To the common eye, all series Land Rovers looked the same. Though many people can distinguish the later 90, 110 or latest Defenders from Series by looking at the headlamps and flat FRONT GRILLE PANEL (FGP) , it gets tougher to separate the Series land rovers which were made from 1948 to 1985! That is because of the recessed FGP behind the left and right wings and shorter bonnet which all the Series have in common. Can you tell which Series the picture below is? If you are not sure, then probably a good idea to read on.

Land Rover Series II and early IIA (1958 to 1960)


To start, the easiest thing to look for is the FGP. If they are headlamps on the FGP, it will be a Land Rover Series I, II, or Early IIA.

If there are no headlamps on the FGP and are on the front of the wings, you are probably looking at a Transitional IIA, Late IIA, Series III, Stage I or Defender. However, if the front grille does not happen to be made of plastic, with the name “Land Rover” moulded into it, it is not a Series III, but a Transitional or Late Series IIA.


Series I:

Early 80″ have the headlamps behind the grille – MARK I

Land Rover Series I 80 in MARK I (1948 to 1951)

Mid 80″ has headlamps surrounded by the grille – MARK II

Land Rover Series I 80 in MARK II (1951 to 1953)

Late 80″ and 86″ have an aluminium FGP with four holes for airflow.

Land Rover Series I 86 in (1953 to 1958)

An 88″ has a steel FGP with one large rectangular hole for airflow.

An 80″ and 88″ have chrome headlamp rings.

An 86″ has body colour painted brass headlamp rings.

Series II and early IIA: A steel FGP with three holes for airflow, chrome headlamp rings, inverted T grille.


Transitional IIA: Steel FGP with three holes for airflow, an almost rectangular grille. (inverted T where narrower top portion is 3 squares high.)

Late Series IIA: Steel FGP with three holes for airflow, a large steel grille shaped like a fat plus sign. (narrower top portion 3 squares high, bottom narrow portion 1 1/2 squares high)

Series III: Steel FGP with three holes for airflow, a large plastic grille.

SIII, Stage One: Grille pushed out to front of wings, wire square mesh.

90, 110 and Defender: Grille pushed out to front of wings. Black slatted


If the doors are flat, it is a Series I. If the door top has a leather piece to open the door from the inside (no exterior handle) it is an early Series I 80 in. If the door top is solid (has an exterior handle) it is a later Series I 86 in. Series 1 doors can be removed easily and comes in upper and lower panels. With the upper section with the sliding windows removed, the doors sit very low.

If the doors are rounded at the waistline, it is a Series II, IIA, III, Stage I or Defender vehicle. (Bulging out by two inches). Series II vehicles have a one piece doors whereas the Series I has 2 section doors.


Lights on the wings:

If there is no side light, it is an early Series I 80″. (Note: the side light was on the top corner of the bulkhead. Some Early 80″s had windscreen mounted indicator lights.

If there is a single side light, it is a Series I late-80″, 86″, 88″, or 107″. 86 in Series I has wider front windscreen frames and also front windscreen ventilation flaps.

If there are a pair of side lights on each side, horizontally mounted, it is a Series II or IIA vehicle. (if vertically mounted is a military vehicle) Series II or IIAs also have wider bumpers.

Note: Because of traffic laws, many single side light Series I were modified to have a pair of side lights on each side.

Wing itself:

If there is no seam between the top and front piece, it is a Series I 80″ (Note: wings between the 80″ & 86″ & 88″ are different and not interchangeable.)

If the seam between the wing top and front piece is below the curve, it is a Series I 86″ or 88″. On the bottom portion of the side of the wing, behind the front wheel, if there is a bolt about 1″ back from the front, it is an 86″. If the bolt is about 2″ back it is an 88″.

If the seam between the wing top and front piece is above the curve, it is a Series II through Defender.

Series I 86″ through early IIA had wing mounted mirrors. (Mounted towards the front Centrex flat portion of the wing.)

Markers or lights on the side of the wing:

If there is a single marker reflector on the side of the wing, it is a transitional Series IIA or Defender.

If there is a single marker light on the side of the wing, it is a late Series IIA, Series III, or non-NAS Defender.


Land Rover began in 1947 with the Series I and continued until 1985 manufacturing the Series III model. This identification was initiated by Land Rover as a means of identifying major design changes in production. They did not intend to change them on an annual basis. The designers felt that they had this “agricultural workhorse” so right from the start, that annual cosmetic styling would only detract from its functional applications.

Land Rover Series I – 1948 into 1958

First production Land Rovers were 1.6 litre petrol 80″ wheel base. 1952 engine displacement was increased to 2.0 litres. 1954 the wheel base was lengthened to 86 inches and the first long wheel base 107″ pickup was introduced. 1956 86″ and 107″ were lengthened to 88″ and 109″ and the 2.0 litre diesel became available as an option.

A very rare Series I 107 in Station Wagon

Another very rare Series I 107 in Pick Up

Land Rover Series II – 1958 thru 1960

All new body designed by Rover’s styling department. A more powerful 2.25 litre petrol engine is introduced for improved performance. Available in 88″ and 109″ wheel base and a broader range of colours.

Seris II 109 in Station Wagon

Land Rover Series IIA – 1961 into 1971. 88″ and 109″ wheel base

1962 2.25 diesel and the Forward Control model introduced. Positive earth electrics until 1967. Fall of 1967, Land Rover introduces the 2.6 litre, 6-cylinder station wagon and Ser. IIB 110 forward control. Land Rovers are now in negative earth with single wiper motor mounted in dash. 1968 air portable 88″ for military purposes is developed. 1969, headlights are moved from the centre radiator grille to the side wings. 1971, Forward Control production ended.

Land Rover Series III – Fall of 1971 to 1984

Revised fascia with black plastic safety dash. Instruments moved in front of driver, fully synchronized gearbox, and plastic radiator grille. 1972 Land Rover introduces its V8 powered 101″ Forward Control. In 1979 Land Rover introduces its V8 109″ Regular and 109″ Station Wagon models. In 1982 Land Rover introduces its 109″ High Capacity Pickup.

Land Rover Defender – 1983 to present

All new coil spring suspension with full time 4WD from the Range Rover design is incorporated into the 109 body styles. Available in a 2.5 petrol, 2.5 diesel, V8 petrol carburetted or fuel injected and a 200Tdi turbo diesel. 5 speed manual gearbox is standard. First imported to the USA for the 1993 model year. 1994, improved 300 TDI diesel becomes standard engine with only the V8 offered as optional.

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All images are downloaded from the internet and credits to the owners.