Monday, July 23, 2012

Hard top happenings

It took the best part of two days to sort the multiple and overlapping wiring problems on my old Land Rover project car.

Of course, after 26 years in the USA, I'd more or less forgotten about the "Prince of Darkness," Lucas Electrical systems, once touted as the best reason ever NOT to buy a British car.

How could I ever forget? All those Minis and Maxis and other British Leyland cars I owned? I think I had two or three different Minis, all of which would blow fuses and melt wires.

The Lucas company managed to get a UK monopoly on automotive electrical systems in the 1930s, and held it right through to Thatcherism and the eventual demise of British Leyland. They produced the shoddiest and most old-fashioned of wiring right down to the end, steadfastly ignoring the technological breakthroughs pursued elsewhere in the auto world, with the result that the wiring in a 1971 Land Rover looks much like the wiring in a 1939 Morris, except that there are even more undersized and imperfectly harnessed wires running every which way in the '71 Rover than in the '39 Morris.

After all, why use one wire when five will do?

In the end most problems on this particular Lucas wiring system were solved by sistering in new wires all the way from the fuse box to switch to whatever it was, light, horn, wipers, windshield washer, etc &c. Nothing worked at first try.

Very annoying.

The rear wiring loom literally fell off in my hand, eaten through by rodents. The alternator was connected to the battery only by a twisted-together and corroded repair, although the alternator, an AC Delco after-market, one wire jobbie worked fine once it was given a non-Lucas connection to the battery. The washer fluid pump sounded like a buzz saw and was replaced. I had to puzzle out numerous mystery wires. There remain twenty or more dead-end wires in the dash that just terminate and do nothing.

I actually gave up on electrical work in pure frustration about three in the afternoon on Saturday and pulled out the rubbing compound and wax instead. Rubbing down the oxidized paintwork was something I didn't have to think about. Patience restored by a good meal and a clean shiny Rover, I finished the wiring Sunday morning.

The next task will be to make a hard top to replace that silly bit of rag that adorns the vehicle currently. Accordingly Sunday afternoon was spent rooting around in one of the back yards of one of Maine's Land Rover guys.

There seem to be quite a few of these good old boys that have made a major hobby or even a business out of keeping a private scrapyard of old Rovers. The closest such yard to me is in Brewer, Maine, and I spent a happy forty-fifty minutes or so taking a tour of the various on-road and project Rovers -- this particular guy has four -- before we got down to business and did a deal for a hard top in mismatched colors.

The roof was filthy with mold, and needed to be scrubbed with bleach and a stiff brush, which I did late yesterday afternoon. Here it is after that process. What is left of the mold will come off with the paint later, using one or the other machine, the grinder with the wire wheel, the belt sander, or the orbital sander.

I actually pulled out the grinder late yesterday to remove some of the attachment screws which were rusted through, but after injuring myself lightly twice with said grinder, I concluded that I was too tired and needed a rest.

We'll dismantle the various components, the roof, door, and the two sides, sand them down to bare metal, chip off  a few patches of bondo, beat the bigger dents flat again, and then give everything two coats of Rustoleum primer and four or five top coats of a color that is close to the original off-white, before reassembling and fitting to the truck. This process should take me most of next week. In the breaks while waiting for paint to dry and wotnot, I'll get insurance, register the car, and get a Maine state safety inspection.

By next weekend we should be on the road with a street-legal Rover.

From junkyard to daily driver in less than three weeks.

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