For Iain Swan, there is only one Land Rover. It is 90-shaped with a V8 engine under the bonnet. And when you see and hear his own example
of the breed in action, you can understand his one-dimensional point of view.
I watched as the 90 powered up
a nasty slope, the spectators ducking as the Kent chalk rained down on them as if flung by a particularly vindictive school teacher. And I listened to the raw, guttural snarl – almost animal, as if the engine were held down by chains rather than rubber mounts. This thing is more NASCAR than Land Rover.
Iain’s craving to own a V8 Land Rover became a reality when illness stopped him from taking part in the mountain-biking events that were so important to him.
‘Rather than sit on my bum,
I decided that this was a good time to buy a 90 and use all my pent-up energy building that.’
Iain’s day job is as one of the principals of SMD Racing, which builds and prepares rally-cross cars. Engines are his business,
so he knew he was on to a really good thing when he paid £750 for the authentic V8 90 that all the pent-up energy was going to be directed upon.
Although it had an MoT, it had obviously had a hard 20 years. The new arrival was pushed into its new home in the fabrication shop at Iain’s work and stripped right down. Game on.
‘The drill from then on was to finish the day’s real work at about 6pm and then dive into the fab shop next door to get on with it.
‘It wasn’t too bad, actually. All
I had to do was alloy-weld a new strip across the back, knock out some dents and it was perfect.’
He dismisses the bulkhead as ‘only needing a few bits grafting into the top section’, a statement that I suspect completely glosses over hours of careful cutting, welding and grinding until all the metalwork was perfect.
Almost everything on this 90 is secondhand. For Iain, buying stuff as cheaply as possible from eBay and then refurbishing it was all part of the fun of putting this Land Rover together.
It’s hard to believe the gleaming, powdercoated rear crossmember, with its integral winch tray and sparkling alloy rope guide, was once
a rusty, buckled mess. ‘When I went to collect it, it was still welded to his chassis. I had to cut it off.’
Iain blasted it clean and pressed it straight before it was grafted on to the back of the 90’s chassis using some sleeves that he had made up.
The Mach 5 off-road rims were cracked, so Iain was able to buy them for practically nothing.
‘After blasting them, I ground out the damage carefully and then tig-welded them, before powdercoating them. They are as good as new now.’
The aggressive Insa Turbo tyres were also bought used off the web.
The suspension is new, but still Iain didn’t pay full price: he bought all
the bits of a Britpart two-inch lift kit from a chap who hadn’t fitted them.
In fact, Iain sourced everything needed to do the lift – springs, caster correction arms, rear radius rods and bump stops – for way under retail price, all because he was happy to put some time into cleaning and painting.
The front bumper and EW 11000 winch? Same story – bought for a knockdown price and returned to as-new condition with some TLC.
The expensive-looking, racing-type steering wheel was rescued from the tip and made good, and even the immaculate seats were a freebie – donated to the project by a customer.
Iain describes the used snorkel as
a bodge job, but it looks great to me. He’s been busy with a hot air gun, tweaking its shape so it fits neatly against the uprights of the roll cage; and deftly moulding little cut-outs so it clears the bolts in the wing top.
The rock sliders are (yes, you got it) another bargain buy, again found on eBay and cut ’n’ shut to fit the proportions of the 90.
By this time, I was determined to find something that was brand-new
or that Iain hadn’t managed to score for next to nothing.
A-ha… what about the heavy-duty track rods? ‘Replated.’
The doors, then – they look new. ‘Secondhand, then repaired.’
I was fast running out of options when Iain spotted my plight and threw me a lifeline. ‘I bought new track rod ends and all the bushes for the suspension: there’s no advantage to be gained from penny-pinching in these areas.’
The paint job came as a result of
a favour owed. The parts were sent off to the spray shop before being re-assembled on the rolling chassis. The result is subtle yet impressive.
This isn’t a ‘bling’ Land Rover – quite the opposite, in fact – but it still holds the attention of people looking at it. You may have to look hard, but there are loads of tweaks and upgrades, all over the vehicle.
Iain’s ethos is ‘function not flash’. ‘A lot of stuff is powdercoated black, usually because I’ve repaired it, but also because I don’t like stuff to be too shiny. I’m happy if it hides away and just does its job.’
He explains that this was the reason why he chose to have the standard colour reapplied – that, and the fact that he ‘can’t abide’ chequerplate (the holes were already drilled for the stuff on the front wing tops, so he was forced to put it back on).
Even though Iain has saved an enormous amount of money by investing countless hours of his own time, I was still surprised to learn that this magnificent vehicle has cost him only about £4000 – proof that, with a bit of time and application, you can get a stunning Land Rover on a tight budget.
Okay, so Iain is a professional, but he’s only done what many LRO readers could do, given enough time and plenty of application.
Inspiration for all of us.
This feature appeared in the May 2009 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.