|Jump to:||Getting started|
|It all started in the spring of '99
I was just sittin' on the porch cracking pop-tops, wondering what I should do this summer. What I need is something fun. A new toy!
Yea! That's it. Something different. How about an old Land Rover? I've seen a couple around and I think that place next to my brother's in Vermont has some parts available for them. And how much could they possibly cost? It'd be kinda cool to bomb around in the summer with the roof off.
From there I started to do a little research...and my troubles had just begun!
Something to start with
Because I'm in the auto body business, I know what restorations can entail. I would spend some time and find the nicest truck I could with the money I had to spend. I figured for every dollar spend going in, I would save three on the other end. So after spending weeks pouring over print and web adds, I settled on a Series III truck outside Richmond Virginia. Ten hours and five hundred miles later I found my self crawling around a badly beaten, rusted and abused hulk of an old truck. Not wanting to bounce home empty, and after much negotiations, we struck a deal and I headed north with the old girl and a lighter wallet.
I wish I had the forsite to take a few photos of what I came home with.
Now that it's home, let's see what we've got.
After driving the old girl for a few weeks, I began to see the troubles I had. I started taking a tally of what was still good, and what would have to be replaced. As you can imagine, one list was substantially longer than the other. All the body panels were pretty much beyond salvation including the rear tub, which had the common Ser. III corrosion problems at the rear seatbelt brackets. The upper and lower doors were shot, as were the inner and outer wings. The hood frame was just lace work. And then the bulkhead...Well, this made all the other body parts look good! It had been patched more than once, and even these patches had rusted out. The only panels worth saving were the windscreen frame and the top. All the other panels would have to be replaced if I was to end up with anything to be proud of.
The frame suffered from a similar condition. It had been patched numerous times and most of them had failed. When I stopped driving my new pride and joy, the right side of the bumper had risen a few inches thanks to a break in the frame rail directly about the front axle. The frame, among everything else, would have to be replaced as well. I was faced with not just a "frame-off" restoration, but a NEW frame restoration. Those of you familiar with Land Rovers will not find this too troubling, but at this point, I wondered what I had gotten myself in to!
While I'm at it, I might as well make some changes.
Among other things such as a badly deteriorated body and a very rusty frame, I wasn't very happy with the stock Rover engine and the power it offered. If I were to truly turn this truck into an expedition ready, completely reliable vehicle, I would have to find and adapt an alternate power source...Preferably a diesel. I like the longevity they offer not to mention the savings in fuel costs. But diesel engines aren't as popular here in the states as elsewhere in the world. And only one company has offered them in passenger cars for any length of time and in any numbers. This company was Mercedes Benz. Their line of diesel engines has a legendary reputation for toughness equal only to their reputation for corrosion prone bodies. With a little work, I could find a good donor car with not too-many miles that would offer it's heart to my poor ailing Rover.
After a few phone calls, my engine of choice was found and it's shipment secured. Twenty-four hours and nine hundred dollars later I had a 1981 Mercedes 2.4L diesel with 109K miles sitting in my driveway.
From a standard shift car, I was delighted to find a brand-new clutch and pressure plate bolted to the backside. This was to prove to be a very simple engine to adapt to my new truck. A feed and return fuel line, three wires and a throttle cable was all that was necessary to run this simplest of engines.
There were, however, a few things that had to be made and changed for this new engine to go into a Land Rover. The main thing was an adapter plate to mate the Mercedes engine to the Rover transmission. It was built in a day from a single piece of 6061 aluminum plate. Care had to be taken to assure a precise centering of the input shaft to the flywheel and clutch. The Rover input shaft matted to the Mercedes flywheel, clutch and pressure plate with very little modification to the clutch plate. The pilot bearing was machined from a piece of bearing bronze. The outside corner of the flywheel had to be cut slightly to fit inside the Rover bell housing. With these things done, the two came together with little problem.
The oil filter housing was another thing that needed some modification. Because of its placement far back and away from the engine block, it was going to interfere with the bulkhead. There are two mechanical valves inside this housing that perform some important functions that I wanted to keep. One is a high-pressure relief valve and the other is a thermatic valve that bypasses the oil filter until the engine reaches operating temperature. The top portion of this housing had to be removed, capped off and taped for oil lines leading to a remote filter location. It’s a straightforward change, but care must be taken not to damage the two enclosed valves. They are plastic and must be removed before any welding is done.
The motor mounts had to be fabricated and were done so with the engine in place. Again, very straight forward and simple to do with some scrap steel and a mig welder. The only other thing that had to be modified in regards to the engine was the oil pan. The right side corner had to be removed and re-shaped to make room for the front differential housing. With the help of parabolic springs and military shackles, I have no clearance problems even over the toughest terrain.
In the following pages you will see some photographs of the truck as it progressed and some of the modifications I've made since the truck has been on the road. It is a work in progress, as all Rovers seem to be, but I'm getting close to the simple, reliable, easy to maintain truck I had hoped for when I started this project.