04 April 2023
Well-known for its Series I parts and exquisite restorations, CKD Shop has also embraced the growing market demand for patina restorations
We previously featured Series I restorer and parts manufacturer CKD Shop in our Classics section here, when we looked at two beautiful 80in vehicles, CKD’s Build Numbers 3 and 4, both of which had been restored to concours condition. I had an interesting conversation at the time with the company’s founders, Alex Massey and Rob Sprason, about their upcoming projects, and they told me about their plans to complete CKD’s first patina restoration.
Interest in preserving care-worn paint and body panels that bear the scars of a lifetime has been increasing steadily over the past couple of years and, while there’s a lot to admire in a meticulous and painstaking restoration to better than new condition, an old Land Rover is only original once. Rob and Alex both own 1948 vehicles that are of historical significance and have restored them as patina vehicles, so they have hands-on experience of such projects, as well as a strong personal interest in this type of work. They promised to invite me back to see the finished vehicle, and that’s why I’m once again at the CKD works in Southam, Warwickshire.
As we wait for the coffee to brew, I notice the gleaming Land Rover National Awards trophy on the display cabinet. It was presented to Rob and Alex at this year’s Land Rover Legends show for winning the Best Restoration category. The vehicle that secured the pot was none other than Build Number 3, which we featured in last December’s article, although it now carries the registration number PXS 161. A well-deserved win, but for a very different kind of restoration to the one we’re going to be looking at today.
Coffee in hand, we go outside to look at CKD’s first patina restoration, its battered and faded Dove Grey and bare metal body shimmering in the bright sunshine. It is a lovely thing, and also very unusual, because it carries a completely new trayback rear body. But before we talk about that, I’m keen to know more about the history of the vehicle and how it came to be the subject of the restoration.
It could be the countryside around Dubbo, New South Wales rather than Southam, South Warwickshire
“It’s a 1957 109in that was assembled in Australia from what were known as a Completely Knocked Down (CKD) sets of parts delivered from Solihull,” says Alex. “Rover supplied vehicles in this fashion to a number of their overseas markets, and it was a way to facilitate local employment in countries that were keen to stimulate their own economies. This way of doing things also overcame the various import restrictions that existed in different countries and allowed Land Rovers to be offered for sale to local buyers in those markets. And yes, Completely Knocked Down was the inspiration for the name of our business.
“The 109 spent its life on a farm at Dubbo and is one of many old Land Rovers gathered from all over Australia by David and Janelle D’Arcy and stored at their Land Rover Heaven facility in New South Wales,” says Rob. “It was acquired by Geraint Hughes from exmod.co.uk, which imports Land Rover Heaven vehicles. Having bought one of JLR’s Reborn vehicles, Geraint asked JLR Classic if they would complete a patina restoration on the 109 but, despite putting the vehicle on display at its Classic Works, it wasn’t able to undertake the patina restoration. We got the job after a chance meeting at Classic Works where Geraint was admiring my patina 80.
The new trayback has the look of one that was fabricated on a farm in the outback
“Geraint wanted to have the 109 restored as a safe, reliable and usable vehicle rather than a minter. Something he could use as a runabout on his smallholding in Wales without worrying about getting it scratched and he asked us if we’d take it on.
“The intention was to renovate it to standard spec and repair and re-use the original bodywork, but once we’d got it here, we discovered the rear tub was very badly damaged. It could have been saved but it would have been hugely expensive, and the reality is that later Series Is, and in particular the long-wheelbase variants, are never as valuable as the very early 80s.
“After discussing it with Geraint, we decided to do exactly what would have been done in Australia back in the day, once the rear body had been damaged beyond economical repair while the vehicle itself had plenty of life left in it. We’d take off the tub and replace it with a typical Aussie trayback. It was possible to order a new vehicle from Land Rover with a trayback, but the vast majority were built by the local garage or workshop in the nearest town to where the vehicle lived and worked.
Alex Massey is rightly proud of CKD Shop’s first patina restoration
“With the plan agreed, we got out the steam cleaner and started to attack the horrible blue-green paint that had been plastered over the 109. It was an awful job but after four days the original Dove Grey paint appeared, as did the extent of the filler that had been used to repair damage to the front wings. We decided to leave most of this in place, and there are still patches of the blue-green paint here and there that proved too stubborn for the steam cleaner.”
The result is very pleasing, and the Dove Grey means that the contrast between the surviving paint and the bare aluminium isn’t quite as obvious as it is on vehicles painted with a darker colour such as Bronze Green. Leaving the filler in place was also a good move and to my eye maintains the authenticity.
“The cab was in good shape, although we had to repair the floor panels and renew the spot-welds. Several of the original spot-welds had failed on the front wings so we re-did those when we had everything dismantled. We have a state-of-the-art spot-welder for use in our parts fabrication business, and it came in handy for the repairs we had to make on the 109. Like most Land Rovers that have lived their lives in Australia, the bulkhead was in excellent condition and all we had to replace was the top rail. The chassis was in great shape.
Engine bay looks the part, but new wiring and renovated components ensure reliability and performance
“The vehicle still had its original engine and we actually sent it all the way to Perth in Western Australia to be rebuilt,” continues Alex. “All our engine work is usually carried out by a specialist in Coventry, but they were particularly busy at the time and because Geraint wasn’t in a rush for us to finish the project, he was happy that we use the Perth expert. He quite liked the idea of the engine being rebuilt in Australia! It took five times longer than usual, but despite paying shipping costs it was still very good value and the results were excellent.
Seats had to be re-trimmed in modern replica elephant hide material, but blend in perfectly
“We replaced the seats with modern replica elephant hide trim, but because of its textured surface it doesn’t look too new and is in keeping with the overall patina look. We fitted new, period-correct wiring and ensured everything was overhauled and mechanically sound. All rubber seals were renewed, and dash gauges stripped and rebuilt with original faces re-used.
“When it came to the trayback, we started by doing a lot of research, looking at various designs and examining old photographs. Because so many of these were locally made and fitted, there’s almost an infinite variety of traybacks out there. We wanted something that had an authentic Australian look and feel but it had to be properly engineered and safe to use. It was also important to us that it could be removed to allow the vehicle to be returned to factory specifications without problems if desired.
“Once we’d got a design clear in our minds, we created computer drawings and then went ahead with the fabrication. Everything was straightforward and we upcycled old scaffolding boards to create the flat bed. We briefly thought about trying to make the fresh paint match the original finish, but we decided we would just matt it down and leave it to weather through use.”
Watch the video on the LRM YouTube site here
It’s now time to see if the 109 drives as well as it looks, and I’m pleased to say that it bowls along very well indeed. There aren’t any rattles and the engine pulls smoothly and strongly through the gears. Rob and I debate whether it would benefit from an overdrive and conclude that it would, but when we get back and share the idea with Alex, he disagrees, so I’ll leave them to sort that one out with Geraint.
I know that Alex has researched the Australian Completely Knocked Down build programme, and I’m keen to hear what he knows about it and how it relates to this particular vehicle. “Most people assume that a Completely Knocked Down kit from Solihull was basically a flat-pack to be assembled by the local workforce,” he says, “but it was more complicated than that because while Rover wanted to maximise its exports, the Australian government wanted to maximise the use of locally-made components as well as using an Australian workforce to assemble the vehicles.
“We discovered a document in the National Archives of Australia dated March 1957 that defines three distinct phases for the assembly of imported Completely Knocked Down Land Rovers. Between 1948 and late 1950, there was no content in the vehicles being assembled in Australia. In Phase 1, which commenced in late 1950, the Australian government expected that locally made components would gradually increase.
“In Phase 2, which began in July 1956, that number would increase to around 25 per cent, while Phase 3 would require the local content to rise to almost 50 per cent with only the axle and diff assemblies, the gearbox and transfer ’box, steering assembly, engine and a few other items coming from Solihull.
Retaining the original Australian Utilux trailer socket was a smart idea
“Phase 3 was expected to commence with the launch of the Series II, but never happened. There were even planned Phases IV and V, by which time it was envisaged that engines and gearboxes would be made in Australia. It is interesting to think about which direction the development of the utility Land Rover might have taken if Australia was responsible for its own, locally designed vehicle tailored to the needs of the Australian market and built with increasing numbers of components manufactured locally. Perhaps Land Rover would not have lost its hold on the market in the way that it did in the 1970s.
“The 109 is actually a Phase 2 vehicle, which means that spot-welding of imported panels was carried out in Australia by Pressed Metal Corporation Ltd of Sydney, which oversaw the final assembly and also fabricated the hoods, seats and trim. Numerous other components were sourced in Australia including the dynamo, starter, fuel tank, electrical components, windscreen, and so on.”
Regardless of where its component parts were made, by the time you read these words the trayback will have demonstrated its practicality and usefulness, because Geraint generously agreed that Rob could use the Land Rover at his forthcoming wedding, although not in the way that a cool old vehicle is normally used when it comes to the nuptials… At Rob’s wedding, the 109 was put to good use as the bar. It no doubt acquired a little more patina on the day!
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