This LRO reader emailed LRO.firstname.lastname@example.org to ask our experts if it is possible to identify a Land Rover Series I axle.
I have a question about the rear axle on the 1955 Series I 86-inch that I am rebuilding. It has a strengthening piece welded under it, which has corroded from the inside. I’ve cut off the strengthening pieces and found the axle casing itself (the tube) is not corroded. I looked at other Series Is and they don’t have any strengthening under the axle. It’s been suggested to me that the axle may be from a Series II or III.
My questions are: is the strengthening really necessary and is it right? And how do I tell if the axle is Series II or III?
K Warriston, Mkt Harborough, Leicestershire
It’s not right. Some background: when the long-wheelbase 107-inch Land Rover was introduced in 1953, it continued with the same axle tube that had been used previously (by now, on wide springs). Inevitably, users began to overload their pick-ups, to the extent that the outer ends of the axle casing would bend upwards.
In May 1956, the wall thickness of the rear axle tube was increased for all models. Apparently this wasn’t sufficient, because in October 1956 a reinforcing channel was added (for LWB only). In April 1957, a fully floating rear axle was introduced – standard on 109-inch, optional on 88-inch. This, of course, doesn’t affect axle casing strength, but does show that axle problems continued – in this case, fully floating halfshafts were easier to change when a shaft had been broken.
Is the strengthening really necessary? If your axle tube really hasn’t lost any significant thickness from corrosion, and you don’t load your vehicle heavily and drive so fast the suspension bottoms out, you won’t experience any issues. But any visible rust-pits in the axle tube represent substantial material thinning, and thus weakness. How to tell if the axle is Series II or III? The difference between Series I and Series II/III axles is in the width. Track width for Series I is 50in and for Series II/III 51.in.
Take a look at the position of your rear wheels relative to the vehicle’s rear wheelarch. With a Series I axle, the wheels are tucked inside the width of the body. With a SII/III axle, they’re nearly flush with the body sides.
Check Series I images on the internet and you’ll soon see how it should look – check quite a lot, since a few may have later axles! All SII/III axles are fully floating (dust-cap in the axle centre identifies this, as on your front axle; semi-floating axles have plain centres).
If you want to replace the axle with one that’s correct, check your vehicle’s build number (an eight-digit number starting 571, or a nine-digit number starting 1706). An axle with this numbering (stamped adjacent to the axle breather) would be a correct match.
Otherwise, any Series I semi-floating rear axle that has mounting points for wide springs and no reinforcing would do. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t bother – if the axle tube really is as good as you say, just don’t replace the stiffening.
This workshop advice appeared in the February 2016 issue of LRO. Back issues are available to download on digital devices here.