My old Range Rover Classic, Spenny, rusted out. They all do in the Northeast if you don’t prevent it properly. I didn’t prevent it properly. Now I know how to for my current fleet.
But the body of the truck is the only thing that rusted badly. The chassis is in good shape, as is the drivetrain. I hate to waste those things by just wholesale crushing them. So I decided, I needed another project. I found myself planning a Hybrid, which in Land Rover terms does not mean what it sounds like to any other car enthusiast. A Land Rover hybrid is when you take the coil sprung chassis of a Range Rover Classic, Discovery 1, or Defender, and put a Series Land Rover body on top of it. It’s not a simple task, but not unachievable.
But why a Land Rover Hybrid? Why not get a “real” Series truck?
I’ve been eyeing up a Series truck lately, but I realized that my Land Rover social network has gotten pretty geographically diverse. Though I have great friends here in New Jersey, I also have close friends in Canada, the West Coast, the Rockies, and the South. Off-roading with them means a long Interstate drive. This works well with my Discovery and Range Rover. I decided that if I want a Series truck I’ll actually off-road, I need to make some concessions to creature comforts.
I need the extra power and highway speed capability of the Rover V8, as opposed to the 2.25-liter 4-cylinder in a Series truck that can’t reach the 75 m.p.h. speed limits across Nebraska and certainly can’t keep up with the real-world speeds of 80-85 m.p.h. Coil springs will smooth out the ride, making it easier to cover more miles in a day — I was able to cover almost 1,000 miles in a day in the Discovery on the Mother Country Trail trip last year with no physical issues. If I want to be able to make it to Denver in two days, I need to not be in pain at the end — and I can’t dread the drive home in two more days at the end either.
So my plan is to swap a 109″ Series IIA Regular body onto Spenny’s 108″ chassis. I can hide the extra inch in the wheel wells. I’m designing this for long-range roadtrips and topless summer cruising.
So, timelines. I now have three trucks, technically. I’m overhauling the Discovery 1 and the new Range Rover Classic this year. After that, it’s time for Project SpennyDeux.
On Thanksgiving weekend, I towed him over to my friend Ben Smith’s house to put him in his Land Rover barn for disassembling.
The disassembly began immediately. I’d already taken the front clip off at home, but I spent the rest of Thanksgiving weekend at Ben’s taking more parts off. Almost everything has been saved, put in yellow and black plastic Home Depot tubs. It’ll either be used on Butler’s restoration, saved for the Hybrid, or stored for spares.
The rust was really bad. Here, you can see how the sill completely disappeared around the frame outrigger. Yet somehow, the frame is actually in good condition. This outrigger has some very mild surface rust — that’s it. I whacked it with screwdrivers and hammers and it’s solid.
By the middle of December, I had the shell mostly gutted and the roof unbolted.
After a trip to Death Valley over the New Year, it was time to wrap up. On Martin Luther King Day, Ben and I began cutting up the body shell, finishing it at the beginning of February. We left the front clip, bulkhead, and floor pan to protect the drive train I plan to reuse.
Next up is towing Spenny home and beginning to engineer the project. I won’t start on it until the others are done, but I can plot and plan. The more I do that, the easier it is to do it right out of the box. I’ll probably do a few updates here as that goes along this year, too.
My Land Rover friends have been wrapped in the drama of Spenny, my rusty 1993 Range Rover County LWB, for the past five years. Spenny was my first car, a de facto replacement for the 1994 Discovery my parents bought new and planned to give me when I turned 16 in 2006. In late 2005, it got totalled in a Nor’Easter by a massive tree limb. I bought Spenny from another Land Rover enthusiast in Arlington, Virginia, towed him back to New Jersey, and put 50,000 miles of adventures on him from 2007 to 2015. Then like all Land Rovers of that era, he got quite rusty.
So, I sourced Duncan, my 1994 Discovery, as a “stopgap” car so I could take time to fix Spenny. A project himself, I spent months changing head gaskets, replacing bushings, and rewiring. Then I learned that buying cars that had been off the road for five years took a lot of work to drive again. So I spent a lot of time and money making it a pretty nice driver. Then I really liked the Discovery. I daily drove it. I drove it to rallies. I drove it to California. And Spenny sat.
Earlier this summer I tried to revive Spenny, but the rust was really, really bad. So I decided to source a rust-free body in the South to do a body swap. My friend Max Thomason found me one at his Land Rover shop in Atlanta, a 1994 County LWB. Black on the outside (sprayed over the original Montpelier red), with a rare-ish black leather interior, it was actually a pretty decent truck. It was supposed to have engine issues, but nobody was that sure. It had been sold to the shop in 2013 or so and used as a parts truck, but 98% of it was there. We struck a deal, I bought it for $500 with a title, and I booked a flight to Atlanta.
At some point, I realized that this rust-free body I planned to swap onto Spenny’s chassis…would also have a rust-free chassis. So, I decided that I’d just fix up the new one and make it the Spenny replacement second truck. Of course, for this new project, I could have probably picked a better base vehicle, but I was locked into this one at this point, and besides, I do love me a good Land Rover Reborn project. So here I am again…fixing up a truck that has been off the road for five years.
I stopped stripping out Spenny’s interior with the old plans to rebuild him and decided instead that I would transfer what was needed to the new truck, then strip Spenny down to a rolling chassis to be slowly tinkered with for some sort of future hybrid trail truck project. Duncan will need some work after the new Rangie is revived since I never totally finished that rebuild, so that was also a goal of the project. It’s tough when the truck is your daily driver; you can’t just let a project sit in the driveway and tinker with it when you feel like it, or you are never going anywhere. For example, I need to repair or replace all the door latches and lock actuators, but I can’t really drive without a latch!
Friday 7 September came, and my dad drove me to Newark Airport after work. I flew a DeltaMD-88 down to Atlanta, fulfilling one of my AvGeek bucket list items. (More on that in a separate aviation-focused post.)
Well, a quick video. The cool thing about the MD-88 is the old school low-bypass Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines, with a distinct sound you rarely hear these days. For AvGeeks, this is a cool thing, and we actually WANT to be in seat 33E next to the engines. Delta plans to retire the MD-88 fleet around 2020. Since I fly United most of the time out of EWR, this trip to Delta’s Atlanta superhub and MD-88 base was a good time to get this trip in. (It gets good around 1:50.)
Max picked me up in his LR3, and we picked up burgers and beers at Grindhouse Killer Burgers. It’s a local chain, mostly in Atlanta with a few other Georgia locations, and the double Apache Style and a pitcher hit the spot. Terminal B at EWR has almost no food (compared to the cornucopia that is Terminal C), and all I had on the plane was a few of Delta’s iconic Biscoff cookies, so I was about to pass out.
We headed back to Max’s house, kibitzed a bit, and checked out his Series III 109″, which he’s had since 1999. It’s an ex-MOD left-hand-drive vehicle. It may have also been used in one of the Reverend Billy Graham’s Crusades, according to previous owner lore. He and I have been looking into it a bit, and apparently, the Reverend broadcast a 1989 sermon from London to Africa via satellite, after which recordings were brought to remote villages. It’s possible this truck was one of those used to transport these recordings across Africa in “Mission 89.” More research is needed.
I slept for a few hours, then we were up early to start the day. First off, though, a proper Southern brekkie at Home Grown, an Atlanta restaurant near Max’s house with some of the best chicken and biscuits I’ve ever had. Okay, actually, the only chicken and biscuits I’ve ever had. Still, it was one of the most epic breakfasts I’ve ever had, and I’m from New Jersey, home of Taylor Ham/Pork Roll.
We picked the Penske truck and trailer up, which took about a half hour, and then headed across the center of Atlanta to the place where I was picking the truck up. Max had dealt with the paperwork, and the shop was closed, so it was already hauled outside the fence yesterday. I had him drive the Penske across the city’s notorious Downtown Connector, the stretch of I-75/85 that has some of the worst traffic in the country. It wasn’t bad early on Saturday morning, but I still took the chance to try out his LR3 in chase, briefly rethinking my choices in second vehicles.
And there it was: my glorious new truck. My third Rover of my own, fifth in my family. All there in its revived parts truck glory.
Time was short, so we hooked the Rangie up to the LR3 and hauled it on, since the truck doesn’t run. This involved shackles, confusion, and using cell phones on speakerphone as walkie-talkies. Then, with a few test drives around the block, I was off, driving a box truck AND a trailer for the first time ever.
I didn’t have much time for social calls, but my timing was such that I could stop off to see my friends Jen and Greg, former members of my curling club who had just moved to the Atlanta area, without messing up my timeline (because a man’s gotta eat anyway!). We had a blast catching up — I really, really miss having them back at Plainfield.
And so began…the schlep. First, South Carolina hit, and so Butler left Georgia, one seriously lucky former parts truck.
I had to swing by the BMW factory in Spartanburg, to get a picture with the sign. There was a cop protecting a DOT worker doing some lawn mowing, but he was nonplussed that I parked my giant truck right in front of the entrance.
I made it to Gastonia, North Carolina that night, after a lot of slow driving — I’m just not used to how wide a box truck is, the slow speed hauling a car behind it, and tracking the whole package together. It’s even tougher at night! I parked across six spots and crashed in my room until it was time to hit the road again.
The next day was a slog home. I had to get from Charlotte to New Jersey in time to sleep and go to work tomorrow. On paper, it’s not a bad drive, a bit over 600 miles. But the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon were coming over Virginia and Pennsylvania, and after a calm ride through North Carolina, the rains started to pour somewhere around Roanoke, Virginia. Most of the day was a slog, going slow with the heavy, unwieldy load. As I got closer to Pennsylvania, it just got worse. The one highlight was crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, officially making Butler a Northern Truck.
Pennsylvania was a slog, with rough roads — as I say, “Under Construction Since 1776.” Every joint in the road clattered the entire assembly, and I was sure I was either going to break the trailer in half or lose the Rangie.
Finally, around 10 PM, I pulled into the driveway. Too wiped to deal with anything, I left the whole Penske assembly (which I had through Thursday anyway) to deal with later and headed off to bed to go to work. Of course, with my luck, I ended up with strep throat when I woke up, so I spent most of the week working from home, feeling too crappy to work on the truck.
And so now, I have a fleet of three. It is only going briefly look like this, though. The old RRC LWB, Spenny, goes to a friend’s house soon, where I’m going to cut it down to a rolling chassis for a Range Rover Classic-styled off-road trail rig project. But I have to admit it’s pretty swank having three classic British luxury cars…all built between 22 February 1993 and 6 May 1994.
By the way, where’s the name Butler come from? Well, of course, that famous fictitious Georgian, Rhett Butler. I figured that Gone with the Wind was a good source for a name, especially as I’ve enjoyed visiting the Margaret Mitchell House several times over the years going to Atlanta for book industry conferences. My trucks tend to be male, contrary to the norm, and it was between Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes. Rhett is a bit rough around the edges, Ashley meant saying “Ashley, but it’s a guy” too much, and Wilkes has too much reference to the Wilks Brothers who created the Land Rover — Spenny was already named after Range Rover designer Spen King, and I wanted to go another way. So I figured Butler was a good name, and went well with the classy black-on-black color scheme and general Range Rover swankiness.
Now it’s the project of reviving a parts truck with unknown issues. I will be going through every inch of this truck the next few months, refining and improving and rebuilding. If getting the Discovery ready for the California trip was the Bachelor’s in Rovers, this is the Masters. As for the Ph.D., that’ll be whatever I do with Spenny! Keep an eye out for future blogs here on all these projects for sure.
Even getting the rebuild started, minor as the task was, last night felt like a huge accomplishment. My whole attitude towards the truck has now changed for the better. What was once a hulk that I had jammed in the corner of the driveway to get to eventually is now something that’s a real proposition with a future. Yeah, it was just two pieces of wood that I unscrewed last night. But I unscrewed them with intent and purpose I didn’t have before.
I’ve been reading up on the entire process of the body swap, as well as the components of stripping the interior out. It definitely is a major task, and perhaps slightly more major than I anticipated. But at the end of the day, it’s unscrewing, unbolting, unplugging — and documenting and labelling, the most important parts. There are so many odd discrepancies in Range Rover Classic wiring harnesses. Between electrics and mechanicals, there were tons of mid-year changes in these trucks. Things got stowed away and spliced in in all sorts of odd places.
I had bigger goals tonight, but I got home from work very close to dark, and by the time I ate and changed, it was effectively dark. But the goal of the project is at least one item on the list completed every night, and so tonight’s goal got reduced to just removing the driver’s knee board.
Around 2011, I added a CB radio in the truck — a big, honking, chrome-trimmed Cobra unit I got on eBay. At that point, it was no big deal to just drill into the dash panel to install a bracket to hold it…so I did that. Now, as I undid those self-tapping screws, I thought of how that panel is probably worth a hundred dollars or more without those holes. But no matter in this case, I’m putting it back soon enough in the rebuilt truck.
Tossing out Benjamins…I worked my way around, and finally got the kick panel out, with a bit of massaging to get it fully free without breaking the fragile plastic. The whole thing has little acorns living in the foam. With the moisture that’s been hanging out in here, the dirt, and being 25 years old, I’m going to think about how to replace this foam stuff. It’ll be at the mirror end of the project in many months, so it’s not urgent, but this is a bit janky.
The moisture inside the truck in general isn’t great at all, and I’m going to really have to pay attention to wiring and textiles to prevent issues after reassembly. But that attention to detail is what excites me about this project, honestly. With the truck already laid up for years, my OCD can go wild.
And there is a LOT of wiring. The black box with “RANGE ROVER” on it is the alarm ECU module. I’m not sure it even has a bracket holding it in. They seem to have just jammed it in a corner. If only I had the remote to go with it! Maybe I’ll seek one out as a finishing touch at the end.
“Hey, Donnie, think it can go there?” “Sure. To the pub!”The panel is out, another step done. Tomorrow, since I’m working home on a nice sunny day, I’m planning to get a little more progress. But it’s a journey, not a race, as my friend/accountability partner Nathan said, and the goal is to not break anything and enjoy the journey.
Because breaking stuff gets expensive now that people actually love these great trucks.
Now that I’ve introduced Project ReSpenny, it’s time to begin the accountability blog. This is a large-scale project, and to keep it on pace requires doing a little something every day.
The advantage this project has over my Discovery 1 rebuild before the Mother Country Trail trip is that the Range Rover Classic is very clearly not my daily driver. Things can come apart and sit for a bit without worrying about getting to work. Jobs can be done properly and thoroughly with serious attention to detail.
The other advantage to this is that I can really pace the entire project around my life. Preparing for the cross-country trip was difficult, as I tried to balance work and an impending to-do list. But this project can go at a more relaxed pace. Since I know that I can get home late from work a lot, often very stressed, I’ve decided that the goal is that I have to do one task — only one task — a night. The first step of the project is to disassemble the dashboard assembly.
The dashboard on a Range Rover Classic is notoriously delicate. A bunch of hard plastic and wood pieces held together by screws, it’s part of the gloriously primitive nature of the RRC. However, a quarter of a century later, a lot of these hard plastic pieces have a tendency to crack as you try to take them apart. A few cracked tabs and the whole dash will never fit together quite right ever again.
The first piece to take off is the wood fascia that holds the air conditioning vents — a glorious slab of “Mediterranean Poplar” veneer, unique to the 1993 Range Rover Classic County LWB. Some things on the truck are not in great shape, but this veneer actually is pretty nice all things considered. It’s held on by 15 screws between two sections, but somehow when I got everything out of there I only had about half as many — and none of them matched. Needless to say, I’ll be replacing hardware as part of the project.
The rest of the fascia panel looks decent. There are brackets that hold it to the plastic, and they do have some surface rust. But I can definitely tidy that a bit and paint them up again to prevent further moisture damage. They’re screwed on to the back of the fascia with little tiny screws, which are probably best left undisturbed.
Removing these two panels took about ten minutes, and then about fifteen more to package up the screws, tidy the fascias a bit, and put them in the back of the truck for storage. But sub-half-hour tasks are perfect for this endeavor. They’re the kinds of things I can do even if it was a really long, stressful day at work.
Tomorrow’s goal is to take off the dash top — nothing more. The goal is to post here to maintain accountability, in addition to reporting to some fellow Range Rover Classic fan friends on progress. The posts are going to be titled with “Day X,” but those days need not be consecutive. Every time I do just a little bit, it counts as one of the #SpennyDaysandNights that make up this project.
In February 2007, my parents bought me a 1993 Land Rover Range Rover County LWB. It came from a fellow Land Rover owner in Virginia, it had lived its life between New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and though it needed a little work, it was a solid truck. A fourteen-year-old modern classic, the Rangie got me through high school and college, and was my gateway drug into the Land Rover community.
But I didn’t really know what I was doing with these things until a few years hanging around the Land Rover community hands-on. One thing I didn’t get was where and how badly these things can rust. So, in oblivion, I continued driving it around the salty Northeast, as crossmembers and sills and body mounts started to chip away.
Finally, in early 2015, I realized that my beloved Range Rover Classic needed a lot of repairs. It was rusting. It needed a brake job. I kept having to replace the exhaust to pass emissions. I’d gone through several pretty bad ignition issues that had led to some tense off-road group trips. The driver’s door was literally falling off. It was time to get a new daily driver, so I got my Discovery 1, a project on its own. I rebuilt it, drove it around the Northeast, did a lot of work, drove it to California, and decided that now I felt pretty good about myself and wanted to deal with the old RRC.
At this point, the rust has gotten pretty bad from sitting off to the side of the driveway for several years. The sills are totally soft; the bottom of the A-pillar on the driver’s side having fallen on the ground of its own volition. I have a welder, but it’s clear the only rational solution here is to do a frame-up rebuild with a new body shell from a truck being otherwise scrapped. The chassis is pretty good, and many body sections are surprisingly solid, but what’s bad is very bad and above my beginner’s skill set.
Body swaps, however, seem not that difficult, in a relative way. They do it a lot in the United Kingdom, with both Range Rover Classics and Discoverys. It’s even common now with the Discovery Series II here; a poor-quality rear frame section design means a lot of really solid bodies and drivetrains are getting new galvanized chassis underneath them. So…why not my truck?
The plan is a Northeast-proof truck. At the least, I will be galvanizing the frame. I’d love to galvanize the new bodyshell, something that some people have, in fact, done. Everything will get rust-prevention coatings. All of the rubber will be new from bushings to belts and hoses. Some parts will be off-road uprated, and as that part of the project comes along, cash permitting it may become a mid-tier off-road beast. The interior will get renovated some. The entire truck will get a ten-foot paint job — the best part about a Range Rover Classic is that the body panels bolt to the inner bodyshell, so while the core of the truck won’t be mine, the outside will be almost all original material, my dents and all. Only thing is, I’ve always hated the Beluga Black, so I’m thinking a change of shade might be in order.
This is not a minor task. It’s not an economically intelligent task, perhaps. I could have one of my friends from the Mendo_Recce list in California find me a stunning western Range Rover Classic, truck it home or have another epic roadtrip, and drive it here. But just one winter stored outside, driving on salty highways, will send it down the same path. The only way to have your cake and eat it too is to do something like this — a frame-off no-holds-barred winter defense.
When I took this truck off the road in the spring of 2015, this whole project was an optimistic pipe dream. It’s a pathetically sentimental endeavour, for sure; I’ve tried and failed to junk this truck several times now as it’s sat in the driveway stationary.
Now, three years later, I’m ready to tackle it and see every challenge that it can bring on. I love nothing more than blazing trails in the Land Rover world, and this is a great chance to go off-piste.
Snow fell on New Jersey again, but this time it didn’t seem to match the forecast in a good way, not a bad one. A few inches certainly accumulated, but it hasn’t matched the fury of a few weeks ago. So, with electricity powering the lights, heater and stereo in the garage, it was time to dive back into the case.
First I sealed the rear housing with The Right Stuff. I got it in a 5 oz. caulk gun package, which makes it a lot easier to dispense. Then the bolts were torqued and I attached the front housing.
Once I had the front housing attached, I continued through the order of operations in the manual. Now, the manual is designed for use in a dealer service bay setting, I assume with a full set of factory tools, parts, and components on hand. One of these components is a core plug that goes in the end of the differential lock shaft. I’m pretty OCD about this stuff, but even that is a bit beyond my level of detail. I smacked and torqued the front housing on only to see the error of doing things “in order.”
So, off the front housing came, and I rebuilt the diff lock selector fork to spec. At this point, the old Right Stuff, which now had to be cleaned off to re-attach the housing, hadn’t even dried yet, so I decided to wrap for the night and deal with it tomorrow when it would be easier to clean off.
This is how I felt after all this.
The good thing is, at this point, if I have no further issues, I think this can be sealed up tomorrow, and I can turn to the transmission fixes over the next few days. On the one hand, I’m stressing the timeline; on the other, I’m looking at the list, and this is the biggest chunk. There’s a lot of transmission work as part of this, which is new territory for me, but after that’s done and the bottom of the truck is buttoned up, what should be left is a lot less dirty and a lot less intense. At some point, I’ll also get into interior prep for the journey, which is the fun part! I have to start thinking up what to do there so my dad and I can fire up the Walker-Turner in a few weeks and fab up a sleeping/storage setup. At some point I want to fab up a really nice semi-permanent setup, but before I make that investment I think it’s a good idea to experiment with a few ideas and see what works in the field.
We’re just over four weeks, but everything is fine.
Soundtrack: Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms; Green Day, American Idiot
With no curling this weekend, I really dove into the Disco. Today is a month even to go, and it’s starting to feel a bit real. I’m leaving on the 20th, and it was the 20th today.
Thus the pace quickens. I’d like to do some kind of test run at least two weekends before. I’m considering two Rover events — one in Quebec, one in Virginia — and a few more likely ~600 mile weekend runs. I may tinker with the National Park Service unit map and see if I can plot out how to knock off a few new ones in a weekend trip, especially because doing things like that regularly in this truck is part of the goal of this project.
I decided the primary goal this weekend was to remove the old transfer case, transfer the necessary items to the new transfer case, and get the new transfer case fully assembled and sealed with the combined components. This was partially accomplished within the traditional bounds of “the weekend.” So, into the garage Duncan went again, for at least a week of driveline surgery.
First, it was time to drop the exhaust, and this is where I found out that my exhaust patch from a few weeks ago was, in fact, the snake oil I thought it was. I figured this had probably happened when I drove on the Interstate for the first time and it got very noticably louder, but a visual confirmed it.
And so disassembly began. First I dropped the swaybar to allow the Y-pipe to come out, then once the exhaust was down (easy as I’d already undone all the problem fasteners a few weeks ago), it was on to one of my least favourite jobs on a Rover, disconnecting propshafts. Thanks to the one tool that every Land Rover owner should have, it was way easier than it could be, but still took almost an hour to do both. Finally, they were both down, the necessary bolts retained, and it was onward.
Thanks to the modification I did last year to the centre console, replacing the rivets holding the covers for the transmission and transfer case shifters in place with rivnuts and screws, I made quick work of exposing the shift linkage. I was happy to see the lithium grease in the shifter pivot assembly somewhat holding up after a year, though I will renew it when I put this all back together, and pack in a bit more overflow!
Next was the centre removable crossmember under the transmission. This can be a notorious right royal PITA. It took me about 45 minutes to get the eight bolts off, and I had to cut one off with the die grinder, so I guess I should figure out what size that was and call up McMaster Carr. Then it was some smacks with the sledgehammer, spread the frame with the Big Red hydraulic ram, and it came off, to expose this horrifying sight underneath. Certainly the truck will already require some welding when I get home, but since this is covered with the crossmember, which bridges this hole and inherently stabilises it, I’m going to pretend it isn’t there until the Summer of Bodywork commences on arrival at home.
The final act of Saturday was pulling the handbrake drum off the back and removing the rear output flange; it’s quite frankly nicer than the one on the Q box, so I’ll probably reuse it (especially as it has nice zinc coated Grade 8 bolts that I put on!). At this point, I started to see just how grimy thousands of miles of gear oil spraying everywhere can be. On the plus side, this must have helped to mitigate some rust that otherwise might have been. After everything’s together (by which time the string of Nor’Easters hitting us “should” have stopped), I’ll powerwash it all heavily.
I tucked it in for Saturday, got to bed at midnight, and planned a continuation of activities for Sunday. The Fitzgerald family had tacos for dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, having realised after decades that we don’t really love corned beef and cabbage.
Sunday it was back to work, and time to disconnect the box. I undid the shifter linkage completely, removed the input gears, loosened all of the bolts securing the transfer box to the transmission, and detached the transfer case mount bracket from the chassis. At this point, I looked at all of this and decided that I am a man of little upper body strength, and perhaps it might be worth it to pony up for a transmission jack, instead of using what my friend Rob called “the sea otter procedure.” So, it was off to Harbor Freight, land of cheap tools that might kill you, but you’re only using them once so you’ll take the risk to save a few bucks. Forty-five minutes later, I returned from Harbor Freight (the former Saturn of Green Brook, with the service department hours still posted on the side door) with a lighter wallet and the relative guarantee I wouldn’t be tapping my ER deductible for caving my chest in.
I detached everything, and had my dad come and supervise from the top while I wiggled the case off the bolts. This went great until I hung up on the stud on the top right. In retrospect, I should have removed the rubber transfer case mount and its bracket from the case, as I ended up wedging it against the chassis. But it was getting late, I was wiped, and I had laid waste to my body today, so I washed up and left it for later.
Monday I went to the office, and had a bit of discomfort with some more repetitive copy-paste coding things, having wrecked my hand over the weekend. I got home late and couldn’t get too much on the truck, unfortunately.
But I was pretty excited, because my bulk pack of Powerspark Red distriutor rotors came from England. The current crop of Genuine Land Rover distributor rotors is, in a word, crap, so this company has stepped in with an aftermarket replacement. I personally don’t need them right now, but I’ll carry them with me across, as a few Mendonites are looking to tinker with ignition issues and have called dibs. They have had some good reviews with their earlier products for other British marques.
Tuesday, I decided that I needed to motivate myself more to get this done, so into the garage again. I decided that part of my alignment issue was that I was trying to drag the case out with the rubber mount and bracket dragging on the chassis. But…I was in a Catch-22, because the nuts for the mount had been on there for a while, and were attached to a very flexible bit of rubber, keeping me from being able to apply the necessary torque to liberate them.
The transmission jack was helpful, but the transfer box is mounted at an angle, so it didn’t totally fit on the flat jack plate. The service manual directed the dealership to fabricate an elaborate, angeled bracket to remove them, but I can’t weld yet, and I don’t think it’d mate to my jack, so my dad and I fabbed something up on his pre-WWII Walker-Turner table saw.
I took this outside, but it didn’t help. Finally, I felt the energy of despair and rage build me and I gave a Herculian shove as my dad stood above through the hatch prising the case from the transmission. And then, we were free of the input shaft, and I lowered the old case in glory!
Now to the next step: finishing the build of the new Q box. I now have the old box down and can pillage everyhing I need from it. I started tidying the mating surfaces with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper and brake cleaner. Tomorrow, assuming the latest Nor’Easter doesn’t send us back into refuge across town at our friend’s house, I’ll start sealing it up.
Saturday, 17 March: Donna the Buffalo, Live from the American Ballroom; Skinny Lister, Forge & Flagon; N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton.
Sunday, 18 March: Culture Club, Colour by Numbers; Elton John, Too Low for Zero.
The electricity now restored and civilization restored to the homestead, it was time to really crank up the action.
Unfortunately, Tuesday was lost to a pretty massive migraine. On Wednesday, I decided it might be a good idea to print out the LT230Q repair manual at the office, and look at it on paper, instead of on my phone. When I started really leafing through it, I realized there was a sort of order of operations I was only half following, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon, better late than never.
First up was disassembling the front output housing completely. I took the flange off using one of my favorite tricks — 30mm socket on an impact gun, nevermind the special flange grabbing tool mentioned in the manual — and pulled the various internals in the prescribed order of operations.
Next was measuring tolerances and cleaning things up. It probably wasn’t necessary to measure the width of the openings in the finger of the high-low mechanism, especially since the truck this came out of was apparently a street truck, but why not?
Next up was replacing the output seal. The old one probably didn’t need replacing, but I wanted to do it. I pulled the old with a seal puller, and greased up the new one.
As I was doing this, I realized I actually already had had one on hand. A few years ago I was going to redo the rear output seal because of what I thought was a leak, and I bought a pattern flange from Bearmach via LRDirect. I never used it, but I thought I’d take a peek at the seal and compare and contrast. I was very disappointed in it, and also in the flange (Bearmach has really upped their game in the past few years, and has become a huge North American community supporter, so they may well be better now), so I decided that the Bearmach flange had a perfect life as a flange seating tool, since I don’t have the $1,000 of official service tools to do this job exactly as per the manual!
It was now time for the most basic beginning of the reassembly process. I picked up Loctite 290 on Amazon, the factory spec item, unavailable at my local hardware store. It’s the “wicking grade” stuff, and green, and it’s way, way thinner than the usual red or blue stuff I use. Little things like this I think are worth the spend to do these jobs you don’t want to do again unnecessarily! I just used it on the set screw for the finger of the high-low housing, but even that little bit gave me a sense of accomplishment.
At some point, in the middle of a trippy Grateful Dead jam, I looked at my phone and realized it was 1:00 AM. Since I had work in the morning, I packed it in and headed to bed, which was a bit of a waste of productive time for this insomniac as I wasn’t asleep until 3:00 AM.
Thursday night, against my better health interests, it was back to the garage to disassemble the rear housing. I am not disassembling the center differential or touching anything that involves bearings, races, or preloads, as much as that’s possible. I do have an ambition to get an Ashcroft ATB center diff next year, so I figure I’ll do bearings when I rebuild the case again to install that.
I wrapped up about 11:30 PM, having gotten to the stage of test fitting the front output housing. At this point, the box has to get set aside, and I have to get the truck into the garage on Friday to begin the fortnight or so of major work underneath. I need to pull a few things off of the old transfer case, so it’s time to get dirty and upside down. I’m going to miss working on the bench…
This weekend is extremely ambitious. I have no curling plans — we have a women’s bonspiel at my club — so I have two full days to just work. The goal is to take 500-mile round shakedown run the weekend of 7-8 April, so I have to get cracking.
14 March: A combination of 1970s and 1980s hits, starting with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at full volume and ending with Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels”
15 March: City Kids Feel the Beat, on recommendation of Bruce Fowler
All was set. Wednesday afternoon, a large order from Atlantic British, facilitated by the inimitable Eric “Extension 231” Riston, was to arrive by FedEx. New exhaust, new transmission and transfer case parts, a new door latch — the final major spend of the pre-trip project.
At the same time, a Nor’Easter was to arrive, dumping some snow on us. My figuring was that we’d get some snow, but as the packages arrived around 1PM, I remained optimistic that it wouldn’t be too bad. There were no trees down, and really not that much snow compared to the forecast, so I took a photo, put it on Instagram, took the packages inside, and went back to working from home.
I noticed the snow coming sideways at some point, and realized that my dad was making a lot of noise for a long time with the snowblower outside. But I didn’t think too much of it — I was deep in a few major, time-sensitive projects. Then I looked outside, and…wow. There was going on two feet of thick, heavy snow that had fallen in just a few hours.
As the storm started tapering down, I thought that we might have gotten lucky and kept our power through the wind and falling trees. I felt lucky, grateful. Then, at 5:30 PM, just as I hit send on an email, the lights went out.
Now, after Hurricane Sandy, a lot of people installed whole-house natural gas generators, but we never got around to it. Fortunately, our family friend Cathy, who lives across town, did. And so, we encamped to her house and her fabulously decorated guest rooms as refugees for four days.
This, clearly, impeded progress on the trip prep repairs. And so, my transfer case sat there half rebuilt, my small parts from Rovers North for it sitting next to the collection of new Atlantic British acquisitions. And so I waited, as the days to go ticked to less than 40.
Tonight, with the power back, I took the opportunity to get back in the garage and get to work on the intermediate shaft. On the LT230Q, the shaft is sleeved by a collapsible spacer, which I bought a new one of from Rovers North. The staked nut on the end of the shaft was sort of tight, the only rusty fastener I’ve really encountered on this box, so it’s also getting replaced. I got some assistance from my dad to hold the box down with a clamp and his arm while I cranked with the breaker bar and 30mm socket, and slowly it came off. Then I removed the aligning plate and drifted the shaft out with a brass drift. We looped some baling wire around the intermediate gears to keep them from dropping (as per overhaul manual spec) and slid the shaft out, then removed the gears and bearings carefully.
First, I cleaned everything with a brass wire brush. Next, I replaced the O-rings in the kit I got from AB, coating them in a moly lube, and then cleaned things up for the rest of the night. Each of the bolt holes needs to be cleaned out of old Loctite, especially as some of them go through right into the main chamber of the case. Tomorrow, I have some cans of The Right Stuff coming for the sealing — after reading up, this seems the best solution for this situation. From there, I’ll begin the reassembly process tomorrow.
There’s a lot of time to compensate for — I lost three work nights and two very valuable weekend days. I’m getting a little nervous about the timescale, but just diving in tonight helped me out a lot there.
Soundtrack: Skinny Lister, “Down on Deptford Broadway.” I’m usually listening to something in the garage or on the road so I thought I’d add a touch and mention it in the blogs.
This weekend I started diving into the LT230Q box I picked up two weeks ago in Connecticut. This is one of the core repairs for the Discovery for the trip. Mine is leaky, groany, and unrefined.
Since I’d far rather not have my car resemble a retirement community Hooters tagline, I’ve started rebuilding the new box with new seals. I ordered a gasket kit from Eric “Extension 231” Riston at Atlantic British, as well as some Hylomar Blue. Then I read online and saw that these items are not suggested for the later LT230s, which were assembled with an RTV-like sealant. Because I spent money on gaskets and opened the package, I’m considering doing the gaskets on the covers that may need removal on the trail, and use Permatex Aviation Gasket Maker on the other surfaces (output housings and PTO covers).
Of course, the Internet being the Internet, every time I read things about sealants, I enter a deep phase of self-doubt. Then I ask friends, and they all give me different answers. I am locked into a mental battle of who I trust more. Finally, I decided to settle on the Aviation Gasket Maker. For now. Someone mentioned using silk thread to assist it in sealing. I never thought I’d maybe have to go to Fabricland to get Rover repair materiel.
I disassembled the box, which I think has been disassembled before. The bolts, while all correct in size, are of two different flange styles. No big deal really, except for my OCD. Everything looks good inside, and the quieter gears and cross-drilled input gears will be a boon for longevity and comfort.
It took most of Saturday to tear the box down, and most of Sunday to clean it up. But no matter, I was jamming out in the garage to a mix of Bowie, Paul Simon, and some of the K-Pop I’ve gotten curious about thanks to PyeongChang 2018. Working on the trucks is extremely therapeutic for me, so I don’t really mind taking the time. That said, I’m looking forward to the Disco being a solid daily driver, and getting that therapy out of the Range Rover this summer.
I’m trying to use as many of the seals and gaskets and O-rings in the kit as I can, in the camps of “not doing this again” and “getting my money’s worth.” I even replaced the O-rings in the CDL selector, and measured the fingers with calipers to confirm they were inside of factory spec. This is again really because I’m OCD, and I’m convinced that that .001″ is a life-and-death kind of thing.
Tomorrow, I get a new staked nut and collapsible spacer from Rovers North to redo the O-rings on the intermediate shaft, and I hope to get that done and move on to completing the project by the end of the work week. I have a birthday drinks night on Friday and curling on Saturday, and then the hope is that Sunday I pull the car into the work bay of the garage and start on the major underpinnings rebuild. (Sorry Mother, two more weeks in the driveway, but I’m “sure” I’ll be “done” taking your garage over after this for the “long term.”)
This is the crunch. I want March to be about sorting driveline, April about details and comfort. The driveline stuff has driven me insane since I got the truck, and it’s core to the whole concept of the trip. I’m fine driving 16-hour days, but it’s so much easier to do so without a little rumble freaking me out in the back of my head. I’d rather spend those hours listening to podcasts, talking to friends on the phone, and coming up with ideas for novels.
I’m starting to freak out a tiny bit about the timeline. Hitting 45 days is a bit of a milestone. I know that tomorrow at the office, I’ll send invoices that’ll get paid on time while I’m away. Little things that start to make you think…it’s closer than I thought. (Of course, taking two weeks off at a small business has led to some planning already going into place, thus the mindset.)
Coming soon are some large parts orders, a new pack of work T-shirts, and a lot of sealant of all flavours.