What it Really Costs to Restore a Land Rover

When you see old Land Rovers for sale you will notice the huge range in price. Now and again you see a real bargain. But most of the time you see price tags for Series 1 and Series 2 or 3 landies that are sky high. Some of them cost around R500K to R600K the same price as a late model of the original Defender. Well when you see the cost to restore a Land Rover you will start to understand why.

Budgeting for a Restoration

When I started my restoration I did a budget to estimate what it would cost me. I had a good look at my starting point and made a tally of all the parts that I would need and it was a lot. I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done. But granted I was not up to date with replacement part prices. Now that I am getting towards the end of the restoration, I have done almost everything. I can see what this little project has cost me.

In this article I explain the restoration cost. I have a detailed look at this cost to understand where the cost lies and what the different scenarios are. The total cost is really not what I expected it to be.

I did a previous article on tips and tricks for starting a restoration. Many of the topics that I discuss there will influence the cost of your restoration and the ability to complete it within your budget and time frame.

Major Restoration Costs

The two biggest factors influencing the cost are

  1. The type, condition and completeness of your starting vehicle
  2. The level of originality and finish that you are aiming for

These two factors will also affect the value of your end result so they go hand in hand. It is a continual trade-off between how originality and usefulness. Are you restoring it to be used or to be a show piece and fetch the highest price?

Generally speaking, the older your vehicle is the higher the cost for restoration will be. This is because the older vehicles are scarcer and their parts are difficult to come by. But this is not always the case as I have noticed. In North America Series 2a vehicles seem to fetch higher prices than Series 1 vehicles. But in most other places including here in SA the Series 1 costs significantly more to restore and is valued as more.

Whichever way you look at it the time cost to restore a Land Rover is going to be high. There are many hours involved in restoring an old Land Rover whether you have a complete or incomplete vehicle. If you have a complete vehicle you still have to take everything apart, clean it and reassemble it. A very time-consuming process. Sure you can replace some parts but your choices are limited to very expensive rare original parts or substandard reproduced parts. So often your best bet is to restore original parts.

Incomplete Project Vehicles

If your vehicle is incomplete then you are forced to source replacement parts and this then forces you to spend more. So the more complete your original vehicle is with working parts the better off you will be. But you will probably pay for this in purchasing the original vehicle.

My Series 1 was abandoned and I recovered it for free but it was incomplete and in a terrible state. So what seems like a great deal initially will end up costing you later. The biggest problem with an incomplete vehicle is not knowing which parts you have and don’t have. The bigger items can be accounted for. But unless you have the parts manual memorised it is almost impossible to account for all the smaller items and to make sure that you don’t miss something. To do it accurately you would need to have it fully disassembled and do a full inventory with the parts manual.

Even if you managed to do this you cannot always tell if the parts are reusable. This you will only find out sometimes once you have cleaned them and tried to reassemble them. This is why a complete working vehicle is so much better. Because you can be pretty sure that the parts are still usable because they are there and working.

On my Series 1 I had all the body parts except for the gearbox tunnel cover, radiator panel, door top and tailgate. Mechanically I was missing an engine, rear axle, and all the instrument switches and electrical parts.

I had a chassis and a firewall which seemed fine. But once sand blasted and properly inspected it became clear how much work was involved. The chassis needed major work with almost 40% needing replacement and the firewall was completely rebuilt. Then on disassembly, I found that many of the smaller mechanical parts in the clutch and steering were too worn. So I have to have them replaced or remade. These big were big surprises that pushed the final cost up significantly. There are no shortcuts when it comes to the chassis or firewall. If these are done properly the vehicle will retain significant value and be usable for 50+ years to come.

When we look at the actual cost to restore a Land Rover a bit later you will see how much it cost me to fix these major items as well as buy new missing parts.

Original vs Non Original

By definition, a restoration means that you restore the vehicle to its original state. But it is not that simple because there are varying degrees of originality. This is because there are different scenarios and an infinite combination of them

  • Restoring all original parts
  • Replacing original parts with new OEM or aftermarket
  • Upgrading parts with later Land Rover model parts
  • Modifying or replacing parts with non Land Rover

The best definition I came across recently is in a book titled “Conserving a Legend “ by John Kappeyne who describes the different levels of restoration with his Rivet Grading as:

5 The absolute pinnacle of originality
4 Very good
3 Borderline between restoration and rebuild
2 A reasonable rebuild
1 The minimum to be a Series 1
0 Nothing left to count!

If you start off with a good condition original complete Series 1 vehicle then restoring the original parts can be a cost effective solution. However you will need some specialist skills to restore some of these parts properly. The older and worse condition of the vehicle the more expensive the sourcing of original or new replacement components will be.

The most expensive restoration is if you have an incomplete vehicle and want to restore it to original.  

My restoration goal has been to keep the vehicle as original as possible. But replace some of the missing parts with later more common and more usable Land Rover parts. I have tried to keep the 107 as aesthetically original as possible. It must look original but some mechanical parts are from Series 2 or 3. I was missing the engine and a rear axle so I have used the engine from a Series 2 and the axles from a Series 3.

Using anything non Land Rover is completely unproductive for a restoration. What you will save in rebuilding you will destroy in value of the finished Land Rover.

The Quality of the Restoration

The price variation on some restored vehicles for sale is influenced by the quality of the restoration. Restorations are not difficult or complicated. They can be done by anyone with a basic set of tools and some paint. But the end results are not all the same. From a distance or to an untrained eye the end result may appear the same. But when you look closely you will be able to tell the difference.

The absolute best quality is where everything down to the very last nut and bolt has been removed. Then cleaned to bare metal, replaced with original if damaged or recoated properly and then re-assembled according to the manual. Reality is that very few companies and individuals go to this length of effort due to cost and time. It can also be argued that this level of restoration is not always necessary.

The lipside to this is where a coat of paint is applied to make it look good and a mix mash of incorrect fasteners, poor repairs and incomplete finishing is presented as a quality restoration. This is unfortunately more common than not due to cheap work and lack of know how.

Jons spanner grading from “Conserving a Legend “ by John Kappeyne is also applicable here

5 Cannot be bettered
4 Very good
3 The worker would probably pass a trade test
2 A reasonable rebuild, but a bit rough
1 Don’t go there
0 Botch

My approach has been to ensure perfect mechanical functioning and the best aesthetics where possible. So I have checked the mechanicals and replaced all the seals and rebuilt or replaced them where necessary. From my list of the costing, you will be able to see what was replaced or rebuilt. I chose to repair all of the body work because I wanted to retain the original panels. They are not perfect but I think it is part of the character of this vehicle and the story of how I found it. The bonnet and the doors however have been reskinned with new aluminium because they were just too damaged and irreparable, so they look like new.

Another large cost was buying a new replacement wiring harness rather than doing my own wiring. Besides saving time this has meant that I can be 100% sure that the wiring is correct by colour and size to the manual and safe and that it will work faultlessly.

The Hidden Labour Cost

Restorations are a time-consuming process especially if you choose to restore all the original parts. It becomes a trade off of labour time, project time and cost of replacement parts.

If you do this yourself out of the love for the project then the time won’t cost you money. In fact this is the best way to reduce the cost to restore a Land Rover. But the time will cost you in other non-financial ways . In my case it cost me family time, time to go on more trips and outings. But obviously, I do enjoy the process and the accomplishment of doing a restoration like this.

If you pay someone else to do the work for you then you obviously pay for their labour time and that will be significant. The work that I outsourced was the work that cost me the most like the chassis and firewall repair and the body repair and painting. But this was also the work that I was the least prepared for and would have taken me even longer.

The Cost to Restore a Land Rover Series 1

So considering everything that I have talked about you can imagine that it is very difficult to have a similar cost for every restoration. That is because there are so many variables. The condition of the original vehicle, your requirements, quality of the work, who does it and how long it takes.

My costing summary is unique to me and my restoration. But knowing what I have and haven’t done and looking at what it has cost me will give you a good idea of what restorations can cost.

Tallying up all my costs has given me an appreciation for what a properly restored Land Rover Series 1 costs and what it is worth.

It has also given me an appreciation for new car prices. If building such a simple vehicle can cost so much its partly understandable why some new cars cost as much as they do.

I have underestimated the cost and had many unexpected expenses.

Detailed Cost Analysis

Three of the biggest costs account for 46% of the total cost and are those items that I outsourced. So they will include a large portion of labour and skill. The chassis and firewall were in a very bad condition and needed to have proper repair with the firewall being completely rebuilt. This was far beyond my skill level. The body also required aluminum repair and then painting. But these are also the biggest and the most important parts of a restoration. So it stands to reason that they are the most expensive.

The other big ticket item is the electrics and small bits accounting for 14% of the cost. This is a combination of many small bits that add up but are also unique, hard to find and expensive. But these little details are important to make a restoration look proper and worth it.

The only other significant costs above R10K are the gearbox recon (5%) which was outsourced as well and the rims and new tyres which were 8% of the cost.

The rest of the restoration cost it is a sum of lots of small bits and pieces but they add up and contribute 27% to the cost.

It is important to remember that I have not included a cost for the original vehicle which was recovered for free. Also there is no cost for the engine because I already had one available. This cost could conservatively be estimated at R70K.

So my total cost is in the region of R230 000 – R250 000 ($13 000-$14 000) and if you add in the costs that I have not incurred then it is around R300 000 ($17 000)


I have underestimated the cost and had many unexpected expenses. It is scary to see the real cost to restore a Land rover. I think that I have already spent double what I had expected to spend when I started. Yes I was partly unaware of what the real costs were. But many of the repairs like the firewall and the chassis were unexpected. Then as I went on I realised that taking any shortcuts would detract from the finished restoration.

There is significantly more value in a full and proper rebuild or restoration than a partial restoration. That real value is in the reliability and avoidance of any future problems. It is effectively like receiving a new car and my experience is that when you do a full and proper rebuild you can be confident that you will have minimal if any reliability or breakdown issues.

Now that I look at this it is much easier to understand and accept why these full restorations cost what they do. But it is also important to know and understand what has and has not been done. This will give a very good guide as to what the value of the vehicle should be. It can also help to understand what is the value of an unrestored vehicle when you know what will need to be done to reach its full potential value.

You can watch the full video here on my channel The Overland Legend

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