Mo's Restoration



Please pardon our dust, this trail is still in progress.  We have a few Rover petroglyphs to finish.  Please check back real soon to see the added photos.

A Three-year Sentence

- or -

How I Restored My Land-Rover

by M. H. Patrykus


Yes, I know, the title sounds awfully cynical. Those of you whoíve been there, however, will relate, and those of you who havenít may find this a cautionary tale.

It began with the admiration of a friendís 109SW; faded pastel green paint, rivets and all. I had always thought Land-Rovers were just plain neat, be it their construction, character, or businesslike appearance.

A copy of Hemmings Motor News revealed a Ď66 109 IIA pickup  for sale just twenty-some miles away.  It was a diesel outfitted for full-length canvas. I had researched what to beware of and inspected it thoroughly.  It was crusty but complete. The frame was solid. It ran, though the injection pump was out of tune.  I put a deposit on it and sold my F-150, reasoning that I could not only save on car payments but restore the  Landy as I drove it. 

The day I went to pick it up, my buddy took a turn driving it around the sellerís property.  A very rusty rear brakeline snapped and the pedal went to the floor. Bad omen.   One flatbed ride later, it was home. The first thing I did was wash about twenty pounds of dried Oregon mud out of the frame. Then I began to make a list of needed parts, which just grew and grew. As I began minor dis-assembly, I realized the deeper I dug, the worse it all looked. I decided to commit to a full restoration.

I parked the 109 in the yard of a gracious neighbor and continued to dismantle the truck. Lots of components were so frozen that my blowtorch, liquid wrench and brute strength became indispensable.  Since I didnít have a garage, old parts cluttered my backyard and new parts cluttered my house. The 109 was quickly diminishing to a bare frame and drivetrain. Thankfully, the mild Arizona winters made working outdoors more bearable. This was the hardest and most time-consuming part of the job: dismantling, cleaning, sorting and discarding all those parts. I worked eight hours at a stretch sometimes, beginning to feel like I had a second job without the paycheck. Somewhere in there, the rose-colored glasses fell off my face, and I realized that if I had saved my money and watched the market longer, I could have purchased a ready runner and saved myself the grief. The consolation was that I might be saving this one from the crusher.

One day I looked at the skeleton of what was once a running vehicle and thought, "Man, it looks a lot like an old tractor!" I think it was the same day I realized that the bulkhead had to come off. It seemed like a huge step, but since itís really the backbone of the Land-Rover, and I had already come so far, I took the plunge. Believe it or not, I was into this project about a year now. It seemed it would never end. All my buddies secretly thought I would never finish it.

Well, I had the bulkhead blasted, found a reasonable body shop, and started bringing body components to them. Many of the original panels were too dented to repair economically, and the steel door frames were history, but Iwas able to source everything I needed, including the rear tub. That saved me lots of cash.

The turning point came about a year and a half into the job, when I bolted the freshly painted, Marine Blue bulkhead to the frame. Reassembly is much easier by comparison, and it actually was more enjoyable as the Rover took shape. Thatís another great thing about Landies; they are so simple, so modular in construction, that even a novice like me can do a good job. 

Once she was all back together, the 109 was moved from her resting place in the neighborís yard. The young tree that had given me a little shade during the past two summers had doubled in size. There were lots of stray bits in the dirt; rusty old bolts, bits of wiring, the odd seal or spring. With the truck rolling again, it was time to crank the motor.

It started, but sounded like a toddler banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Or maybe more like a blacksmith going at the anvil. Anyway, it sounded bad. I called my buddy Mike, who has a RHD 109 diesel pickup originally from one of the British territories down Caribbean way. He figured it was just the injection pump timing. We fiddled with it until the exhaust cleared up a little, but the truck couldnít get much past 40 mph. I took it to a diesel specialist, where they found a bent connecting rod in the number four cylinder. It was pretty demoralizing, but I elected to a rebuild. And the answer to your question is "yes", I could have made the swap to petrol at that point, but I was intent on keeping the diesel. The shop rebuilt the CAV injection pump, the bottom end, and sorted out a few other things. That was in July of Ď99. The truck was not yet finished when I moved to California in early August.

In October I returned to Arizona to get the truck. I got 25 miles down the interstate when something blew. Oil was everywhere, and my power was way down. Towtruck, cold beers, and a flight back to California rounded out my trip.

It turns out that an injector had stuck, and I bent another con rod! The shop repeated all that hard work. I think by the time they were done they never wanted to see me or another Land-Rover again. This time I hired a transporter and the truck arrived in LA in February. At the moment, Iím working out the last few bugs, but it should be ready for lots of spring and summer fun.

I now know the truck from top to bottom, which inspires a lot of confidence. More importantly, I learned a lot about what Iím capable of . The effort required to rebuild an entire vehicle is staggering, and itís very easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of tasks required to finish the project. Would I do it again?  Probably, but not under the same self-imposed pressures. It was very dicey the last few months before I moved to California. But now, Iím looking forward to enjoying the fruits of all that labor, and exchanging war stories with fellow Series enthusiasts.

Some Stuff I Learned Along The Way:

1. You can get really dirty without getting much work done.

2. Pour yourself a concrete work slab if you can afford it.

3 Buy a Sears Craftsman lug wrench. Then when you break it trying

to unstick those lugnuts, you can get a free replacement.

4. Swivel ball assemblies were designed by some sadist Englishman with a fascination for skinned knuckles.

5. All mechanics should get an extra few bucks for chiropractic.

6. Genuine Land-Rover weatherstripping is a genuine pain in the neck.

7. You can fit every galvanized part on a 109 in a Ď67 BMW, including the hoop set.

8. Label every fastener you remove and put them in ziploc bags. It will save your sanity when you have to put them back on in six months.

9. People will quickly learn not to ask "how the project is going".

10. Move close to a hardware store. It will make the three trips in one day much less frustrating.


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Last modified: March 04, 2003