What do you do with your old cigarette money once you join the ranks of the smug who have quit? Well, Nicky Smith decided the best way to spend his was rebuilding an old Land Rover because he had never had the cash to own one, but had driven plenty over the years with work and friends.
So the long search began to find a project he could play with. A tatty ex-military Series III FFR came up that had been sitting in a field since its demob 17 years before. It was in a right sorry state but he bought it as a non-runner (no keys) for the princely sum of £375, delivered. The presumption was that since the chassis was sound the rest could be replaced or fixed. When it arrived, he grabbed some of his burly neighbours and they forced, pushed and shouted it up his driveway.
He started a blog (nickysmith.me) alongside the rebuild, so he could keep track of what he had done, how much had been spent, and hopefully help other folk starting out on a virgin rebuild and maybe save them some mistakes. This project cost Nicky blood, chunks of flesh, sore heads, dusty eyes and the loss of the use of his right hand for a week.
Rather than a faithful restoration to original condition and specification, his aim was to create a Land Rover to drive around in, on- and off-road. And I wanted to do it as cheaply but as well as I could, just to show that this could be done with my very limited budget. He gave everything a thorough clean to find out what was rotten and what wasn't. He oiled-up seized parts, and began scraping away old paint. He also started his internet search for cheap used parts.
Nicky sold the military bits he removed - radio wiring and racks - to enthusiasts. The cash paid for bits he needed, such as a back door and replacement seats. There was quite a lot he didn't scrimp on, such as the brake and fuel systems overhaul. He bought a secondhand fuel tank to replace the original twin military tanks. It leaked, so he then bit the bullet and bought a brand-new one instead. Eventually, he installed a new ignition barrel and tried to get it started. After a couple of attempts, it fired into life; the engine was in good condition. A full service, a tweak of its Zenith carb and it ticked over nicely.
The summer weather was on my side as he primed then painted it NATO green, fitted replacement steel wheels and learned very quickly about car electrics. After pottering around one Saturday morning, Nicky realised it was ready and booked it in for an MoT the following week. With more than a little apprehension, he took it for its first drive under its own power in 17 years.
To say the guys who did the MoT were thorough would be an understatement. Eventually, with stony-faced expressions that soon burst into smiles, they gave him the Land Rover's first-ever MoT. Nicky grinned like a school kid all the way home and finally relaxed, driving his motor for the first time properly.
He rebuilt 'Mator', his first Land Rover, for an incredible £1708.16. It just goes to show what you can find kicking around for the right money if you strike it lucky!
See your vehicle in the next issue of LRO, email theo@lro.