Classic Land Rovers: Difference between Original, Restored and Resto-Mods

Rugged elegance. Durable design. The best of British engineering. 

To own a classic Land Rover is to own a slice of history. 

Starting life in 1948 as the Series I, classic Land Rovers are in high demand by collectors, enthusiasts, and sentimentalists. 

Whatever your motivation for owning a vintage Land Rover, you’ll be faced with a difficult choice between an original, restored, or a resto-mod car. Factors such as your budget, time, and intended usage will all come into your decision-making process. 

Here we’ll talk through the key differences between an original, restored, and resto-mod Land Rover, so you can make the right choice for you. 

What is a Classic Land Rover?

A “classic car” means different things, depending on who you ask. 

To claim car benefits on your self-assessment return, the HMRC defines a “classic car” as any car over 15 years old with a market value greater than the list price and at least £15,000 [1]. On the other hand, the DVLA states that vehicles assembled before 1 January 1983 are exempt from vehicle excise duty [2]. 

Classic Land Rovers are defined more clearly and include:

  • Series I
  • Series II
  • Series IIA
  • Series III

Additionally, older vehicles in the following ranges can also be considered classic Land Rovers:

  • Range Rover
  • Land Rover Defender
  • Land Rover Discovery
  • Military Land Rovers

Series I Land Rovers

Produced between 1948-58, the Series I Land Rovers were designed to be cheap and simple to manufacture. Built to handle the rough terrains of rural Britain, these vehicles prioritised utility over comfort. 

Series I can be identified by the iconic spare wheel located on the bonnet and a metal central grille. 

Series II & IIA Land Rovers

Going into production in 1958, the Series II and Series IIA are the traditional image of a heritage Land Rover. 

The Series II improved on power and robustness, and introduced curvature along the doors – something Series I vehicles lacked. 

The last Series IIA Land Rover rolled off the assembly line in 1971, and the model will be eternally remembered as the last Land Rover with a metal grille.

Series III Land Rover

Some 440,000 Series III Land Rovers were manufactured between 1971-1985, making Series III the most widely available classic Land Rover. 

Series III Land Rovers moved toward being a passenger vehicle, introducing more luxurious trims, the distinctive cross-shaped plastic grille, larger wing mirrors and a rounded bonnet. 

Other Classic Land Rovers

The UK Ministry of Defence commissioned various bespoke models, including the ½ Ton Lightweight and the Land Rover Wolf, many of which are now considered classics.

Additionally, older versions of current Land Rover models fall under the classics umbrella:

  • Range Rover: First introduced in 1970, the Range Rover offered greater comfort than a conventional Land Rover. 
  • Land Rover Defender: Initially known as the Land Rover 90 and rebranded the Defender in 1990, the Defender was the modern equivalent of the Series vehicles. 
  • Land Rover Discovery: Launched in 1990, the Discovery offered a premium SUV at a more affordable price. 

What is a Restored Land Rover?

Restoring a Land Rover is a rewarding process, albeit long and arduous! 

A restored Land Rover is simply one which has had parts replaced or repaired until the car is back to its original working condition. 

Strictly speaking, a classic Land Rover must match its original factory specification to be signed off as a true original. Such cars will be fitted with “New Old Stock” or NOS components, which are original parts that have never been retailed. 

A restored Land Rover Defender looks exactly as if it had just rolled out of the factory. However, under the hood, you’ll likely find brand-new parts that have been built to the original specs, rather than NOS. 

What is a Resto-mod Land Rover? 

If you aim to have the best of both worlds – a stylish classic combined with the comforts of modern driving – then a Resto-mod Land Rover is the way to go. 

What is a Resto-mod? 

A resto-mod takes restoration up a notch. The exterior looks identical to its classic counterpart but the car is modified for:

  • Performance, e.g. larger wheels, better suspension or a bigger engine size
  • Safety, e.g. airbags or improved brakes
  • Comfort, e.g. air conditioning or electric heated seats

Resto-mod Land Rover

A Land Rover resto-mod is any classic Land Rover that has been restored to its original condition and enhanced with mod-cons like heated seats, a touchscreen GPS console, or the installation of an electric powertrain. 

At Electric Car Converts, one of our favourite projects was the construction of a Land Rover Defender resto-mod. We took a Defender 90 1988 Twisted Edition and replaced its V8 engine with a 55kWh battery pack and 300hp Tesla motor. The result was a Land Rover Defender electric conversion, which offers 150 miles of smooth driving on a single charge and does 0-60 in 5 seconds.  

Almost any modification can be made to a classic Land Rover, you’re limited only by your imagination (and your budget!). 

Difference between Restored and Resto-mod Land Rovers

Although an original is romantic, the older your classic Land Rover gets, the higher the probability of it being relegated to your garage. Issues can become irreparable or eye-wateringly expensive. 

If driving your classic Land Rover is high on your agenda, then a restored or resto-mod vehicle is the way to go. 

Driving a restored Land Rover is about as close as you can get to driving an original classic, but the car may lack safety features that we take for granted today, such as airbags. 

Resto-mod Land Rovers offer a superior drive, as you can upgrade everything from the engine to the tyres. Ultimately, you can customise your car to suit your needs and the demands of modern driving, such as replacing your engine with an electric car battery to comply with ULEZ stipulations if your classic is under 40 years old.

Convert Your Classic Land Rover with Electric Car Converts

Combining the elegance of your classic Land Rover with modern technology is just one way to prolong your enjoyment of it. 

At Electric Car Converts, we’re more than classic Land Rover enthusiasts, we believe Land Rovers should serve the purpose they were built for – a great drive. A Land Rover electric conversion can keep your classic on the road, where it belongs. Get in touch with our expert team to find out more about electrifying your classic Land Rover.



Reviewed by Barnaby BirkbeckFounder & Head Electrical Engineer, in 2023.