Restoring Army Gary
The R6 restoration project
Craig Rocher’s Series III R6 picked up some serious battle wounds during its service in the military. But an extensive rebuild later, the Series III looks ready for war once again.
Landy nut Craig Rocher, a chartered accountant from Centurion has made the restoration of a classic 1981 R6 Series III Land Rover his special project. Bought from the previous owner for R65 000, the retired military vehicle has had more than R130 000 work done to it. We look at Craig’s detailed five-month restoration, which has resulted in one heck of a machine.
On 22 July 1981, a beige 109 Land Rover Series III R6 station wagon rolled off the production line at the factory in Blackheath, Cape Town. Fitted with convoy lights, an army tow bar and identification code, it was sent to the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) recovery point to commence its military service. The current owner of this vehicle, Craig Rocher, has done his research on the history and rich military background of his beloved Series III. “When the South African Border War ended in 1989, the army’s stock of Land Rovers was bought up by Landy enthusiasts round the country. This particular model was purchased by Leimers Land Rovers to fix up and sell for profit,” Craig says. At that stage, the shorter (88-inch) wheelbase Land Rovers sold faster than the long wheelbase models, and it was decided to transform this station wagon into a short wheelbase model – nearly 54 centimetres had to be removed.
From the ground up
The Series III went under the knife, and the excess was removed between the cab and the load bay, leaving the long wheelbase overhanging where the petrol tank was located. The chassis was also cut and neatly welded back together. “What makes this Landy so unique is that the R6 was never manufactured as a short wheelbase model,” he said. Years later, it was decided to start the restoration process, but this Landy wasn’t in very good shape. Apart from the original paint fading over the years, there was corrosion covering most of the body panels and a badly rusted fire wall. They began by removing the body panels and stripping the entire vehicle down to the rolling chassis. The body panels were repaired and the dents meticulously removed. Good second hand panels were obtained where the panels could not be repaired. A new roof was sourced in order to convert the station wagon into a single cab bakkie with a fixed roof. The entire Landy (except for the pieces that were originally galvanised) was resprayed Rover Almond Green, one of the standard Land Rover colours of the era. While the original parts of the body that were galvanised were still in mint conditions, there were spots of the galvanising that had started to rust. These spots were treated with a special galvanising paint. It was decided not to re-galvanise the rear flap (which has faded over the years) as it added character to the Landy. The chassis, the load bay behind the cab and the inside of the engine compartment received an anti-rust coating wherever traces of surface rust was found. “When I initially bought the Landy, one of the previous owners replaced the standard R6 engine with another engine,” says Craig.
In keeping with the original theme, an original R6 engine was sourced and the non-standard engine was replaced. The new motor was stripped down and many of the older parts were replaced and serviced. The rebuild of the engine was done over a period of seven months to allow time for the parts to be ordered. At the time of the article, the newly rebuilt engine has done about 1 000 kilometres.
The following parts were replaced on the engine: oil pump, water pump, push rod seals, valves, valve springs, pistons, rings, all gaskets, oil cooler hoses, fan belt, speedometer cable, HT leads, coil and spark plugs. The head was also properly cleaned and overhauled. When the engine was stripped, the empty engine block was cleaned to ensure that the newly built engine started with a solid clean base. The twin SU carburettors were also cleaned and completely serviced. The original Santana 4-speed gearbox with syncros was fitted for easy gear changes, “although you still have to search for the gears once in neutral. These gearboxes were known for their strength and longevity”, adds Craig. According to Craig, the transfer case and gearbox were still in very good condition and were reinstalled into the Landy. The front and rear differential were also inspected, cleaned and overhauled. The prop shafts were rebalanced, greased and fitted. New oils were added to the drive train to ensure that the running gear was operating as smoothly as possible. Craig ensured that the low range and fourwheel-drive function was working properly. A new stainless steel, free flow exhaust was fitted together with braded flexible joints. The exhaust manifold was reinforced as these were notorious for cracking and breaking off. “The new exhaust lets you hear the growl of that straight 6.” In the military, the R6, certified to carry up to a one-ton load, were the workhorses that carried troops or towed a water tank or cannon. Because of the strenuous working condition, these Landies were fitted with heavy duty clutches. When the clutch was replaced during the restoration process, the same heavy duty clutch was sourced and fitted together with a brand new thrust bearing, clutch master and slave cylinders. The suspension, steering bushes, leaf springs, brake lines, brake hoses, brake drums and brake pads were all replaced with brand new parts. The steering box was also overhauled to ensure that there were no leaks and was operating as it should. The R6 was notorious for having major overheating issues and the radiator was overhauled. The standard rubber radiator hoses were replaced with heavy duty high pressure silicone hoses. A new thermostat and stronger viscous fan were fitted to ensure the cooling system was in tip-top shape. Another unique feature of the R6 is that it was fitted with an oil cooler that was offset to the right hand side of the Landy, underneath the radiator. New oil cooler pipes were fitted between the oil cooler and the engine. A stainless steel replica of the petrol tank was made and fitted together with a new petrol level sender unit. This means that the battle with dirty fuel is finally over. In-line fuel filters were also installed. New light fittings were installed together with new wiring. The convoy lights were originally galvanised so the lights were stripped down to the galvanising and rewired. New door rubbers and window slide rubbers were fitted. The fixed glass windows were fitted with new glass including the original lamination film. New sliding windows were made and fitted. Small galvanised catches were made for the sliding windows so that they could be easily opened and closed. To ensure that all the vitals of the engine were operating correctly, new gauges were fitted. An oil pressure, temperature and volt gauge was fitted, including new wires. The back lights of these gauges were wired to the independent dash light switch. The volt gauge was wired in such a way to warn the driver when the alternator was not charging; this is a possible indication of the fan belt snapping. The rims were resprayed white and new tyres were fitted. The standard size tyre (7.5/16) was sourced and fitted to the Landy. The seats were reupholstered and the seat brackets were customised so that both the left and right front seats could be removed, allowing access to the compartments under these seats, as well as easy access to the battery. Auxiliary 12-volt power sockets were installed in the centre console between the two seats. The Land Rover badge on the back of the Landy was stripped down and resprayed and then lightly sanded so that the letters looked original.
Seats were customised to be made removable.