Land Rover engines since 1958



Land Rover used a number of different engines over the years 1948-98, although all belonged to one of three 'families':

1.  The inlet-over-exhaust petrol engines, in both four and six cylinder variants, which were used from the very first Land Rovers in 1948, and which had their origins in pre-war Rover cars.

2.  The four cylinder overhead valve engines,both petrol and diesel, which first appeared (in diesel form) in 1957, at the tail end of Series One production, and evolved over the years to the TDi 300 turbodiesel, which remains in production today for some overseas markets.

3.  The Buick-sourced all aluminium V8 motor.

From 1998 Defenders used the TD5 motor, an all-new 5 cylinder turbodiesel which was dropped in 2007 in favour of a Ford diesel (Ford owning Land Rover at the time).

What follows is a short guide to the various engines used by Land Rover since the start of Series II production in 1958.  The comments are based mainly on my own experience - others may have different views.  The list is in roughly chronological order.  To identify your engine, click here for a list of engine numbers.


1997cc Petrol, inlet-over-exhaust:  The first few months production of Series II 88 inch petrol had these engines, carried over from Series One production.  I suspect that most of the survivors will have been fitted with later 2286cc engines by now.

2052cc Diesel, overhead valve:  Land Rover's first diesel engine, and one of the first small high-speed diesels produced in the UK.  It appeared in 1957, and was used in Series II production until 1961.  Looks almost identical to the later 2286cc engine, but many internal differences.  51 bhp wasn't really good enough even in the late Fifties, and I would be surprised if more than a tiny handful of these engines remain in use.

2286cc Petrol, overhead valve, 3 bearing crank:  Must be the most numerous of all Land Rover engines.  Closely related to the 2052cc diesel but with cylinders bored direct in the block (rather than the wet liners used by the diesel).  Early engines had some weaknesses, prompting a redesign of many internal parts for the Series IIA in 1961.  After that, carried on pretty much unchanged until 1980 when the 5 bearing crank appeared (see below). 

A rugged, torquey motor with few real weaknesses: tends to wear its crank bearings (especially the centre one) due to crank flex at high revs, but will still keep going even when very rattly.  Major bore wear is very common but doesn't seem to make a huge difference to power or oil consumption...  Series II and IIA had Solex downdraught carburettor to 1968, later Series IIA and Series III had Zenith 36IV.  Both can give problems in old age - quickest fix is a Weber replacement, but opinions on this conversion are divided.  Some people report carburettor icing, and the Weber has a smaller intake than either the Solex or Zenith, which reduces power output (although economy is improved).  A new or reconditioned original specification carburettor will be more expensive but probably better in the long run.

2286cc Diesel, overhead valve, 3 bearing crank:  Appeared in 1961 alongside the redesigned 2286cc petrol engine at the start of Series IIA production, and shared its cylinder block and some other components.  A big improvement over the earlier diesel: power output now a half decent 62 bhp.  But the three bearing crank was a major weak spot: despite being made of better materials than the petrol one, it flexed at high revs and sometimes broke under load with expensive consequences.  Fuel injection pump was driven off the camshaft by a skew gear which could wear, giving unstable pump timing and lots of light grey smoke on older engines (although stretched timing chain is very common and causes the same symptoms).  One of these engines, if assembled properly, is still just about up to modern use: but keep below 45 mph (55 on overdrive-equipped vehicles) to be sure you don't break anything.

2625cc Petrol, inlet-over-exhaust:  Borrowed from the Rover saloon range, in response to demands from mid-Sixties Land Rover users for more power and torque.  The big, heavy old straight six was heavily detuned for commercial use.  Acquired a reputation for overheating and cracking cylinder heads, mainly due to operator neglect.  (Nothing much wrong with the engine, as long as you keep fluids topped up and don't let it go out of tune.)  Also it was thirsty and barely more powerful than the four cylinder petrol engine, although it sounds lovely and develops usefully more torque.  Parts supply these days is patchy (although the engine remained available until 1980).  The Weslake-head 3 litre engine from a Rover P5 is near enough a direct swap and used to be very popular, so check those serial numbers.

Mark Rumsey (Series II Club technical guru) adds:  "(The straight six) feels barely more powerful than a 2.25 when driven in the same way, but in fact is quite a lot more powerful, around 20% in fact. If you use the full rev range of the engine you can take advantage of exceptional low speed torque, and if you are prepared to run the revs up you can get rapid acceleration. However, stick with the mid range (2000-3000rpm) and its only slightly better than a 2.25. Where the 6 shows it potential most is on hills. Where a 2.25 would start losing speed, the 6 just keeps pulling. Also the Weslake head on either the 2.6 (Rover P4 110 engine) or 3 litre won't fit without modification to the clutch pedal box. However, the early non-Weslake 3 litre drops straight in."

2286cc petrol/diesel, overhead valve, 5 bearing crank:  In 1980, Land Rover finally did something about the crank failures which had plagued its four cylinder engines for 22 years.  The new crank was so strong that Land Rover could (and did) get away with using the same crank for petrol and diesel engines.  These engines lasted beyond the end of Series III production and into the first couple of years of the new Ninety and One Ten ranges.  Well worth paying extra for, if you are looking to replace a worn or broken 3 bearing engine in a Series vehicle. Crankshaft rear oil seal design is also far superior to the 3 bearing and easier to replace if it does leak.

3528cc V8 Petrol:  The ex-Buick all alloy V8 engine appeared in the Range Rover right from the start of production in 1970, but did not make its way into the company's utility vehicles until 1979.  The Series III 109 V8 (or 'Stage One V8') was intended to replace the 2.6 litre six cylinder vehicles: Land Rover's engineers obviously thought the new vehicle would be too fast for its brakes and suspension, so they detuned the engine to 91 bhp by fitting restrictors in the carbs.  Removing these takes the engine up to Range Rover spec (138 bhp or thereabouts).  The One Ten (from 1983) had the 138 bhp V8 as an option from the start, and the same engine later appeared in the Ninety.  The V8 engines were gradually phased out after the TDi turbodiesel appeared, with only a handful being fitted to Defenders as a special order option after 1990. 

The V8, in all its applications, is a strong and reliable engine, but not indestructible: camshafts wear out at around 90-100 thousand miles, head gaskets and camchains usually go around the same time.  These engines can hide serious problems very well, so be suspicious of one which has a slight misfire or is a bit down on power - it is probably overdue for a rebuild.

2495cc petrol, overhead valve:  The final development of Land Rover's ohv petrol 'four', with hardened valve seats which allow running on unleaded (or LPG).  Lots of torque, and similar power output to the 2.5TD, but without the reliability issues (see below).  A much underrated engine: works well with LPG, easy to maintain, and 2.5 petrol Landies tend to be much cheaper than diesels.  Buy now while stocks last.

2495cc diesel, overhead valve:  Land Rover reworked the old 'two and a quarter' diesel for the Eighties.  The injection pump was now driven off a toothed belt at the front of the engine (together with the camshaft) which sorted the pump timing drift problem of the older diesels, and the increase in capacity provided a bit more power.  Slow but strong, simple and dependable, this engine remains rightly popular.

2495cc turbodiesel, overhead valve, type 19J:  Given the strength and reliability of the 2.5 diesel, you can understand why Land Rover thought it would cope with turbocharging, but the result was a warranty nightmare.  2.5TDs can fail in any number of ways, but the most common seems to be internal cracks developing in the cylinder block.  This gives the same symptoms as a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head, but is not repairable.  Due to a defective design of crankcase breather, these engines also tend to dump large amounts of engine oil into the air filter housing, which turns the paper air filter into a soggy black lump.  This in turn leads to oil being drawn into the air intake, causing the engine to 'run away' and self-destruct. 

Land Rover introduced a new cylinder block for the 2.5 Turbodiesel (part no. ERR479) from engine number 19J27515C.  I have not been able to confirm, but suspect that this block was strengthened to get round the block cracking problems  I would consider rebuilding a later engine, but not one of the earlier ones.  In general, if the vehicle itself is any good, the sensible thing to do is to upgrade to a 200TDi (see below), or for old and tatty TDs the 2495cc non-turbo engine is a very straightforward swap, with only the air intake hose and exhaust system needing to be changed.

2495cc turbodiesel, overhead valve, 200TDi and 300TDi:  Second time lucky for Land Rover. The lessons learned from the 2.5TD were incorporated into the new TDi engines available in the Defender and Discovery from 1990.  The cylinder block still looked familiar (although strengthened internally with an aluminium ladder frame bolted to the bearing caps) but the cylinder head was all-new and a direct injection fuel system was used.  These engines have gained an impressive reputation for power and durability.  Defender engines produced 107bhp, Discovery engines (with different manifolding and a couple of other small changes) 111bhp.  The 300TDi has a single serpentine drive belt for alternator, power steering etc, better soundproofing and a few small internal differences compared to the 200TDi.  Power outputs of the two engines are identical.  Though no longer offered in Europe (due to emissions regulations) the 300TDi remains available in some export markets.

2495cc turbodiesel, 5 cylinder, TD5:  New and much stricter Euro emissions regulations for diesel engines led Land Rover to develop an all-new engine for the second generation Discovery, and this also found its way into the Defender.  The TD5 features electronic control of the fuel injection system (with a control unit under the driver's seat), 'drive by wire' throttle and other refinements, all aimed at minimising exhaust emissions.  Early reaction was mixed: the TD5 was much easier to stall than the earlier diesel engines (a characteristic shared by many of the latest generation of environment-friendly diesels)  and there were reports of oil pump failures, cylinder head problems and other reliability issues - but not on anything like the scale of the 2.5TD fiasco in the Eighties.  These early issues appear to have been resolved, but recurring reports of problems with the electronics, especially oil finding its way through the wiring harness and into the ECU.  Dual mass flywheel can fail with heavy use.  A truly lovely engine when running well, but late 300TDi Defenders fetch more money than early TD5s, so the market is trying to tell us something.

Non Land Rover engines:  The weaknesses of some of the earlier engines resulted in a thriving industry fitting engines from various manufacturers to Land Rovers.  Before the 200TDi, if you wanted a powerful, reliable diesel engine in your Land Rover, a conversion was the only way to go.  Popular engine swaps over the years have included:

  • Perkins 4.203 and 4.236 - big, slow-revving industrial engines, lots of torque but not much speed

  • Ford 2.5 York diesel (horrible) and 2.5Di (excellent)

  • Perkins Prima 2.0 turbodiesel (best bit of an Austin Montego)

  • Peugeot 2.3 and 2.5 diesel - slow but durable

  • Almost every Japanese diesel between 2.0 and 3.5 litres

These days, the most popular engine swap is the 200TDi.  This engine, sourced from a Defender, will bolt into any four-cylinder Ninety or One Ten with the minimum of modifications.  The 300TDi needs more work (it is designed to fit the later R380 gearbox, rather than the LT77 used in the older vehicles) and ex-Discovery TDis also need some modifications to make them fit.  I have now done quite a few of these conversions - click here for details.  The 200TDi will also fit a Series II, IIA or III Landie with some work, and I have developed the '200Di' conversion - basically a derated, non-turbo version of this engine - specifically for Series applications.  Click here for more information on the 200Di.


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