Friday, July 27, 2012

A fully equipped Land Rover

A real British farm Land Rover would have...

...sheepdogs, right?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hard top cafe

Here's the Land Rover with its newly painted hard top all done and the new plates on. Hard to guess that the parts were all covered in mold and grime just a couple days ago.

It took quite a bit of elbow grease to get them cleaned up, and I had to drive up to Newport to buy meself another cheap Chinese angle-grinder from Trailside Discount Tools Tarps and Rope (which distinguishes itself by having one of the funnier local ads on TV, where a very fat, very Maine-accented older guy says endearingly, "From big, to bigger, to how big you need: Trailside's gotcha covered!")

I've burned through two previous of these cheap angle grinders, and I know that they're just not well-made, but at $32 they last for a few years. I kept the old ones in the hope that one day I can use them for spares. 

With the wire wheel, they do remove paint, mold and grime off aluminum very quickly indeed. 

(And they remove the aluminum from the aluminum quite efficiently too, if you're not careful!)

I'm just not quite sure the Chinese have engineering for high rpm down at this point. And a good thing too. If their fighter jet engines are anything like their angle grinders, we'll be all set if there's a war.

I used Rustoleum clean metal primer and Rustoleum paint. Thinned down with five to ten percent mineral spirits, it makes a decent spray paint, although it's obviously going to be a little soft for automotive wear. Absent a heated spray booth and two part paint, it's a good compromise choice and should prevent future corrosion of the steel parts. Two coats of primer and three top coats, but I didn't rub it down between coats. A lazy man's paint job and well suited to the utilitarian farm truck theme, it will last for a few years.

The weather didn't help. On the planned spray day, Tuesday, we began with high humidity and ended with thunderstorms. Spray paint doesn't generally like humidity, since the cold air escaping with the paint under pressure will tend to condense and add water to the mix. Luckily the humidity dropped as the day went along, and by noon we were able to spray more or less happily. After that it was just a matter of dodging thunderstorms by spraying outside and carrying parts inside. 

This worked well enough until it came time for the final coat on the roof. I'd placed it on a couple of saw horses outside and sprayed the last thin coat, all while watching a storm roll up. As the storm arrived I put a second set of saw horses inside the garage and called up to Aimee for help moving it. I might have move it myself, but not without some danger of a bump or a scrape because it was so large and bulky.

Unfortunately, herself was taking a nice nap, and emerged from the bedroom in a fearful temper. As for me, I waited for my lovely wife to get her act in gear and her clothes on, saying "come on Aimee, come on."

Just after we managed to get the roof in the garage, the heavens opened.

But all's well that ends well, and after I got everything put together yesterday, Aimee even took a picture which will no doubt appear upon Facebook for those of you who are among the elite (her Facebook "friends"!).

Here's all the bits on the lawn after the last coat but before final assembly. I put them out in the sun to harden the paint a little more before working with the various pieces. 

I realized, too late, that the normal color scheme would be for the rear door to be the same color as the body, not the top. I also need to see a picture of an intact sliding window, so I can see the assembly configuration. I don't think I have it right. And I may need some more window catches. I have two out of four required.

Oh well. It looks good, for such an old truck. And it drives well too.

Once the hard top was on I drove it to the local auto shop to book it in for a Maine state Safety Inspection. This is a good excuse for a test drive. (If you get stopped for driving a truck without Inspection, you can just say that you're going to the Inspection station.) Up until now I've just driven it up and down the Great Farm Road. 

The truck drives down the road well, and the steering isn't near as sloppy as the ones we drove in the service, but the muffler is loud, and I don't know why since I couldn't find a hole. I'll look again today. It'll give me something to do, since I'm running out of jobs and heaven forbid I should weed the garden!


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.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Land Rover Outrigger Repair, Step by Step (Series Rovers only)

I'm no Land Rover expert, but I've worked on a lot of cars and farm equipment, and this selection of photos seems like a pretty good step by step demonstration of the technique for replacing a rusted series Land Rover outrigger. I was looking for something like this myself, but couldn't find anything, and thus decided to make it. There were some useful tips to be found by gleaning the Land Rover chat rooms, some of which are represented here, but it wasn't all in one place. Now it is, and has become surprisingly popular, my most-read blog post in seven years of blogging about farming and science. Enjoy.

Make a comment if you have anything useful to add. (Comments are moderated.)

This particular vehicle is a 1971 Series 11A SWB (88-inch). If you arrived here after a Google search seeking how to do the repair, and are interested in how I acquired this particular car, enter "Land Rover" in the Google Blogger search engine, or click here. All the posts I have wherein "Land Rover" is mentioned will automatically be listed, more than you would ever want to read.

But the short version is, many years ago, when a young sprog, I was lucky enough to be a member of the famed Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service and, accordingly, rode in and drove Land Rovers on training and operations in the mountain and moorland areas of the British Isles. My RAFMRS mates and I are mostly in touch through FaceBook and through our exservice organization and journal, and between us we have more Land Rover stories than you can shake a stick at.

Once middle-aged, and financially able to occasionally indulge myself (only occasionally -- talk to my wife!), I realized I need a Rover, not only to make me happy, but for our farm and for search and rescue work, which I still do a good deal of here in the great and still very wild State o' Maine. So this old Rover actually gets used for all the purposes for which it was designed. I believe it outperforms many much newer vehicles in Maine's snow and mud. And, since I don't intend to ever buy another truck in my life, it will have to keep running for a few years yet.

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

The first shot (above) is of the old rusty outrigger. The slot was cut to allow me access to clean out the mouse nests and rust on the inside, to see if it was repairable. I decided not, and ordered the replacement units which came very quickly, only two business days, from Atlantic British. As you can see from the second shot, Atlantic British are a BritPart outlet, but that's not all they stock, thankfully. (In the yUKe we say, "BritPart-shit-part.") The replacement outriggers are not one of the really bad BritPart products.

You start by removing the footplate, and then cut off all of the old outrigger and detach it from the outer end of the forward angle bracket using a cutting disc on a small hand-held grinder. Make sure to cut the angle bracket via its welds to the old outrigger, leaving enough of the bracket in place to weld to the new outrigger. Remove as well the long bolt that holds the outside of the outrigger to the galvanized sill channel. (At this point you'll wonder why Land Rover galvanized relatively inessential parts like the sill channel, and made the body out of aluminum, but didn't galvanize the frame. Go figure.) Be sure not to cut into the frame at this stage. You may need to cut out some rot later.

If you don't own a small angle grinder, you might manage by using a stick welder to burn the cuts and a sandpaper attachment on a drill to clean up the frame, but at some risk of a messier finish, and much longer to do the job. (This might be your time to buy an angle grinder.)

The bolt will most likely be stuck solid as a result of bimetalic (galvanic) corrosion. If you cut off the head (with a sawzall or similar), removing as few millimeters of the bolt guide as possible, you may then use the nut and some spare half-inch washers as a puller to remove the bolt. Take the nut off, put some washers on, and then put the nut back on and tighten it. Without a head, the bolt will be pulled out of its placement. You'll need a strong wrench (spanner) and cheater bar. It of course helps if you've sprayed the shit out of everything with penetrating oil and waited an hour or more. If you were deeper into your car and had already taken the bulkhead off, you might more easily do the same job by simply removing the lower door post and taking the assembly to a hydraulic press. If you had to cut them, buy new (half-inch by seven inch) frame bolts right away. You'll need them later. Be sure to get galvanized ones.

The inside of the outrigger may have corroded through the frame. This area needs to be tidied up with the grinder, and any debris inside the frame removed. (In my case there was a big old mouse nest, which was actually a relief, because that meant it was all relatively dry, although it was also disgusting to remove and made me gag.) If the rot here is more extreme than this, if it has traveled around more than one side of the rectangular section frame, you may need to worry about holding the frame straight while welding patches. You don't want your truck to start bending under it's own weight. Land Rovers will actually do this, if maltreated. It helps that the transmission is right behind, acting as a kind of built-in splint. Just be sure to do only one side of the truck at a time and in most cases you should be fine. If it's really bad, you'll need to examine the rest of the frame to see if it can be saved at all.

The BritPart replacement outrigger has a wide flange to take care of this kind of damage, but to my mind the metal is not thick enough, so you need a rectangular patch of thicker metal. I used 1/8 steel from an old American-style household oil tank. I have lots of this material left over from making a smoker out of the oil tank earlier in the year. Make this patch 5 and 7/8 inches tall to allow it to be welded to the edge of the six-inch tall frame, which edge is itself a weld and thus thicker, stronger metal. Weld this patch all the way around, but use a lower setting for the sides than for the top and the bottom. Sixty amps is fine, slow, but gets the job done without burning gratuitous holes in your frame. Here's the cleaned-up frame on my truck, ready for repair.

Here's what a completed patch should look like. In my case a patch was required on the passenger side but not the driver's side. Don't cover the frame holes if you can help it. These are useful for spraying corrosion inhibitor inside the frame.


Once the patch is in place, or not, you need to grind it level and then you're ready for the new outrigger. Consult the Hayne's manual or some other reference to determine the exact placement relative to other areas on the frame on your particular truck. In the case of the passenger side, using some arithmetic, I worked out that the leading edge of the new outrigger was required to be 12.5 inches ahead of the trailing edge of the forward gas tank outrigger. If yours is a late Series II 88, this is the correct measurement. If it's a different model, look it up.

Use a large c-clamp to hold the new outrigger in place while you weld. You can snug up the c-clamp finger-tight and use a mallet to gently tap it into the perfect final position. If your bulkhead has been weakened by rust, it may have sagged as a result of the rusty outrigger, and you'll need to use a floor jack below the sill channel, and possibly a bottle jack located between the frame and the sill channel, to square up the outrigger and bulkhead and sill channel so the end of the outrigger is properly positioned, and so the seven-inch bolt is easily inserted. The frame is your best reference point, assuming it remains square.

I learned how to make this adjustment the hard way, by not making it the first time I did this, and then having to force the bolt home. A small carpenter's square might help here. Once you have the outrigger in the correct position, and the bolt in place, weld the flange to the frame, all the way around. Finally, weld the end of the angle bracket back into place.

I ignored the extra width added by the frame patch, and so my Rover is now fully 1/8 inch wider than it was before. (Big deal!) It would be 1/4 inch wider if I'd needed two frame patches. If you're picky or a perfectionist, there are alternatives to this forced re-sizing: You could work harder to make a flush frame patch, or you could just use the replacement outrigger without a patch. Both would leave your Rover at its original dimensions, but the repair would be weaker.

Here's the finished product, a brand new outrigger and reinforced frame where before there was a rusty mess. Now is the time to use a wire wheel to clean up the welds and then spray the heck out of everything with rust-proof primer and then rubberized underseal.

Again, some kind of corrosion inhibitor inside the frame is a good idea. I've even heard of guys parking the car on a steep hill facing down and filling the frame with oil via the drain holes on the rear crossmember, but I'm going to spray some product inside using a pneumatic sprayer and a long hose.

Learn. Fix. Drive. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Of battling blight and rust and general decay

Here's our new Rover ready to do some farm work. I'm happy and amazed at how little work it has taken so far to get this rugged little truck serviceable. There's little love lost between the citizens of Sheffield and Birmingham, where the Rover was made (in Solihull), and indeed the two have been industrial rivals for two centuries at least, but these Rovers are a fine product and something to be proud of. 

Of course, it will be better once it has a properly galvanized Sheffield steel frame!

More than likely the steel for the old frame was actually rolled in Sheffield too, considering that this vehicle dates back to the herioc age of British socialism, when the government would have made sure that steel for one government enterprise (if you can use that term!), British Leyland Motors, would have come from another, British Steel.

I find it ironic that at this late stage in my life, even after giving up on Margaret Thatcher's Britain and emigrating to America, I intend to drive what is essentially a socialist truck for the rest of my life. But it's time. I'm sick of battling rust on these disposable Japanese and American cars. I don't care what regime produced it, it's fully repairable, and that's what I need.

The first and most important job, considering we can't afford that galvanized frame right now, was, however, to battle the rust on the old Land Rover. It was a pain to get the old bed bolts out, but the pressure washing blasted away most of the rust, and a light touch with the wire brush on the grinder removed the rest. The two rearmost outriggers were capable of accepting a patch. The two front ones were not salvageable, and so I sent away for replacements. Here's the patch for the rear left outrigger.

The rear crossmember was a terrible mess and probably should have been replaced with a whole new section, but not wanting to have to come up right away with the three hundred dollars that would cost, I salvaged it for now, a real dogs dinner of metal butchery performed with large sections of old oil tank from my recent home-built smoker project. Ugly as sin, but serviceable.

The main question will be whether the crossmember repair lasts until galvy frame time, or whether I still need to put in a new crossmember next year or the year after as a stopgap. We'll see. 

Only time will tell.

I sprayed the rear frame with underseal and sprayed a bunch of this new product "Fluid Film", made from lanolin from sheep, inside the entire rear frame length. Then I replaced the bed and most of the cab, so the truck can be driven. The front outriggers, when they come, can be welded on without re-removing the bed. then we'll spray the whole of the underside and be done with frame work until next summer at least.

Next up for attention was that tired old engine. I borrowed the battery from the Ford, which is waiting for brake parts to be delivered, so I could evaluate the engine's on-road performance. Having done the wet/dry cylinder compression test comparison and discovered the low compression and need for a ring job, I wanted to get the car whole and drive it up and down the Great Farm Road a bit, to see if the rings would hold for a few months to a year, while I find a spare engine and rebuild it, or whether I needed to put in new rings right away, essentially a partial rebuild, and fully rebuild the spare engine over the longer term. 

This is less a question of money than the frame is. The parts to rebuild the spare engine are only a hundred or so dollars more than the parts to partially rebuild the current one, essentially replacing the rings and big end bearings. You'd do a valve job either way. The only extra components for the spare engine rebuild would be the crank and camshaft bearings.

While the attractions of getting a good look inside my current engine and fully evaluating it are great, especially as I have time remaining this summer to do so, I'm also very conscious of the old American countryman's adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!". This Rover will only be asked to drive two or three thousand miles, if that, this summer, winter and fall, and far less, if, as is likely, we need to wait to buy the big farm trailer that is needed to fully replace the capabilities of the Nissan truck with it's large flatbed. If those rings will hold for a few miles more, which is likely, we can get by as is. And if I'm to rebuild an engine, I'd rather have a spare one around just in case. I can rebuild a different engine and keep the current one as a spare. Once the different rebuilt engine is installed and has proved itself, we can rebuild the original one.

I'll take my time with the farm-road testing. The lights will need to be fixed and the vehicle inspected, registered, and insured before I can do more than run around on the farm roads. That's all going to take a few weeks of puttering and a paycheck or two. 

I also need to find a proper hard top, that silly bit of rag being more suited to some redneck kid's jeep run-around than a real farm truck. There's also the tricky question of whether to polish it up or not. The Land Rover enthusiasts answer is an emphatic "No"! The "patina", it is said, adds to the value. But this Rover will be kept outdoors year round, and wax adds to the life of a paint job. And while I've always admired Rovers, it's for what they can do, not because I'm a Land Rover anorak. This is a working car and I want the paint to be protected. So, polish we must.

This is all just puttering, really, in comparison to the last few days of serious hard work. By the time it's on the road legally for a few days, I'll know how bad those rings really are based on the oil consumption.

In the meantime, the car can be used on the farm as soon as I hook up the trailer hitch. From junkyard to serviceability in less than four days! The rest of the project can be taken at a slower pace.

It's not as if there isn't a great deal of other work demanding my attention around the place. The garden is burgeoning and will soon deliver a bumper harvest which will need to be put up. The usual pests have arrived in great numbers: the flea beetles in the cabbage and indeed just about everything else, the potato bugs which need to be picked daily -- someone should invent a hand-held wet-dry vac for organic control of potato bugs! -- and the ever-present weeds.

But the worst Maine pest of all, the late blight -- has held off!

Touchwood, there's no sign of it so far. We're better prepared than ever if it does hit -- we have a selection of our tomato plants in the new greenhouse which can be dried out completely and the blight starved of moisture, while the outside tomatoes are all pruned for the first foot of their growth, as well as planted in a single row to allow the wind to circulate.

All in all, we should have about two months sporadic work to put up all the storage crops, starting soon with tomato canning.

The other area of ongoing husbandry and weed control demanding my attention now the first flush of Land Rover labor is more or less done is in our small grazings. These need to be rotated and mowed for weeds on a more or less constant basis. These sheep, relaxing nicely on this patch of old hay, don't have any notion how hard we work to keep them in fodder.

Finally, there's one more area in which I'm battling decay, and that's personally. I'd begun to notice a diminishing agility the last five years or so, as I put on more and more weight on my gut. As a working class Briton from a very practical northern background, I don't expect to look like one of those svelt latte-sipping young things you see in the cities. My genes, based on the rest of my paternal family, are designed to be broad and bluff and strong in my middle age, not skinny. But I do want and need to be able to keep working a farm until the day I die. I needed to lose some fat, especially the visceral fat in my big beer belly.

I did some research.

The online medical advice said I needed to lose about forty pounds to have the best chance of remaining healthy through my next few decades. This meant, most simply, altering the eating habits of a lifetime. I've always eaten whatever I wanted to eat, and have been perfectly capable of putting away five thousand or more calories a day. Until my thirties, I could do this and not put on weight. During my late thirties, in graduate school for my PhD, and having moved from western Montana with its short harsh winter to the snow belt where winters last until April, I started to put on weight in the down season and lose it in the summer. By the time I moved to Maine and became a professor, this problem became acute. My winter schedule is stressful, adding cortisol to the problem, and the opportunities for calorie-burning exercise are few because of the long hours.

The first job was to burn off the current excess poundage and I began that about three weeks ago. Based on what I read, and a simple input-output model, I put myself on a 2,500 calorie limit, and stuck to it. I've lost just under twenty pounds so far and can feel the difference. My knees are arthritic from years of climbing mountains and hiking the backcountry for a living, and they are grateful for the reduced workload.

The next step is to find a routine of about 2,800 calories, and stick to that. I'll need to work a little harder in the winter, too. Most essentially, this means that I need to accept less workload, and less stressful workload, from my employers in the winter and fall, and spend some of the rest of the time working more around the farm and walking the dogs.

If I can pull this off, the Land Rover and I will be in a slow bicycle race of sorts, to see who dies first.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Old but not dead yet

Today's plan was to get some other honey-do list jobs out of the way and then field-strip the Land Rover down ready for frame repairs. I used the tractor loader as a mini-crane to lift the bed off the frame. Most of the bolts holding the bed on were corroded badly, especially the ones on the stupid roll bars. Many broke rather than come undone. We'll replace them all with new galvanized ones, except the roll bars which will go in the classifieds for thirty dollars.

I then ran to Belfast town to rent a 2,500 PSI pressure washer with which to blast the frame clean. I also cleaned the tranny and transfer case. Despite the fact that I soaked all the dash thoroughly with the pressure washer, I did rig a tent in case it rains later.

All of this revealed the corrosion which we'll begin to fix tomorrow.

Here's one of the outriggers.  Four of five are corroded, three badly. The worst part of the story is, however, the rear cross member, which is just a mess, although repairable. It looks as if a previous owner towed the trailer hitch right off at some point, and then jerry-rigged it back on using a bit of old electrical conduit as a bolt spacer.

These poor old Rovers do take some stick if they fall in the wrong hands!

By the later afternoon I was tired of the heavy work and so decided to run the compression test and get the engine tocking over a little more easily, more tinkering and puttering than sweating and grunting.

With the engine cold, and (apparently) having not been run for more than a few minutes at any time in the last several years, the compression test scores were about 100-110 PSI on all cylinders, somewhat low but very even. I slopped some oil in one cylinder and nothing changed, indicating wear in the valves and valve seats rather than rings, or at least indicating that the greater balance of wear is in the valves. The plugs were a nice grey, which was good to see. If the rings were shot, they'd be a nasty black.

The old mechanic* who has been the guardian of this truck for more than a decade would regularly tootle out to his back forty and start the engine every so often and let it run. (He also seems to have replaced the clutch and emergency brake shoes at some point in the last decade.) I expect this was enough to keep the motor more or less inhibited against corrosion and decay, although we'll find out how well he did, once we get the thing running a little better. I have some solid reason for hope now, with the test score. A new engine should have scored 145 on all cylinders, but 100 to 110 and even all around is not too bad for a stone cold test on such an old block. There was clean coolant in the radiator, and decent oil in the sump, with good oil pressure, indicating good main bearings. All in all, pretty good news. The compression results are consistent with the mileage on the clock, which is 83,000; in other words, this is most likely an original untouched engine with 83,000 miles, old but not completely clapped out yet.

(Sort of like the truck's new owner, actually.)

I'm prepared for a complete engine rebuild but it doesn't seem necessary, at least not for a few years. A valve job might be helpful. If the front frame members were rotted, I might as well rebuild the engine, considering it would be very easy to pull it with the fenders and hood off. But the front part of the frame is sound. The only problem upfront is the bulkhead, which is in serious trouble with rust and a shabby repair job done about thirty years ago. We'll need a new bulkhead eventually. But not right now. if I clean off the rust and inhibit further corrosion, the old bulkhead will serve for a few more years, by which time our finances will probably allow us to send away to Sheffield for a galvanized frame. In the meantime, if I find a repairable secondhand bulkhead, I can start a rebuild job on that, cribbing from the techniques demonstrated on East Coast Rover's website.

We'll run the dry-wet compression test routine again tomorrow**, after we set the valve clearances and then run the engine for a bit longer, all to see if it doesn't ease up a little. Those rings have to be a little stuck in their grooves. I'd say 70 percent of the low compression is worn valves, and then some sticky rings accounting for the other 30 percent.

You'd be stuck in your groove too, if you'd been sitting in a Maine junkyard for ten or fifteen years.

*The guy's name was Ted Howard, in Warren, Maine, and his dooryard is a wonder to behold, full of classic cars waiting to be restored. In just the British department, there's an old Rover 100, a Rolls Royce (covered in dust), and any number of Land Rovers including a diesel pick-up and a classic 109 station wagon that has been restored or possibly just never used much. Ted himself is a bit of a one-off. Seems like he was a mechanic in the USAF in Korea, and worked on helos. That would have been the very early years of the military helicopter, making him a pioneer of sorts. Anyway, Ted was a delight to meet. There are pictures of the yard on Aimee's Facebook here.

**Update: After running the engine for a half-hour today (but not yet setting the valve lash), I checked the compression again, then funneled a larger amount of oil into number one cylinder and did the wet/dry compression test again. After the warm-up the compression test reading remained at 110 PSI, but after the oil was added compression was greatly increased. Presumably using a larger slosh of oil did the trick. Not good news, though. This indicates a ring job is needed after all. (I only tried the one cylinder since it can be hard to get the engine restarted if you put oil in all four.)

I don't care to do this ring job on the engine in the vehicle just yet, since it clearly will start and run, and that's good enough for now. Instead I will go buy a secondhand engine block from a guy I know who has two, and rebuild that engine completely. This will allow me to take my time and enjoy the experience, and I'll still have a running Rover in the meantime. Later I can switch out the engines and do a ring job on the original one.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Tango 3 to Tango Base, I've turned the Rover over, over."

That was the (alleged) radio call made back from a country bridge to the RAF Mountain Rescue Base camp at Mungrisdale in the English Lakes one fall in the early 1980s. I confess, I was the hapless young driver who skidded on the ice patch, and ruined one of Her Majesty's Land Rover cars.

Soon after that they took my military driver's license away, never to be returned. Ouch!

But here we are durn near 30 years later and there's another short wheely Rover sitting in my dooryard here on our farm in Maine. How did that happen?

It has a few problems and indeed the first thing we'll do is to strip it down to the frame and grind off some rust and old paint and weld some patches in here and there and repaint in some kind of very utilitarian rust-proof paint. We'll also need a compression test, a full tune-up, and possibly a complete rewire job.

All of which sounds like a very fun rest of the summer to me.

And at the end of it all we'll have a farm truck and local run-around car that ought to last for twenty more years. Much needed, since I just found terminal rust and a very poor set of brake rotors and calipers on our 1997 Ford Escort, and since the Nissan can't possibly last more than two or three more years.

That's way too many dollars to invest in the Ford's brakes, given that it also needs a clutch and a timing chain (based on the mileage -- both are currently working fine), so we'll do what we can with a $12 set of pads and some elbow grease and then just run out the remaining life in the car before scrapping it. One, at the most two more winters.

We'll put our money in the Land Rover instead. It should keep its value and even improve in condition and reliability over the years as I plug away at it.

One day we'll even send away to Sheffield for a galvanized frame.

I'll die before this truck does.

"It's never over with a Rover."

Hats off to Aimee for believing, or at least pretending to believe in the Land Rover project. I've officially used up my stock of wifely patience for the year, plus all my birthdays and Christmas presents for the forseeable future.

Although she did seem to have a wee moment when she saw the seats in the back and the holes in the floor.

"Adds character!"

By the way, don't worry: Those awful non-original equipment roll bars are going to be the first thing to go!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Great Land Rover Hunt of '12

(Photo, courtesy Jim "Fergie" Ferguson's Facebook, of the RAF Leeming MRT Troops with a Series III LWB RAF Land Rover Ambulance, circa 1981 or 1982. Me on the far right.)

I'm looking for an old Land Rover to fix up. Call it nostalgia, although my excuses are many.

The main theme I'm using, in this art of wifely persuasion, is that a solid Land Rover at this point in my life would be the last truck I ever bought. But we also need a replacement four-wheel drive farm wagon for our thirteen-year old Nissan Frontier, which, after great efforts, is still rusting out, and whose engine is too complicated for me to rebuild when, as it surely must after 215,000 miles, it finally conks out.

I could put the same amount of effort into an older Land Rover as I've put into this Nissan over the last few years and be repaid in decades, rather than years, more service.

So the plan is to find an old Series I, II, IIA or III Land Rover and repair the frame, rebuild the engine and, if necessary, the gearbox, and do all the brakes and suspension in one big rebuild project, to essentially strip it down to nothing and build it back up again.

I looked at one today, a Series IIA for just over $6,000. It was a pretty good prospect. The main problems were in the bulkhead and bodywork, the frame having already been welded and undersealed some years ago. But six grand was a little more than I want to pay right away, so I'm still looking.

Although I've worked on dozens of type of cars and trucks over the years, I've not worked on Land Rovers.

(I wrecked a couple while I was in the service, but never repaired them, not even the ones I wrecked. There's gratitude for you.)

So far, from reading the web pages and on-line manuals and watching You Tube videos, I like what I see. Everything comes apart with simple tools, and the whole body can be removed in pieces to give excellent access to the engine and the frame.

My Haynes manual, my first actual purchase towards this project, should come in the post this week.

What does Aimee think about all this? To begin, she was quite negative. Another crazy husbandly idea.

But I showed her some pictures of how good finished trucks can look after the rebuild process, and pointed out some of the technological advantages for our situation, such as the ability to tow farm machinery and hay wagons, or the fact that I should be able to rebuild everything on the vehicle with my current endowment of tools and skills, and pointed out that we could actually save money (over the very long term), she seemed to come around.

Or resigned herself. I can't quite tell.

Anyway, if anyone knows of a good Land Rover, legal for use in the US, and otherwise capable somehow of reaching Maine, let me know.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Smoked lamb for the fourth

The fourth of July wasn't a big deal in the Great Farm neighborhood. Aimee even went to work to sort marine biology samples as is her current habit.

Me, I had a glass of rhubarb wine while I fired up the new smoker and smoked two large lamb steaks. When they were done I had a few slices off one with some new potatoes and a green salad.

Later, we had sparklers. The dogs were impressed by those.