A failed gear­box on a De­fender 90causesto be a bit of a chal­lenge af­ter it’s dis­cov­ered the ve­hi­cle was pre­vi­ously stolen and re­cov­ered

Land Rover Monthly - - Norfolk Garage -

One of the eter­nal prob­lems fac­ing the small garage pro­pri­etor is time man­age­ment. There is a fine bal­ance to be struck be­tween tak­ing on enough work to pay all the bills, while still al­low­ing a bit of slack in the sched­ule for when things go wrong as they in­evitably do when work­ing on ve­hi­cles that are some­times more than half a cen­tury old. You never know when things might go quiet, so the temp­ta­tion is to fill up the di­ary, cross your fin­gers and hope for plain sail­ing. This is sel­dom a good idea, as a re­cent ar­rival in the Nor­folk Garage demon­strates.

The ve­hi­cle in ques­tion is a De­fender 90 which I have been look­ing af­ter for a lit­tle while now. Two years ago it was treated to an en­gine re­build, and when the en­gine was re­fit­ted it made sense to fit a new clutch.

There are about half a dozen dif­fer­ent part num­bers for clutch kits to fit four-cylin­der De­fend­ers: all share the same fix­ing bolt and shaft spline pat­tern, and my pref­er­ence is for the 9.5 inch di­aphragm clutch, STC8358, supplied by ei­ther AP Driv­e­line or Borg & Beck. I have fit­ted a lot of these clutches over the years and never had any prob­lems with ei­ther of these brands. This par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle had a Borg & Beck clutch fit­ted, and I was a lit­tle sur­prised when the owner rang me up one morn­ing to say that the clutch had failed and that the ve­hi­cle was on its way to the work­shop on the back of a big lorry.

The symp­toms cer­tainly pointed to­wards a cat­a­strophic me­chan­i­cal fail­ure of the clutch. The ve­hi­cle had started mak­ing a rat­tling sound which got pro­gres­sively louder and sounded as though it was com­ing from the bell­hous­ing area. Ap­proach­ing a round­about the rat­tling got much louder and the ve­hi­cle lost drive and coasted to a halt. When the owner at­tempted to de­press the clutch pedal he found that it had locked solid. There was also a strong burn­ing smell. All a lit­tle odd, and I was most cu­ri­ous to see what had hap­pened.

See­ing as the en­gine had been out of the ve­hi­cle fairly re­cently whereas the gear­box had not, I de­cided to tackle what I thought would be a sim­ple clutch change by re­mov­ing the en­gine. In just over an hour I had it out of the en­gine bay and hang­ing on the crane. When I split the en­gine and gear­box I was ex­pect­ing an avalanche of small bro­ken bits of clutch to cas­cade onto the floor, but there was noth­ing in the bell­hous­ing, and the clutch it­self looked to­tally fine, with all the bolts se­cur­ing it to the fly­wheel nice and tight and no sign of any­thing amiss.

I grasped the gear­box in­put shaft and tried to turn it by hand, and at once re­alised that I was look­ing a gear­box rather than a clutch fail­ure. The shaft would barely turn and the cogs in­side the ’box were clearly not happy. So why had the clutch locked solid? That was an easy mys­tery to solve: the clutch re­lease bear­ing slides on a sleeve which forms part of the gear­box front cover. The cover had got so hot that the plas­tic body of the re­lease bear­ing had started to melt, and glued it­self to the sleeve.

So in­stead of a nice, sim­ple half day clutch change I found my­self hav­ing to sched­ule a gear­box removal and re­fit, on top of re­fit­ting the en­gine. And just to make matters a lit­tle more com­pli­cated, the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion was pre­vi­ously stolen and re­cov­ered, and the se­rial num­ber has been ground off the gear­box (along with those on the en­gine and axles)

“As a re­sult of all this me­chan­i­cal may­hem, I ended the week a day and a half be­hind”

in an at­tempt to hide the ve­hi­cle’s orig­i­nal iden­tity. Re­con­di­tioned gear­boxes are al­most al­ways supplied on a like-for-like ex­change ba­sis, and with­out a se­rial num­ber there is no way to tell which vari­ant of the LT77 gear­box this is, apart from by dis­man­tling it and peer­ing at the in­ter­nals. So rather than buy an ex­change unit I have to send the old, bro­ken gear­box off to be re­built.

This is not un­typ­i­cal of the way in which jobs can es­ca­late and make a mock­ery of any at­tempt to plan the week’s work. In the same week that the De­fender came in I found my­self un­ex­pect­edly replacing a front hub as­sem­bly on a Se­ries IIA to get it through the MOT (shot bear­ings and two wheel studs held in place with sil­i­cone sealant), weld­ing up the nearside dumb iron and front cross­mem­ber on an ex-mil­i­tary One Ten, re­build­ing the (in­cred­i­bly hard to find and ex­pen­sive) mil­i­tary-pat­tern head­light bowls and back­ing plates on the same ve­hi­cle, and replacing the front ex­haust pipe on a petrol Se­ries III, af­ter it dis­in­te­grated when I at­tempted to separate it from a rusted-out rear sec­tion.

That last one could have been much worse than it turned out to be. Nine times out of ten the down­pipe studs on the man­i­fold ei­ther shear off when you try to undo the nuts, or strip their worn and rusted threads when you at­tempt to fit the new down­pipe. This par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle had a newish man­i­fold with brass nuts and ev­ery­thing came un­done ex­actly as per the work­shop man­ual.

As a re­sult of all this me­chan­i­cal may­hem, and with ab­so­lutely no spare ca­pac­ity in the di­ary, I ended the week about a day and a half be­hind. One way round this prob­lem is of course to work week­ends, but even Land Rover me­chan­ics need a break oc­ca­sion­ally. It only takes a cou­ple of bad weeks like this be­fore dras­tic ac­tion is re­quired. About six months ago I cleared a full week in the work­shop di­ary to give me a chance to catch up and tidy up, and it is get­ting close to the point where I will have to do the same thing again.

with limescale, and the wiring loom and seats were eaten by mice.

The ve­hi­cle had been a garage break­down truck, prob­a­bly for its whole life. Back in the good old days just about ev­ery garage in Bri­tain had a Land Rover with a Har­vey Frost crane in the back, un­reg­is­tered and run­ning on trade plates, which meant they never needed an MOT test. In the 1980s the rules changed and many of these old ve­hi­cles were taken out of use, be­ing too old and un­road­wor­thy to be worth bring­ing up to MOT stan­dard.

This par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle had been road reg­is­tered in 1984, had lost its crane, but still had the holes in the rear floor and mount­ing plates welded to the chas­sis rails as ev­i­dence of its pre­vi­ous life. It also had makeshift coil springs jammed be­tween the rear axle and the chas­sis to sup­ple­ment the sag­ging leaf springs, and a pair of ‘Mickey Mouse ear’ in­di­ca­tor re­peaters at­tached to the truck cab.

Un­daunted I set about bring­ing the old beast to life, and in the process learned more about Land Rovers than any other ve­hi­cle be­fore or since. The en­gine had a bot­tom end knock, and the wa­ter pump was leak­ing past the seals. I bought new bear­ing shells and a new pump, and thus learned that there are two types of two and a quar­ter petrol en­gines: the type fit­ted to 95 per cent of Se­ries Land Rovers, and the early 151 which is what I had – and none of the spares sup­pli­ers seemed to have heard of!

I bought an al­ter­na­tor to re­place the dy­namo, spent a full day try­ing to re­move the long through bolt which holds the dy­namo to the block, and learned that oxy-acety­lene beats WD-40 when it comes to free­ing seized fas­ten­ers. I fit­ted a brake servo from a Se­ries III, messed about with the pushrod length in an at­tempt to re­duce the ex­ces­sive pedal travel, and the first time I ap­plied the brakes firmly they locked solid.

Us­ing a Massey 135 trac­tor with a front end loader and leak­ing hy­draulics I gin­gerly lifted the body off the chas­sis to re­veal the full ex­tent of the cor­ro­sion. Ev­ery­thing was hor­ri­ble. There was a large scrap pile on the farm which I was free to raid: the Se­ries II ended up with all the rot cut out and re­placed with 4 mm steel, and a home­made rear cross­mem­ber fab­ri­cated from a length of steel chan­nel, all done with a cheap arc welder from Hal­fords. I even made my own footwells. By the fol­low­ing Jan­uary the beast was back to­gether, brush-painted with Bronze Green trac­tor enamel and had passed its MOT. Then it started to snow.

Some read­ers will re­mem­ber the win­ter of 1990-91. Snow fell heav­ily over sev­eral days and many iso­lated ru­ral ar­eas were cut off from the out­side world. This in­cluded my part of Lin­colnshire. The roads in and out were blocked with snow­drifts, but for a young lad with an old Land Rover it was par­adise on earth. For a cou­ple of days my old Se­ries II and the farmer’s Ninety were in con­stant use mov­ing cat­tle feed and hay bales, fetch­ing and de­liv­er­ing gro­ceries to stranded pen­sion­ers, tow­ing lesser ve­hi­cles out of ditches and gen­er­ally be­ing use­ful.

In the end I sold the Se­ries II to a pub land­lord who did a bit of pheas­ant shoot­ing. The rat­tly old petrol en­gine fi­nally died a few months af­ter I sold it: the cylin­der head cor­roded through the cast­ing from the in­side leav­ing a thumb­nail-sized hole near one of the spark plugs, which is some­thing I haven’t seen on any Land Rover since.

The new owner asked me to drop in a diesel which he had ac­quired. That locked solid af­ter a week due to the com­bus­tion cham­bers fill­ing up with oil when the en­gine was cranked over on the starter, and I haven’t seen that fault since, ei­ther. I ended up re­build­ing the en­gine for him with new pis­tons and crank­shaft.

So even af­ter the ve­hi­cle had left my own­er­ship it was teach­ing me new skills. The ve­hi­cle is still reg­is­tered with the DVLA but its last MOT ex­pired in 2009: hope­fully it is out there some­where, wait­ing for its chance to teach an­other young en­thu­si­ast some of the tricks it taught me.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.