Land Rover Monthly - - Upfront -

No sooner had I fin­ished re­plac­ing the bulk­head on a Defender 200Tdi Sta­tion Wagon (see last month’s col­umn) than another 200Tdi turned up need­ing the same treat­ment. This was another ex­am­ple of a tired old work­horse hastily tarted up for a quick sale, with plenty of over­spray to show where a spray gun had been wafted over the vis­i­ble bits. Al­though not nearly as rot­ten as last month’s hor­ror show, this bulk­head had plenty of rot in all the usual places: footwells, door pil­lars, mount­ing feet and top cor­ners. The ve­hi­cle was fit­ted with an af­ter­mar­ket air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem which had prob­a­bly not worked for many years. Quite apart from the fact that the air con unit oc­cu­pied the whole of the pas­sen­ger side footwell, mak­ing this Ninety hard­top a sin­gle seater, the holes that had been hacked in the up­per footwells for the sys­tem pipework had done a great deal to pro­mote the spread of rust. In fact, the air con unit was hid­ing a com­pletely dis­in­te­grated lower footwell on that side. Some­one had made a neat job of re­con­struct­ing the driver’s side lower footwell in fi­bre­glass mat­ting, which was the sort of bodgery I used to get up to when I was 18-years old and mess­ing about with Triumph Her­alds. The fi­bre­glass footwell came out in one piece: per­haps I should put it on ebay.

Good sec­ond­hand bulk­heads are get­ting very hard to find now. The 200Tdi owner tracked down a 300Tdi bulk­head (very sim­i­lar to the 200Tdi apart from a cou­ple of ex­tra brack­ets) and sent me some pic­tures from which it looked fine apart from a cou­ple of ar­eas of mi­nor rust. The idea was to weld th­ese up and have the bulk­head blasted and hot zinc sprayed be­fore paint­ing. I dropped it off at the blast­ing shop for an ini­tial rough blast­ing, and it came back look­ing like a piece of Not­ting­ham lace. The top cor­ners had rot­ted from the in­side and were only be­ing held to­gether by paint and rust scale. On the plus side, the footwells and pil­lars were sound, and af­ter some rather fid­dly fab­ri­ca­tion work around the air vents the new bulk­head was fit for fur­ther ser­vice.

I sus­pect it will not be long be­fore we see new re­pro­duc­tion Defender bulk­heads ap­pear on the mar­ket, fol­low­ing the re­cent launch of a re­place­ment Se­ries III bulk­head by one of the ma­jor parts sup­pli­ers. The Se­ries III bulk­head re­tails at around £2500 which sounds like a lot of money, but I imag­ine the tool­ing costs for some­thing like this would be pretty high. Defender bulk­heads seem to suf­fer more from top-half rot than Se­ries bulk­heads, and it is get­ting quite un­usual for me to see an older Defender which has a per­fect bulk­head top rail and cor­ners. Some­how I doubt that the 200Tdi cur­rently lurk­ing in my work­shop will be the last bulk­head swap I carry out.

“It was the sort of bodgery I used to get up to when I was 18 years old”

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