protruding through the grille, allowing easier maintenance.

Series I - Lights through grille

Series I with lights through the grille

In 1950, it was decided to have the four wheel drive engage automatically when the low gear range is selected. This was performed with a simple dog clutch mechanism that would be used on all later Series Land Rovers.

In 1951, the gearbox was also slightly re-designed to handle the more powerful 2 litre IoE petrol engine that was introduced at the same time. This engine was "Siamese bore", meaning that there were no water passages between the pistons.

In 1952 the Land-Rover was finally given exterior door handles, plus a new inverted-T radiator grille and the side lights moved from the bulkhead to the wings.

Land-Rover 50,000

Rover picture of their 50,000th Land-Rover - Exact date unknown

Although a very popular and useful vehicle, the early Land-Rovers were criticised for having a small load space. This was addressed in the autumn of 1953, when the 80 inch (2032 mm) Land-Rover was replaced with an 86 inch (2184 mm) wheelbase version. A 'long wheelbase' 107 inch (2718 mm) Land-Rover was also introduced.

Series I 80 inch
Production: 1948-1953
Overall Length: 132 inches (3353mm)
Overall Width: 60 inches (1524mm)
Wheelbase: 80 inches (2032mm)
Track: 50 inches (1270mm)
Engine: Rover 1.6 IoE (1948-1951), Rover 2.0 IoE (1951-1953)
Transmission: Single dry plate 9 inch clutch, 4-speed main gearbox, 2-speed transfer box, from 1948-1950 permanent four wheel drive, later selectable with standard rear wheel drive, permanent 4WD in low range.
Suspension: Live axles with semi-eliptic leaf springs and hydraulic telescopic dampers.
Steering: Recirculating ball. worm-and-nut.
Braking: Drums all around, mechanical parking brake on the transmission output shaft.


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