1979 Land Rover history
V8 power for Series III - Red, blue, green and yellow – extra colours to brighten up the V8 Series III
As far as Land Rover Limited customers were concerned 1979 was the first time they saw much in the way of change since 1970. As part of ‘Stage One’ in the building up of the new company, a new model was launched in the UK in March. The 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine was, for the first time, available in 109 inch wheelbase Land Rovers.
To differentiate it from other models the vehicle was called the V8 Land Rover. The engine was a 91bhp detuned version of that already fitted to the Range Rover, also sharing the robust four speed gearbox from that source. There was a new bonnet and front panel, now flat across the front to allow the longer power train to be fitted. There was also permanent four-wheel drive, but most of the rest of the bodywork, the leaf suspension and drum brakes were from the older models.
The lower state of engine tune was supposed to be the maximum the brakes were considered to be capable of handling and the method of detuning – by fitting restrictors in the inlet manifold below the carbs – strangled the engine at the top end but gave huge amounts of torque lower down. Ideal for Land Rover applications. The V8 was only available on the long wheelbase models and was produced alongside the four-cylinder long and short wheelbase vehicles. Four bright colours – red, blue, green and yellow were also available on the V8. The old six-cylinder powered 109, obviously less in demand, was now gradually phased out of production as orders were fulfiled and components used up.
The Range Rover also gained as part of this process. Production was greatly increased and there were many improvements to the interior trim including a better steering wheel.
The exterior gained new colours and decals to replace the raised bonnet lettering. The bumpers were finished in black, as were the door mirrors. Repeater indicator lamps were now fitted to the wings. In all it looked a lot more modern for a limited extra expense. It would have to wait a few more years for the more costly re-engineering. The showroom price in 1979 was £9151, compared with just £1998 at the 1970 launch.
There were big changes in government as well, what with Margaret Thatcher becoming the first woman Prime Minister in May following a General Election, the fall of the sitting Labour Government finally being caused when lorry drivers went out on strike in January asking for a 22 percent pay rise. By May the crisis with food, fuel and everything else brought the government down and precipitated an election.
Industrial unrest did not stop straight away with the change in leadership and there soon started a long running strike at ITV, leaving the BBC as the only source of viewing. You were able, however, to listen to your favourite music on a Sony Walkman which was first marketed this year. The IRA were still trying to force politics with violence and killed the MP Airey Neave and Earl Mountbatten in separate bomb explosions. The Yorkshire Ripper also claimed his 12th victim.
November 1979 saw the start of a different vehicle chassis numbering system for Land Rovers. In line with other manufacturers in Europe, Land Rover Ltd now started using a multi-digit VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
The first few letters and numbers identified the manufacturer and assembly plant, followed by model, body, engine and transmission details, followed by the serial number. In the serial numbers all the different models were included together.
There were also several detail changes in specification for safety and crash worthiness necessitated for European Type Approval compliance, all brought about by the harmonisation of legislation within the EEC.