Rebuilding a Land-Rover from the chassis up

Rebuilding a Land-Rover from the ground up is not a task to be undertaken lightly. It's more work than you think. Yes, more than that... :-)

Rough Timeline: Pieter bought the Land-Rover from a fellow in Agulhas in 1994/1995. Paid R1500 for it, and that was a fair price for what we got. And didn't get, for example, working brakes. But we cobbled some brakes together, drove it to Muda's place in Stellenberg, took it apart, and stored most of it in the garage roofspace.

Then Pieter got busy with an MBA, and Elmari and I moved from the flat in Parow to a house in Bellville. So at the housewarming I grabbed a bunch of guests by the ears, drove up to Stellenberg, loaded the chassis on a flatbed and unloaded it at home. That was around the end of 1995.

OK, so here I am, January 1996, with a Land-Rover chassis in my back yard. And... nothing happens. For six months or so (We just moved in, remember? And it's winter. Think rain. Lots of it). But, eventually, things got going.

I got Graham (Duncan-Smith, local LR handyman) to come and have a look, and give me some tips on how to go ahead with galvanising the chassis.

This is cut-and-paste from the log I kept at the time.

1996-07-01, Monday

Chassis mostly cut open. Rear bumper section still to be cut. Firewall stripped. Steering relay still in.
#1 tool - angle grinder

1996-07-03, Wednesday

Letter to Michaela:
Hi Michaela

Studying again? Hang in there...

Any news on those brakes?

My brother came back from London on Friday. Brought me two LROs, Lindsay Porter's guide to restoring LRs (a present),
and a Series II/IIA parts manual (I paid by credit card, he just picked it up in Croydon. Apparently you don't want
to go to Croydon, worse than Despatch :-)

So Monday eve we invited him & co over for supper, got him to help me get the rear axle on the bench. On jack 
stands. I'm not that strong, he's stronger, I couldn't lift my half of the axle higher than my belt. But we got it

So now I'm stripping the thing. All the nuts are stuck, except for the brake cylinder nuts which came of fairly
easily. I need a 3/8 " BSF socket to remove the diff, try finding one of those... Also need to buy an impact
wrench and a handful of angle grinder cutting disks. Tool #1 = angle grinder. Did I mention that over the weekend
I had to remove the brake drum retaining screws with a hammer & chisel?

One of the cylinders seems to be series IIA, the other is II. Maybe I need to get new / good 2nd hand IIA backing
plates. I'll probably replace the cylinders anyway, they're less that R100 ea.

I ordered R400s worth of bolts & nuts last week. BSF stuff is expensive, R4 / bolt or so. UNF/UNC stuff is
quite affordable. I plan to replace _all_ the bolts and nuts, except for the engine & gearbox of course.


Rear axle stripped down, diff to be removed. Needs heat or something :-)

Chassis on trailer, rear member to be angle ground, one shackle nut to be cut, one bit of chassis to be angle
ground off.


Chassis & firewall gone for sandblasting, welding and galvanising.

Diff & oil drain plug removed. The differential wheel thrust washer is toast. Will take the diff to LR Service
Centre to replace washer and pinion oil seal, and check out diff. 2 hours / R200 labour.

The distance pieces on the rear hub bearing sleeves are toast. Will ask LR SC to replace. Nesco doesn't have bearings
(SKF K-359S and K-11162). Right hand side needs new, left looks OK.

Brake backing plates are really rusted. Will soak adjusters and one brake cyl in sulfuric acid. Other brake cylinder
looks OK, needs to be honed, maybe resleeved, and rebuilt. Might swap for series IIA brake backing plates, new cyls
are available for IIA.

Next up: strip front axle


The front axle was nice & dirty. Oil and mud. But little rust, not like the rear axle. Most bolts come out easy,
but I still angle ground off the bolts holding the balls to the axle case, and the bolts for the steering arms.

The cone & seat and the bearing (steering) are both shot (LH). Will see if I can get replacements, if not will
replace with Rialko bushing kit. Front brake backing plates are not too bad, but the snail cams are slightly chewed.
Maybe replace. Apparently new chrome balls are available, if not might try a rechrome.

Will probably replace the distance pieces, although they look better than the rear ones. Someone on LRO said they
chew up the seal, even if they look good.

Gave a long list of parts required / maybe required to Ivan at TMS. He'll fax back price & availability. Will
have to get some stuff from AAD.

BTW ground off tie rod ends. Still need to get them out of the arms. Will fit new.

1996-07-?? Sandblasting of chassis, firewall came to R173. Graham's bust trailer wheel is another R40.
1996-08-07 Chassis back from sandblasting, chassis number found,
  162900770 export petrol 109" station wagon RHD 1959. Deposit of R500 ->

Parts ordered from TMS, R2.5K

Front axle to be completely stripped (diff still in) Rear diff to be fixed (spacer problem) rear springs to be
retensioned, front springs to be located.

Got Series IIA rear brake backing plates from Graham, R25 x 2. Will buy
new cylinders & shoes.

1996-08-08 received most of the parts ordered from TMS. R1650.11

1996-08-10 Went to Wellington. Got the non-pendant type steering arms, R45 ea + vat. Ouch. They have half a bakkie
bak for R250-ish.

1996-08-16 Paid Graham for rest of work. R800. R221.13 for steel, R45 x 2 for transport, R1040 labour (welding etc).

1996-08-19 2x front springs from Graham, R375.

Tie rod ends mostly out. One still stuck. Bearings out of hubs. LR service centre sez the rear diff is fairly worn,
I've given them the front diff as well, and will also give them the front diff from Jurgen. Will keep Jurgen's rear
diff complete for a spare.

1996-08-21 Chassis galvanised, to be collected, 200kg, R660. I'm getting two (SWB) axles from Jurgen in Fish Hoek.
R500 (down from R1000). Complete with diffs and free wheel hubs. Graham sez he has a series III that he's stripping,
wiper motor & brake booster stuff available. Graham sez paint the chassis with galvagrip.

1996-08-23 Graham delivered the chassis & springs this morning at 7:20. He's taking the firewall & front
bumper for galvanising at Andrag next. I collected 2xaxles from Jurgen. Didn't get the brake pipe protector plates.
Damn. The hubs on the new axles still have all the studs. Will strip, remove bearings, clean, and see which are best.
The gaiters are torn, but I'll probably use them to make patterns, so I can make another set from leather.

1996-08-27 Had quite a bit of trouble removing the WARN M11 free wheel hubs. Had to donner the stub axles after heating
the hubs with a profane torch. The axles will need careful thread cleaning to be used again. The one swivel pin housing
look very good, the other one not. Graham charged R35 for cleaning up the firewall, ouch.

1996-09-02 Removed the frame bushings. This is easy, but tedious. The galvanising process burned out the rubber and
inner tube, so I had to remove the outer sleeves with a hacksaw and chisel. Took less than 2 hours, not bad
considering my serious hangover. The front outer sleeves were two part units, with +=15mm open between the sleeves.
This means that there's a ring of corrosion in the centre of the tube in the chassis, so I'll do something with a
dowel, some sandpaper and an electric drill. Finished stripping the front axle, took the diff to LR service centre.
They'll build two good diffs, and stick the best of the worn parts together for a spare diff.

1996-09-03 Fetched firewall and front bumper from Andrag. Looks good. Trying to locate an imperial tap & die set,
failing that will buy a 5/16" UNF tap for the captive nuts in the firewall. Left other loose bits at Andrag for
sandblasting and galvanising.

1996-09-09 : Very little progress, due to lots of rain, some beer that had to be brewed, and the arrival of four kittens
(In the middle of the night, of course, so now we have seven, eeek :-). I want to galvanise the clutch pedal and tower,
so I stripped that, but I couldn't get the shaft out (the one that the pedal hinges on). Took the assembly to LR Service
centre this morning, they pressed it out with their hydraulic press, and it wasn't easy. I still need to strip down the
second rear axle, will try to get that at least half done tonight.

The metrisation of my LR has started. I would have liked to keep all nuts and bolts imperial, so that I would only have
to carry two sets of spanners, AF and Whitworth. Well, the engine mounts I got are M10. 6.3/16 ". Argh. At least
I have metrinch, or at least the Gedore equivalent, sockets. The axle U bolts I got are also different front and back.
At least I managed to get the same size threads for each end. I still have to figure out what they are, I suspect the
one is BSW and the other UNC, 'cause none of my metric taps fit.

Later: Graham is breaking up a Series III SW. I got misc clips & shit, for free nogal. Graham is planning to sell
the rear body for scrap, figures he'll get R300 for it, offered to sell it to me for same. I guess if I don't use it I
can probably still sell it for scrap. Comes with a rear floor, which I don't happen to have anyway.

1996-09-16 : SWB rear axle stripped. The diff is still in, will remove it if & when I need it.

Mike @ LR Service Centre says that the bearings on the other original (front) diff are also shot. Will rebuild with
new bearings. The SWB front diff is fine, he rebuilt it with new seals etc.

Graham delivered the rear body, R300. He broke the rear brake lights moving it though :-(

Just about time to start rebuilding the rear axle. It's been raining like shit, so the chassis & firewall are
starting to rust where the galvanise isn't 100%. This is what I want, 'cause now I can treat these areas while I can
still see them.

BTW the rear U bolts are M12 (havn't checked my taps again) and the front ones are UNF.

1996-09-20 : Did lots of stuff today.

Picked up the small bits (Fuel tank bottom plate, engine & gearbox mounts (the ones that attach to the chassis),
bulkhead outriggers, fuel pedal, clutch pedal tower, etc) from Andrag after galvanising (R79.69).

Dropped off the rear springs at Capewell springs, they don't have much hope for reviving them but let's see...

Got the diffs from LR Service Centre, R1100 odd for a rebuild of two diffs with some new bearings (3 new & one
good used bearing in the older diff, the original 109 front one), new seals. Dropped off the four best stub axles,
Steve will see if he can polish the distance pieces, so that I don't have to replace them. Also dropped off the four
SWB brake assemblies, Steve will see if he can use them & reimburse me accordingly.

Took the rear axle case to Graham (needs welding for the shock mounts), he offers the alternative of a different case
in better condition for R100. Will think about it.

Went to the bank, stuck some money in the cheque account to pay for all this, eeek, things are getting tight :-(

1996-09-26 : Tuesday was a public holiday. Assembled some of the small galvanised bits, like the clutch pedal assembly.
Painted the bits that were not galvanised with self etching primer. Got three of the four frame bushes in, the fourth
(one of the front ones) is stuck halfway in. I'm planning to hacksaw it off, and drive in a spare spring bush from the
other side, then cut that too. Tip: first clean the inside of the frame, where the bushes have to go, well. Use a file
for the rough bits and sandpaper. Lightly grease the inside of the hole, fetch one bush from the fridge where you've kept
it overnight, liberally spray with Q20, and hammer it in. Try to find a socket the same size as the outside of the bush,
the one I used is slightly large and seems to chew up the bush, which makes it difficult to get the last bit in. 

Got a whole lot of stuff from TMS. The final brake drum, rear cylinders, shoes all round. Brake shoes are surprisingly
inexpensive, I thought R100-ish per wheel was not to bad, turns out this is for both wheels. Still outstanding: front
brake flexible hoses and front brake cylinders.

I also ordered some stuff from Belltrade, but I need to transfer money to their account before they will ship.

Graham is interested in the SWB rear axle (with stub axles and hubs), so I have to remove the diff, which of course is stuck.
1996-11-18 : Lots of other things happened, no LR activity.
  Sold the SWB rear axle to Graham.
  Sent money to Belltrade
  Stuff _still_ outstanding from TMS
  Met Gill Wirdnam of Allmakes, gave her a lift to Milnerton in Grandfather's 2.25 IIA Diesel.
  Started to reassemble front axle, the new chrome ball from TMS is too small, must be a defender part.
  Changing to non-pendant ball joints is even more difficult than anticipated. The bit that holds the bearing (bottom swivel
  pin) in pendant models is different from the top swivel pin (rialko bush) for non-pendant. Actual problem is that I'm doing
  two conversions at once. Might be able to get the bottom one machined to use at the top.
  LRSS polished the distance pieces on the stub axles. They look fine.

  Received stuff from Beltrade (studs mostly)
  Found out that the steering arms I have are series III and not IIA, the stud size is different. Oops. Will stay with pendant
  ball joints then. The old arms are with LRSS so that they can press out the splined pins for me.
  Will go to TMS tomorrow morning to sort them out.
  Tip of the week: Don't ever have anything with internal threads media-blasted. Some small bits of media stick inside the
  threads and chow your taps when you try to recut the threads. I dumped the two casings I had had blasted and cleaned off the two I h
ad in stock. After ruining two 3/8BSF taps.

  Both axles are now 50% rebuilt. Rear axle complete to brake drums, diff and half shafts still to go. Front axle at brake
  backing plates, i.e. diff and halfshafts go in next. Waiting for hardware from Parow Bolt & Tool to fit diffs.
  Got front brake cyls, flex pipes, clutch master & slave rebuild kits from TMS.
  Got two rear springs from Salties (Greg) in George. R250/pair. They need to be wire-brushed to get rid of surface rust,
  painted & reassembled. I'm busy with that right now.

  Lotsa pressure at work. Rear springs wirebrushed, painted (self etch black) and assembled. Fitted to chassis. Two wheels sanded,
  painted (galvagrip & black enamel) and tires/tubes mounted. Problem with tube alignment in one, will have to open it up again.

  With the neighbour's help I slung the rear axle under the chassis. We raised
  the chassis to the level where the axle with wheels attached would fit
  under it, and then fitted the U bolts and tightened them to raise the
  chassis off the stands at the rear.
  Also fitted the rear diff. And even though the drain plug is in, I already
  have a puddle in my driveway. It's a Land Rover, all right :-)

... Long Interlude ...

  I did get some more work in on the LR, but didn't write it up.
  The front axle is also fitted, so I have a rolling chassis. We moved the chassis to the garage so that I can work in the evenings,
  it gets dark early.
  Removed most of the door hinge bolts from the firewall (they were galvanised in, remember?). The bolts came out faitly easily after
  heating with the profane torch. Only the one that I broke off is still in there, will have to drill a hole and use an easy-out. 

  Started fitting the firewall. I will have to enlarge the hole in the footwell to take the series III brake pedal assembly. And
  there's a bracket on the other side that will have to be removed in order to fit the heater (also Series III) Should have done
 this before galvanising, but I didn't have these parts then.

  I had brake pipes cut to length and flared, this is a lot easier than flaring the pipes yourself. All pipes take 3/8" tube
  nuts. The brake booster needs a 7/16" nut, so I need to get an adaptor.

  We hoisted up the engine and put it in the chassis, this way I can work on it (Anybody know how heavy that lump is?) Covered
  it in engine cleaner, twice, and hosed it off. OK, so this is the first time I'm seriously looking at the engine, it ran when
  we got it, that's all I know. Exhaust manifold is cracked in two places. Removed the manifold to get to the generator, removed
  that and the starter motor. One of the welsh plugs have been replaced with a cork. And the threaded plug above the starter was
  hanging by half a thread, it started leaking when I knocked it.

  The water pump is OK. And this is still the old 8-stud type, which you can't get anymore. Some good news at least.

  The carburettor seems to leak around the shaft. Rebushing required.

  Bought some shock absorbers, but all the rubbers weren't included, waiting for the rest.

I seem to remember buying a whole 'nother Land-Rover which had been in a crash, using the engine from that one. Also, the one side fender from the one LR and the other side fender from the other.

This is where I stopped writing and started grafting like mad. July 1997 to February 1998. It was a crazy time.

Just in time: February 1998

My brother took the Land-Rover in to be roadworthied and registered. It didn't have a front propshaft fitted yet, but they were nice and noted that it's a 4x4. That was on the 28th of February, 1998. I fitted the front propshaft and built an interior and we left on the 10th of March to join the 50th Anniversary Tour.

In the final few weeks I spent 8 hours per day (after work) on getting everything ready. I would say I just made it. I also lost a considerable amount of weight. It was an interesting time.

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