Se­ries IIA restora­tion

A once-ne­glected and for­got­ten SIIA has been res­cued and re­built for a round-bri­tain fundrais­ing chal­lenge


‘Aban­doned’ work­horse brought back to life for a unique 2000-mile UK coastal trip

It’s hard to be­lieve that this splen­did Se­ries IIA spent al­most two decades half-for­got­ten and to­tally ne­glected in an old rail­way van body. I’ve come to Tan­field Rail­way on Ty­ne­side to find out from Tom Hart­ley and Kelly Thomas just what it took to get it back on the road and ready for a 2000-mile fundrais­ing tour around the coast of Bri­tain in a few weeks’ time.

A che­quered his­tory

This fine ma­chine had last been taxed in March 1996, the year it fi­nally ‘died’ and was stuffed into the old rail­way van body at the yard. It’s a

1966 88in 2.25 diesel hard top and has had about 20 own­ers. ‘Back in the early ’90s, Ian Cowan, the rail­way’s en­gi­neer, wanted a Land Rover and a cou­ple of the lads here had a pair of them, a Se­ries II and a IIA.

‘And from what I un­der­stand, one do­nated parts to fet­tle the other, which is the one I’ve got now. Later, they snapped its orig­i­nal chas­sis by over­load­ing it with roof tiles when they were build­ing An­drew’s House sta­tion. They com­pletely re­built the chas­sis in the work­shops here. Sadly no pho­tos ex­ist of that work.’

Deal or no deal?

The Land Rover was even­tu­ally dragged out of its hid­ing place in Novem­ber 2015 and sat in stor­age at the ware­house-cum-work­shop owned by John Len­nox, the rail­way chair­man. He’s also a se­rial Land Rover col­lec­tor and re­storer. When Tom went to see the Land Rover, the list of work needed kept grow­ing:

the spring U-bolts had snapped on the front axle, the rear prop­shaft had been re­moved to get it on to the trailer be­cause the rear brakes had seized and the Land Rover wouldn’t shift. ‘They’d got it out of the old van body with a tele­han­dler and plenty of big straps.’

The IIA did have some things go­ing for it. The orig­i­nal wind­screen wipers/mo­tors, gear­box, over­drive and free­wheel­ing hubs – nice, early MAP ones – were all present. Even the en­gine turned over freely. On the other hand, the front wings were too far gone with rot and bent out of shape, and the bulk­head was knack­ered. Tom was hop­ing Kelly would talk him out of buy­ing it. But…

‘He rang me when I was driv­ing home from work,’ says Kelly. ‘I said, “You’ve got to buy it. I’ve al­ways wanted one; you’ve got to buy it”.’ Just to be sure, Tom then rang his dad and he said: ‘You can’t lose money – just buy it.’

So, for £1000 and a bot­tle of good whisky, and af­ter promis­ing Ian that he would do a proper nut-and-bolt re­build job on it, Tom bought him­self a whole lot of work. He al­ready had a steam en­gine in a mil­lion pieces (he still has, as it hap­pens), so did he re­ally need an­other project?

Scrapheap chal­lenge

All the work was done at John Len­nox’s place by Tom and Kelly, with help, parts and en­cour­age­ment from John. ‘The whole hard top came off us­ing John’s over­head crane, within an hour and a half of my own­er­ship,’ says Tom. This was made more dif­fi­cult by the ran­dom use of fix­ings. ‘Some of them were screws, one of them was a bit of wooden dow­elling, some of them were BA, some were BSF, a cou­ple were met­ric, there were Philips heads and screws… a bit of ev­ery­thing had been used to hold the roof down,’ re­calls Tom.

‘By the time I got over there, the roof was off, the door tops were off and the seat box was out,’ says Kelly.

Tom used an an­gle grinder to take the door bolts off be­cause they were seized, but he man­aged to save the hinges. They stripped the Land Rover right down to a bare chas­sis, stor­ing all the parts out of the way; the axles were un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously thrown on to a pile of scrap. ‘John has a stack of spare axles to choose from and ours were rot­ten.’

Tom cut off the back of the chas­sis and fit­ted a new rear quar­ter chas­sis from Pad­dock. There was one point un­der the pas­sen­ger seat that was dented and rot­ten, but the re­main­der of the front sec­tion, in­clud­ing the dumb irons, was okay. Tom cleaned out loads of rust and rub­bish from the chas­sis, us­ing a fork­lift to pick it up and re­peat­edly bang it on the ground. Most of it came out.

Bulk­head take­away

‘Your bulk­head is in a car­rier bag,’ are not the words you want to hear from the chap who’s just shot­blasted your SIIA’S fire­wall. With full­time jobs, spare time was a big is­sue. ‘Rather than make my own door pil­lars, I had to buy them be­cause it was quicker for me to earn the money and buy them rather than spend a long time fold­ing and weld­ing a pil­lar my­self.’ The re­pair sec­tions all came from YRM.

‘I’ve learned a lot about re­build­ing and weld­ing bulk­heads for Land Rovers. I took the ex­ter­nal mea­sure­ments of the top screen hinges off John’s SIIA cherry picker to give me an ab­so­lute width. Then I took a mea­sure­ment from the cen­tre of the hole in these hinges down to the cen­tre of the hole in the door bracket. That gives the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the wind­screen and the height of the door for the bar­rel line in the body. I cut the door pil­lars off and cut the footwells out.

‘I re­built the bulk­head with it on the chas­sis, not a jig, be­cause I wanted the door pil­lar feet to align with the chas­sis out­rig­gers. I hung the bulk­head in po­si­tion off an over­head crane, used a set-square to get it true, put the bolts through the feet, tight­ened up then tacked the pil­lars at the top, and then al­most started work­ing back­wards from there. One footwell had seven lay­ers of re­pairs. The rot on one side had crept up above the re­pair panel. I had to make a sand­wich to go ei­ther side of the good metal just be­low the rain strip, and joined it to the new footwell.

‘The in­ter­nal bulk­head pan­els – the shelf across where the bar­rel meets the top cor­ners – were all rot­ten. Ev­ery time I at­tempted to weld it, more and more filler ex­ploded right across the work­shop.

‘The big­gest faff was try­ing to sal­vage the pas­sen­ger-side vent open­ing and top cor­ner; af­ter blast­ing, it was just hang­ing in the air. When the bulk­head came back from gal­vanis­ing it bolted straight on, so my plan

worked out well. I’ve seen other peo­ple use bot­tle jacks to make them fit.

The bulk­head was the big­gest job, but the gear­box came close; it was to­tally seized. Once he’d stripped it, Tom was sur­prised not to find any­thing par­tic­u­larly scary – no bits of metal, no wa­ter, just some sur­face rust and dirt.

But no oil. ‘The only thing that had oil in it was the over­drive, and that had far too much of it. It’s a Se­ries III gear­box with syn­chro on all gears and a hy­draulic clutch rather than the Iia-style shaft through the bell­hous­ing. It’s a lot bet­ter for daily use, which is our in­ten­tion.

‘We put new bear­ings and tried to fit a new layshaft but it didn’t match the first gear we had; it wouldn’t mesh, so we put the orig­i­nal layshaft back in; it only has a bit of wear on the re­verse gear and we’ve had no prob­lems so far. We didn’t change all the bear­ings – if they ran smoothly and didn’t wob­ble when I spun them on my fin­gers, I put them back in. I know it sounds a bit like farm­yard engi­neer­ing but it’s worked for years. It’s a bit noisy in sec­ond if you change up too soon, but the Fairey over­drive is very quiet.

The swivels had been fit­ted new in 1992 when Ian Cowan bought it and they were still in good con­di­tion. Tom’s re­newed the brak­ing sys­tem – wheel cylin­ders, pipes and shoes. Says Kelly: ‘The diffs were fine; we just checked the back­lash and put them back in and re­built the hubs with new-old-stock bear­ings; the free­wheel­ing hubs were fine. Tom binned the old wiring in favour of a brand-new loom from Au­tosparks; that was the last job.’

All that was left was the paint job, which was taken care of by a lo­cal chap who paints all of John Len­nox’s ve­hi­cles. De­spite work­ing in a cramped lit­tle garage, the fin­ish is su­perb.

Girl power

Kelly was heav­ily in­volved in the re­build from the start, even play­ing an in­stru­men­tal part in per­suad­ing Tom to buy the SIIA in the first place – top work. The first ma­jor job on the re­build she did was jet­wash­ing and clean­ing the en­gine and the stripped gear­box.

‘I spent all day on it – they were ming­ing! But I’m not both­ered about filthy dirty.’ [Kelly keeps horses, which also ex­plains her keen­ness to get a Land Rover ] ‘I’ve never used an an­gle grinder and I can’t weld. I want Tom to do a re­ally good job and not a bad job be­cause he’s let me have a go at some­thing I haven’t done be­fore. So, while he was cut­ting and weld­ing, I cleaned the in­side,’ says Kelly.

‘And you put the en­gine in,’ pipes up Tom. ‘I was happy do­ing some­thing on the back axle; some­thing fid­dly. You and John were there and he said to you, “Kelly, do you want to put the en­gine in?” And I said, “Hey – it’s my toy!”. Next thing I know, the pair of them are sat there with the en­gine on a hoist do­ing it.’

‘You were be­ing ten­ta­tive about do­ing it so we just got on with it,’ teases Kelly.

The fi­nal re­sult?

‘It’s not con­cours but it’s been a proper nu­tand-bolt re­build. If it were con­cours we’d be scared to use it. We want to charge around Kelly’s farm in it. It’s use­able.

‘With­out the knowl­edge and spares that John Len­nox has pro­vided I couldn’t have done it for what I’ve spent. In­clud­ing the £1000 to buy it and £1100 on wheels, tyres, and shot­blast­ing/paint­ing them, I reckon I’ve spent be­tween £4000 and £5000.’

Tom and Kelly have worked hard to breathe new life into what was a very sorry-look­ing and de­cay­ing Land Rover. Now, they’re about to em­bark on an am­bi­tious fundrais­ing trip around the UK’S coast­line in it.

It just goes to show that the old say­ing, ‘It’s never over in a Rover’, still holds true.

‘I spent all day on the en­gine and gear­box. They were ming­ing, but I’m not both­ered about filthy dirty’

The per­fect cock­pit for a 2000-mile epic chal­lenge

Mis­sion ac­com­plished: Kelly longed to get a Land Rover

Tom’s re­ju­ve­nated IIA is on track to last decades more

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