Development of 1-Ton Land-Rovers

The first attempt to build a landrover with a significantly larger payload than a normal long wheelbase resulted in two seperate projects being engineered.

The first was the forward control, eventually put into production in 1962. This vehicle was developed to meet demands for increased payload capacity and off-road load carrying performance. Rather than design an entirely new machine, Land-Rover modified the existing long wheelbase chassis to have a sub frame mounted above the chassis rails to carry the truck like body. Some body components were shared with the normal control model, but the vehicle had a very different appearance to the conventional Land-Rover.



Landrover was also developing at the same time a vehicle intended to compete with the large pickups selling well in the middle east, and so they designed what was basically an oversize Landrover, identified as a 129” due to its longer wheelbase.

They were also the first Landrovers called “1-Tons” although they woud have actually had an even higher payload. The 129” saw some interesting ideas being tried out including a turbocharged 2286 diesel engine, and even a 2.5 turbo diesel, but most used the 3-litre six cylinder petrol used in Rover cars of the period. The design was not successful and the 129” never made it into production, although it may well have been in the back of the engineers minds when they designed the eventual production 1-Ton.




The Forward Control did make it into production and technologically the vehicle used the same engines as the other models but had a lower ratio transfer box apart from the very first models.

Early IIA models had Rover axles, but later ones went over to ENV axles, initially on the rear only, but eventually front and rear. The tyres were 900×16 size and the wheels had an increased width to fit. At around the same time, Land-Rover was developing a number of vehicles for both military and civilian specialist applications. Some military models had gained extended spring hangers and reinforced chassis frame, using similar components to the Forward Control. An early example of this was the APGP amphibious Land-Rover 109.

Likewise, Land Rover was developing modifications such as lift platforms on the back of 109s, fire engines, ambulances and a wide spectrum of other modifications. The problem was that the chassis and suspension of the conventional long wheelbase was stretched to the limit by the time these modifications had been carried out, and the conventional four cylinder engines were often underpowered by the time the specialist bodywork had been fitted. Of course, the forward control could fulfil some of these roles, but was often too big for some applications.

In time the IIA forward control was found wanting in performance as it was underpowered and was found to be unstable in some circumstances, so a much improved version, the IIB, was produced. This had a wider track, a rear axle mounted under the springs, and a host of other minor improvements. The biggest was the use of the six cylinder 2.6 litre petrol engine in this model for the home market.




The 1-Ton 109″ Land-Rover was unveiled in September 1968 at the Commercial Motor Show at Earls Court as an uprated version of the 109″ Long Wheelbase Land-Rover. The vehicle was specified as having a 2.6 litre six cylinder petrol engine, and the gear and transfer boxes as for the IIB forward control, drop shackle suspension, 900×16 tyres and ENV axles.

Although initial specifications offered a 2286 petrol engine as an option, none were built for civillian owners. The axles were heavy-duty ENV units the same as used on the IIA FC (Not the 101FC as some sources claim – the 101 used Salisbury axle assemblies). Later series IIIs had front and rear Salisbury axles from about late 1972 (suffix B), and later still the front differential became the standard Rover unit (Suffix C).

The Salisbury was often used as an in-service replacement for vehicles fitted with ENVs. The chassis frame was a reinforced item, featuring drop shackle suspension pioneered on military vehicles. Production models from chassis Suffix G had a bolt-off gearbox crossmember. The 900×16 tyres on extra deep dish rims were carried over from the forward control. Longer brake pipes were fitted as well as a brake servo, front brakes being wider than standard with 3″ shoes carried over from the FC and bonneted six-cylinder models. The rear brakes were the same as a conventional 109″. The overall aim of the vehicle was twofold – to allow the Long Wheelbase Land Rover carry a greater payload, and also to provide a more suitable chassis for specialist conversions.

Although the first 1-Ton was built in September 1968, production did not get underway properly until April 1969 when vehicle number two was built, and all these vehicles had the headlamps in the wings – my own vehicle suggests that early models also had deep sills. Vehicle 22900002A also has deep sills, and a reversed lighting arrangement at the front – the indicators are above the sidelights, rather then the other way around.

Vehicles 229/1 to 229/15 had A suffix chassis and presumably these early features. It is thought that the suffix A vehicles were hand built off the production line. 1-Tons may have had the lamps in the wings before other models to make the lamp height comply with lighting laws, or just to signify them as a “new” model. From vehicle 16 onwards the chassis suffix changed to G. It is presumed this meant the 1-Tons now had shallow sills and other changes as per the conventional Land-Rovers. When production changed to the series III in September 1971, 170 series IIA 1-Tons had been built for the home market. Production continued into the Series III era, and 238 home market Series IIIs were built. Export vehicles existed in smaller numbers.

Vehicle 22900001A was registered as JXC165H on 17-9-1969, almost a full year after it was built. It is likely this was the display vehicle at the Earls Court show. It was scrapped in the early 1990s.

The first LHD export IIA is noted as being built in January 1968 and exported to Belgium, but this is almost certainly a mistake in the record book; January 1969 is much more likely. LHD export vehicles generally found their way to Europe, with Belgium (12), Denmark (7) and Portugal (9) having several examples each. Vehicles were also sent to Ethiopia (10), St Isabel (5), Nicaragua (4), Peru (4), Arabian Gulf (3), Syria (2), Lebanon (1), Switzerland (1), Egypt (1), Afrghanistan (1)and the UK (1), with three being sent for conversion to Fire Tenders in the UK. RHD export vehicles were sent to Kenya (21), Tanzania (10), S.Africa (3 Fire Tender Conversions), Jamaica (2), Bermuda(1), Malta (2)and the UK. Tweleve were senf for Fire Tender conversion and their ultimate destinations are unknown.

It is interesting that the chassis was built as a composite to be either right or left hand drive, and had both holes for the steering relay, rather than just one as would be seen on other models. Presumably Land Rover rationalised it in this way in anticipation of low order numbers.


The 1-Ton 109 was also fitted with a distinct steering box, which sat in the normal position, but was of a lower ratio. This was presumably to compensate for the drag caused by the 900×16 tyres. The steering was also fitted with an hydraulic damper, to reduce feedback. The suspension was unique for the rear axle, although still under slung, but the front was fitted with diesel 109 springs so as to cope with the expected payload. This gave the machine a rather hard ride, but the size of the tyres also makes the vehicle rather bouncy, certainly the ride is improved by having a load in the back! A number of these vehicles were fitted with winches, and Land-Rover made appropriate power take offs to suit the 1-Ton gearbox.

In 1971 the 1-Ton was updated along with the rest of the range when the Series III was launched. A new dashboard, door and windscreen hinges, and a new plastic grille denoted the model externally. An all-synchromesh gearbox was on the only significant mechanical change. LHD Export destinations included Lagos (27), Nicaragua (24), Sierra Leone (11), Ecuador (4), Addis Abbaba (3), Peru (3), Greek Air Force (2), Paraguay (2)and Belgium (1). Nigeria had 59, mainly for their Ministry of Defense. RHD Export vehicles were sent to the UK (25 for Fire Tender conversion), Kenya (14), Tanzania (7), Thailand(2) , Malawi (2), Singapore (1) and a single vehicle underwent private export.