One thing we say to first-time Land Rover buyers is get the best you can afford. But when you’re used to their foibles, a generally sound one in need of work can be a better buy.
So, when I bought my tatty Lightweight in 2014 I was under no illusion that it would be trouble-free. In fact, the first thing I did when I bought it was make a list of everything that needed replacing. And I’ve added to it as I’ve used it more.
I’ve replaced some bits to improve reliability. Getting stuck with a non-functioning starter motor wasn’t fun and having to blag a tow-start from a Vauxhall Corsa driver was embarrassing, so the standard unit was replaced with a high-torque Startrex one (rockymountainspares.co.uk, 01476 563525).
At £150 it’s cheaper than a new standard one and draws less current. Then there’s the ignition. Like colleague Mark Saville, I opted to replace the standard distributor with one with electronic points.
But unlike Mark, I went for a brand-new hyper-performance Powerspark kit with new distributor, coil and 10mm HT leads (simonbbc.com, 01527 889453). It was another hundred quid spent, but hasn’t missed a beat since I’ve fitted it.
Getting the engine running properly gave me the chance to drive it more and that threw up more issues. I knew the rear dif was noisy and a quick waggle of the pinion shaft showed that’s where the problem lay.
More of a worry was the amount of oil falling out of the engine. So much was pouring from the front crankshaft oil seal that it had washed away the dirt which normally accumulates below it – and oil consumption was horrific.
This had to be sorted – not only was it hitting my wallet, but it was dangerous for other road users.
I reckoned my Clarke electric impact wrench would be up to the job of removing the starter dog, so I invested in a 42mm impact socket (a very snug fit on the imperial nut) and a 0.5 in to 0.75 in adapter as I couldn’t find a 42mm impact socket with a 0.5 in drive.
The impact wrench just about fitted between the front crossmember and bumper and, after a bit of a battle, When I removed the front pulley it was obvious why it was leaking – the seal surface was badly scored, rendering it useless.
Fortunately, I’ve a couple of spare engines, so one of those relinquished a pulley in considerably better condition, allowing me to put it back together, just in time to head down to the Drive-in Heritage day at Eastnor Castle.
Apart from a couple of greenlaning trips, I’d only really been pootling round since I bought it and the 250-mile round trip would allow me to check the Lightweight properly.
Hopefully the new crank oil seal and sump gasket would keep the oil in, so I could check if the engine was using oil – and listen for other noises.
The journey was fuss-free and it cruised nicely and un-stressed at 55mph in overdrive-fourth. I had to work the gears a bit on the long ascent over the Malverns, but that was to be expected.
The oil did stay in the engine, but still used about half a pint – I suspect valve guide oil seals – and the timing chain is rattly. But a fuel economy of 21mpg was promising, suggesting it’ll be worth sorting them.
With a solid chassis, bulkhead, overdrive and rebuilt gearbox, the base vehicle has proved to be sound. Okay, I’ve had to do plenty of work on it , but I think this one could be a good ’un.