To say that this Defender 110 had been neglected before I bought it would be an understatement, but I instantly fell in love with it anyway. Hardly anything worked and she regularly suffered from fuel starvation.
She’d been re-sprayed Rioja Red – not to showroom standard – but it did make her look very modern, and after I’d cleaned the tank out, she was reliable and I began enjoying my Land Rover properly.
My endoscope camera showed the chassis was in great condition but the bulkhead was rotten. Tentative prodding turned rust bubbles into gaping holes, and revealed filler backed with sodden newspaper! I had to operate…
I stumbled across a Td5 Defender being broken at the Belfast Land Rover Centre, bagged the immaculate bulkhead for a bargain £200 and had it galvanised within two weeks. The only thing stalling me was a lack of courage, but my rusty bulkhead was disintegrating rapidly.
I began by removing everything attached to the bulkhead, taking dozens of photos of the wiring to aid the rebuild; and in no time my neighbour Davy and I had the old bulkhead out.
Now I faced a dilemma – fit the new bulkhead on the old chassis or go the whole hog and galvanise the chassis too? Within an hour I was angle-grinding the rusty bolts off.
I jacked the body on to timber beams on top of concrete block pillars to lift it above the chassis as I rolled it clear. Next, my mate James lent me his engine crane and soon we had the engine, gearbox and transfer box out in one lump. I degreased the chassis and trailered it to NK Coatings in Mallusk for galvanising.
The rebuild started as soon as my gleaming chassis was finished.
Only the front dampers, turrets and spring seats needed replacing and I used new nuts and bolts throughout. Mounting the body was easy, and within a few hours she was looking fantastic.
I also serviced the engine, although if money were no object I’d have fully refurbished it – but that’ll have to keep. I decided to leave the bulkhead unpainted, after seeing some like it at LRO’s Peterborough show. I might change my mind, but a full respray is on the cards anyhow.
Fitting a Td5 bulkhead on an older model meant repositioning components like the fuel filter and wiring loom, but that’s easily solved. Some threads had to be re-tapped due to a build-up of zinc from the galvanising, so do this before refitting.
Mating the transmission tunnel with the bulkhead also meant drilling new holes. The edge of the bulkhead was touching the clutch cover studs so I shortened them and bent the edge enough to give the required clearance.
After rebuilding the dash and hammering into place the new door seals, all that was left was to refit the wings, bonnet, wiring and replace the windscreen seal – which was a real bugger! I found it best not to use lubricant, as the glass slips out once it’s fitted. Above all, I learned not to force it, as I cracked my old screen and had to buy a new one. Always push the rubber – never the glass.
Within a few days I drove out of my shed grinning from ear to ear at my hard work. That initial road-test just went on and on!
Originally featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Land Rover Owner International. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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