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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Land-Rover Antics In England


“It’s never too late to learn something new”.

So often when searching classified advertisements for “Lancia” I have found myself in the Land-Rover listings, they being obviously the next in an alphabetical sense.

Well this time the proximity is more than alphabetical.

I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I had to journey to England to attend to a Land-Rover. Well so I did and now back in France I propose in relating the story also to demonstrate a degree of versatility on my part!


My client, Bill, purchased in 2001 an ex-army Land-Rover Defender 90 intending to equip it for expedition use. The arrival of the vehicle meant that he now had two Defender 90s, the other being a production “County” model.

The ex-military Defender 90

As standard, both were fitted with rather gutless 2.5 litre normally-aspirated four-cylinder diesel engines. Whilst these have good slogging power, performance is really rather underwhelming. The first step was to replace the engine in the newly arrived vehicle with a Daihatsu 2.8 litre turbo-diesel that was originally fitted to the “Four Track” model. Unfortunately the company that performed the conversion made a pig’s ear of the job, resulting in clutch failure due to a poorly designed adaptor plate. A visit to another firm provided a better job. Subsequently the gearbox failed so an uprated one from Ashcroft was fitted. After these expensive adventures, Bill proceeded to modify the vehicle himself with long trips in mind.

Chassis Plate. Note "Winterised" and "NSN -
Nato Stock Number - "99" means UK manufactured

I came into the picture last year – in September – when Bill arrived here visiting us on his way back from Greece. Naturally, he invited me to look over the Land-Rover. This I did, taking in many of the elaborate modifications, such as the split charging system for the two batteries, roof rack with tent on top, additional instruments, GPS system and so on. He then showed me the newly fitted oil cooler. He had fitted this since he had noticed the oil getting very hot when climbing Alpine passes. I remarked that I didn’t like the way the hoses were fitted with worm-drive hose clips and also that I considered the tubing to be very hard – especially with that type of clip. I showed him the installations on my Fulvia and also on the Fanalone we have here and he agreed that he would adopt this approach on his return to England.

He set off for home, but was back after about 40 minutes. He had stopped to fill up with fuel and had noticed a film of oil on the back of the vehicle. So we took the Land-Rover up to our garage to have a look. We found three things: first a blown damper that had sprayed its oil around (the cause of the oil on the back) second a weeping brake wheel cylinder and third a pool of black oil under the engine – one of the oil cooler hoses I had criticised had blown off! He is a very lucky man; there was about a litre of oil left in the sump. Had the damper not failed when it did, then the engine would have packed up about a kilometre later! I observed that a rethink was going to be necessary if the vehicle was going to be used for serious expedition work.

He was able to source a set of special Australian dampers (“Old Man Emus”) locally from an expedition vehicle specialist at Sallanches so we fitted these together with a steering damper of the same make. We renewed the rear wheel cylinders and bled the system. I remounted the oil cooler hoses as best as I could using double clips where possible and renewed the oil and filter (a real pain in access terms – frequently encountered with engine changes). Finally I persuaded him to drive to England via Paris – this I way I got a lift to see my girlfriend who lives there and of course I was able to monitor and check things on the 550km (350 mile) journey.

All went well on the trip and I was duly dropped off at Porte Maillot. Later I heard that Bill had reached home in Suffolk without problems.

From time to time I received some progress reports and then I was invited to go to England to do some work on the vehicle; there was quite long list. How this went I shall cover next time - or perhaps the next TWO times! I can say right now that I found the experience interesting and instructive.

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