The Perfect Marriage: Land Rover and the V8
The Rover V8 found a happy home in the Land and Range Rover – for the ultimate pub knowledge lowdown, here's a brief history
The Land Rover and V8 marriage was first mass-produced with the Range Rover of 1970, effectively adopting the unwanted Buick aluminium V8 from General Motors. They didn’t feel that a lightweight eight-cylinder engine would work in the land of the free, the land of pork pies and ale giving the powerplant a British loving home instead.
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However, while the V8 was successfully employed in the Rover P5B and P6 alongside the groundbreaking 4x4, it wasn’t until 1979 that the utilitarian Land Rover had a 3.5-litre V8 spliced under the bonnet. Pushing the radiator forward to create the shape now viewed as a global icon, the Series III Stage 1 V8 of 1979 produced 90bhp; paired alongside standard brakes and suspension, this was more than enough to get the driver into trouble. For this reason, it was the prime choice for mountain rescuers, emergency services and those who felt Britain’s workhorse was a tad underpowered.
Not that the Series III was technically the first 'proper' Land Rover to beat with a V8. As a test bed for the ongoing tests performed to the original Range Rover's running gear, a 1967 Series IIA took the brunt of V8 testing in a Land Rover chassis. It currently resides in the Dunsfold Land Rover Collection.
From 1983, the Land Rover One Ten and, from 1984, the Ninety, utilised the same 3.5-litre V8 as its predecessor – except it now produced 113bhp. Towing a horse box had never been so easy. The power output was then ramped up for 1987, with 135bhp churned out at the tyres.
As the Range Rover Classic gave way to the next generation P38a, the V8 was upped to 4.6-litre, with an accompanying 4.0-litre derivative almost unchanged from its time in the older model. A 4.2-litre LSE Range Rover Classic was available as a run-out model, but these had an infamous reputation for overheating.
For North American Specification (NAS) Defender 90s and 110s only, a 182bhp fuel-injected 3.9-litre version of the Rover V8 was mated to the chassis for 1992, along with four-speed automatic transmission. While the Americans basked in the glow of what many called ‘the ultimate Defender’, Britain didn’t receive this layout until the 50th Anniversary special edition in 1998. A limited run of these vehicles sold out fast, now commanding a hefty premium over other historical special editions.
The Rover V8 ceased production in 2004, with Land Rover seeing out their final old-school eight cylinders with the end of the second-generation Discovery. As of the Discovery 3 and third-generation Range Rover, all V8s were sourced from Jaguar – even if a bonkers project under Land Rover’s time as a branch of BMW’s portfolio found BMW V12s powering the P38.
The Discovery 3 and 4, Range Rover L322 and L405 could be found to harbor Jaguar V8 power under the bonnet, but it is with the announcement of the 2018 Defender Works that we receive the first official V8-powered Land Rover Defender since 1998.
Hiding a 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet, the Defender Works V8 offers up 400bhp and can reach 60mph from a standstill in less than six seconds.
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