It Took An Essay To Acquire A 1974 Land Rover Series III

PLEASANT VALLEY, CT – Buying a classic vehicle isn’t always a simple process. For example, the Long Island seller of a 1974 Land Rover Series III required Mark Lanctot of Pleasant Valley to first put in writing why he wanted it before accepting $6,000 and handing over the keys.

“I had to write an essay to him. He didn’t want me to buy it and sell the pieces. He wanted someone who was going to restore it,” said Lanctot of the transaction that occurred in August 2021.

Mark Lanctot and his 1975 Land Rover Series III

The previous owner had the Land Rover for “five years prior to me, with the idea that he and his father were going to restore it. It ended up sitting in his garage for five years. It was never touched. They lost interest,” he said.

Lanctot’s goal was indeed to restore it; just like he did a 1956 MGA sports car some two decades ago.

“I enjoy restoring cars. I guess my essay satisfied his concerns and he contacted me and I drove down to Long Island with a buddy and we dragged it back on a flatbed trailer all in parts,” he reported.

“I’ve always enjoyed British cars. I convinced him somehow. He was a rather young fella. He had just graduated from college and this was supposed to be a college project for him and his dad that never took off.”

It took Lanctot two more years to get the Land Rover on the road. “The rear body was not on it. The windshield wasn’t on it. The fenders weren’t on it. The engine was there. It was a mess. I just started by just taking everything down to bare bones. I took everything apart,” he said.

The 2.25-liter, four cylinder engine was sent out to Leifert Automotive Machine in Torrington for freshening, while Brainard Classic Auto in Colebrook handled the body. A five-speed manual transmission from a Land Rover Defender was added, along with a Tom Wood’s custom drive shafts and axles from a Discovery 2 model. Disc brakes replaced drums. 

It wasn’t until September 2023 that the ruggedly handsome Land Rover in light blue got registered. “This is a Land Rover blue color,” Lanctot said, explaining that he was insistent that body imperfections be retained. “I told him, don’t grind the rivets down. Don’t fill in the spot welds. That’s all part of the characteristic of the vehicle,” he said, referring to Tim Brainardwho did the exterior work.

See the 1974 Land Rover Series III in action in this YouTube Video…

Lanctot is the Land Rover’s third owner. Prior to landing on Long Island, the Series III was owned by a man in Williamstown, MA who also intended to restore it, but never did.

“This is actually two vehicles. You have the front. (It’s) is the original vehicle and the back section is from another Land Rover,” he said. Fortunately, “everything matched up nicely. The doors close beautifully.”

It drives well, too. “It’s a cast iron block. Very heavy. It’s got 75 horsepower. It’s a little toy of a car. Doesn’t have a lot of power,” Lanctot said. 

“For around here, for Barkhamsted, New Hartford, it’s beautiful. I can do 50 miles an hour. Piece of cake around here. It’s lovely. Takes the hills. Fifth gear is almost really not usable. There’s not enough power to it for fifth gear, but one through four are fun.”

Land Rover built the Series III from 1971 through 1985 but the model was only sold in the United States until 1974 when the company abandoned the market due to competitive pressure, rising petrol prices and government regulation. The brand didn’t return to the U.S. until 1987.

Lanctot said that because of its modifications, his Series III is “a little more stable on the road” than a factory version. “They were not very good four-wheel-drive vehicles. They weren’t good on the open road. They were very twitchy,” he said.

But the price was right. “Considering it has a brand new galvanized frame that sells for almost $4,000, it was very fairly priced,” he said.

And it did revive a high school memory. “I graduated from high school in 1973 and for some reason I was looking for a four-wheel-drive truck; right about ’74 or ’75. And I actually even drove a vehicle just like this one back then. I didn’t buy it. I ended up buying a Scout instead, but I always had a fascination with these vehicles,” Lanctot said, citing his 6’4” stature as a reason for not buying a Land Rover sooner.

“These things are tight, they’re small, they’re underpowered… I like the uniqueness of them.”   

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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