History of a Legend: 90 to 130

The Land Rover 90, 110, & 130 - all released within a two-year period - were significant departures from the Series III. Here's the story of their development.

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The first half of the 80s saw the launch of the Land Rover 90, 110, and 130 – substantial evolutions of the Series III

Read on below to find out how they were developed.

The differences between the Series III and the new Land Rovers introduced from 1983 were among the most marked in the model’s history. Visually, all versions got the flush nose of the Series III V8, although the rest of the body was largely unchanged. But the changes under the skin were more radical. The single most important was the adoption of coil-sprung suspension from the Range Rover. Off-road ability was undiminished but road manners were transformed, with a quieter, more comfortable ride. The new suspension and a wider track produced better handling, flared arches covering the more prominent wheels.

Five-speed manual gearboxes were introduced for four-cylinder variants; these long-serving 2.25-litre engines were upgraded to 2.5 litres. From 1986 the first turbodiesel engine was offered, with 85bhp.

Deliveries of the 110 began in 1983, although the long-wheelbase Series III it replaced continued to be made until 1985.

The Land Rover 90, 110, and 130 models

The new 90 arrived in 1984: its wheelbase was actually 92.9 inches, but round numbers were thought to have more showroom appeal. The V8 introduced in 1985 with 113bhp and later 134bhp, remains one of the best-loved Land Rovers for its combination of a big, sporty engine in a short, light body.

The 127, also introduced in 1983 – later rounded up to 130 – had a 127in wheelbase but all the same refinements as the 90 and 110. Its standard configuration was as a six-seat crew cab with a shortened rear body, which was hugely popular as a base for conversions.

The Land Rover remained in huge demand from the military. In the UK, the 127 was used as a Rapier missile launcher and a three-axle version was developed. Additionally, Land Rover conversions had featured six wheels for some time to spread heavy loads.

In 1988, Land Rover celebrated its 40th anniversary, and its first decade as a standalone brand. To celebrate, 40 special models were planned, each to have 40 in its registration plate. But a strike at Solihull meant only two were made, both in the ‘windowsoft-top’ configuration popular in the early years butby then no longer offered in the UK.

One was converted into the most extraordinary Land Rover ‘special’. Using designs for military amphibious conversions, the ‘Floating Ninety’ was surrounded by huge rubber pontoons, withpower sent to the propeller via its transmission,and steering controlled with a huge aft-mounted rudder. It was ‘sailed’ during Cowes Week in1988, and still ‘sails’ today.