By Jon Maib
Back in 1947, Maurice Wilks of the Rover Car Company, was quickly realizing that his surplus Jeep was going to become very difficult to maintain as parts would be difficult and costly to find. Maurice, with the assistance of his brother Spencer, decided that they could build a vehicle that could take the place of the 'ole Jeep and in turn, fill a gap in the market.

Using Maurice's Jeep chassis, axles, steering, body fittings and a Rover car engine, they fabricated the first 'Land Rover' body out of a light alloy because steel was in short supply due to war efforts. The first Land Rover, known as the 'Center Steer', was born. Originally, they thought that if the steering wheel was in the middle of the vehicle, there would be no need to convert the vehicle to right or left hand steer. That idea soon faded for a right hand steer vehicle.

Fast forward 20 years to the 1960's, the Land Rover had become an important vehicle to the Royal Marines and the British Army. Having taken delivery of the Westland Wessex helicopter, they realized they needed a vehicle that would be light enough to be carried by the helicopter. The smallest Land Rover at the time was the Series IIA which was too heavy for the helicopter to carry. The Rover Company made new body modifications to the Series IIA, making many of the body components easily detachable (such as windshield, doors and top) and they removed many non-essential items to the vehicle. They also reduced the width of the Series IIA by redesigning the axles and shaving off 4 inches so that it could fit onto a standard pallet. All of these changes gave the updated Series IIA the name, 'Lightweight' or 'Air Portable'. In 1972, the Lightweight Series IIA was replaced by the Series III Lightweight and continued in production until 1984 when it was replaced by the 90 and 110 models.

When Hayden Layman from Aubrey, TX found this 1980 Series III Lightweight for sale on Facebook, he knew he had to have it and after working out the details with the current owner, he went and picked it up.

This Air Portable Rover has a 2.5 Liter 4 cylinder engine with a single barrel Zenith carburetor and is equipped with a 24v alternator, which probably means that this Rover was used as a radio vehicle by military.

It still sports the original full floating axles with 5.39 gears that are supported by half elliptic leaf springs. To stop this old Rover, the drum brakes are still hard at work, but thankfully, there is a brake booster installed to help stop the 245/75r16 Good Year Wrangler Duratracs.

This Series III Land Rover is a right hand drive model and Hayden often gets asked if it's difficult to drive and shift, but his response has been that it's finally a vehicle that feels right for him as he is left handed, making the Rover feel natural.

Hayden is not afraid to use this vehicle either, one of the first things he did was to tow it out to a local off-road park and see what the Lightweight could do, and it didn't disappoint him! This is one really cool Land Rover and a great piece of the Rover's history. There have not been many upgrades to Hayden's Lightweight and he intends to keep it as original as possible.

"Center Steer" photo provided with permission by:
Dunsfold Collection