1957 Land Rover 88 (2 litre diesel)

VOG 587

Last updated 16th January, 2017


Series I  88s are rare. The wheelbase was extended from 86" to accommodate the diesel engine and as the Series II was released just ten months later, not many were produced. Diesel Series I 88s (still with the original type, 2052cc engine) are extremely rare as most of the survivors will now have either later Land Rover (or even non-Rover) engines fitted. The 2052cc diesel engines were one of the first 'high speed' diesels to be produced in the UK and, although fairly primitive by today's standards, were 'state of the art' in 1957. 

Given that these engines were the basis from which the later four cylinder (2 & 2) litre Land Rover engines (including the 200/300 TDi turbo-diesels!) evolved, they represent a very significant milestone for the marque.

Their origins are in fact from an early design by the innovative engineers at the Citroen company. It was to go in the pre-war Rosalie saloon car but, in the first of several Citroen bankruptcies, Michelin became the principal owner and decided that diesel engines in passenger cars would 'never catch on'. Rover took Citroen's ideas, updated them and scaled the engine up from around 1700cc to 2052cc and the rest. as they say, is history.

My car is a short wheelbase (88") with a hardtop and up/down tailgates at the back. This tailgate format was in common use in the 50s and 60s in Countryman/Traveller versions of popular saloon cars. Of course it also became the format for the Range Rover right from 1970 to most current models (that doesn't include the girly ones, but they are really Freelander IIIs). There seems to have been a resurgence of this format in some other models too.

Hardtops seem to be less common than 'rag tops'. This car is 'on the road' and in regular use for local journeys. There are various things that can be improved or restored on a 'rolling restoration' basis.


I have made some upgrades with 'Defender' door mirrors, stainless steel exhaust, front seat belts, radial tyres, overdrive gearbox, parabolic road springs, Series III front axle (with post 1980, 11" twin leading shoe brakes) and a Series III type combination switch for indicators, horn and lights (dip/flash). All of these will make her safer and rather more driver friendly for modern road conditions.

She has also had a new rear crossmember, the original being past its best and having had poorly done repairs in the past. Most of the chassis is fairly sound.

The battery was replaced last winter and the clutch has just been replaced, along with the rear crankshaft oil seal. 


I have been toying with an engine upgrade and a 2 litre, Rover MDi direct injection turbo diesel seems to be the favourite, partly because it will still be a 2 litre diesel. I have an engine, originally from a 1990 Austin Rover Montego, that was in my Series III Landy, where it performed splendidly, so it has all the required ancillaries, adapter plate etc. and will be available to the buyer of the car, subject to negotiation. I believe it to be the best conversion for older Landys, which don't cope too well with the vibration or the torque of the now readily available TDi engines. It is a genuine Rover engine, albeit one that was designed for a car rather than a Land Rover.

The MDi would give around the same power and almost as much torque as the 2 Land Rover petrol engines fitted to Series II & later vehicles, and would dramatically out-perform the larger naturally aspirated  Land Rover diesels (even the 2 litres). Of course the MDi uses very much less fuel than any of them and, being a 'high speed diesel', it also works well with the Landy's relatively low gearing.

I am sure there are some purists who would be horrified by my enhancements but I use the car regularly so good handling, braking and control are important to me. The MDi would give it the ability to 'keep up'.

Traffic conditions were very different in the fifties after all.

I still have various authentic 'original' bits, such as the floor mounted dip switch, the indicator switch and even the front axle, which could be made available to the purchaser if required.