ANOTHER BULKHEAD SWAP
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”