Strip Club


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17 May 2024
Is this a case of putting the horse(power) before the cart? : credit: © Martin Port
Martin Port starts the overhaul of his Series II’s petrol engine by lifting it out and inspecting all the oily bits

I think I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mentioned the intention to rebuild the Series II’s engine since I first took ownership of it in 2016, yet here we finally are: one engine not under the bonnet of the Land Rover, but instead sitting on a stand in the garage.

After admittedly neglecting the 88in while I put my efforts into building an Austin Seven Special last year, getting back behind the wheel of what had been my daily driver wasn’t entirely successful. The dynamo was no longer charging and fuel was going anywhere but where needed, courtesy of a split pipe and a poorly carburettor.

Those were easily sorted thanks to a replacement dynamo from our friends at Britpart and a new length of hose, but when the back box parted ways with the rest of the exhaust and I removed what was left, I noticed the weeping core plugs in the side of the engine block. Coupled with the fact that I still had an odd rattling sound coming from the bell housing, the exhaust manifold gasket had been blowing since my mad motorway dash back from Anglesey a couple of years ago, and the fact that the entire engine was breathing enough oil into the engine bay to make the Exxon Valdez disaster look like a slight spillage, I made a decision: it was time to finally take the original 2286cc lump out. In the red compression readings and the fact that the Land Rover struggled to go up hills any more also helped…

Having already removed the carburettor, exhaust and starter motor before making the final decision to pull the engine wasn’t entirely helpful, as the Land Rover now needed to move from its resting place before the engine crane could be pressed into service. I thought I’d have to tow it out before I then remembered the famous scene in Ice Cold in Alex where John Mills and his cohorts wound the Austin K2 ambulance up a sand dune using the starting handle.

Obviously there was some cinematic licence involved there, but the theory seemed sound: stick the Land-Rover in low-range, slot it into reverse and using just one hand on the handle, I managed to manoeuvre the vehicle back onto hard standing. Thanks John.

Engine internals were in better shape than Martin expected, given their age

With floors and tunnel removed, radiator safely out of the way and all bellhousing fixings undone, the engine simply lifted forward and up out of the engine bay without the need to remove the entire front panel, revealing the true, oily horror. De-gunking with engine cleaner and a jet wash helped make things a little more palatable – even revealing the odd patch of original paint – and with the clutch, flywheel and cylinder head removed, the block could be mounted on the engine stand.

Inspecting the clutch plate revealed that three of the six damper springs were extremely loose in their housings – perfectly in keeping with the rattling noise that had been present for some months now. Considering that the clutch was also very worn and had been in the vehicle for at least 25 years, replacement was a given, but the next job was to begin evaluation of the engine internals.

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Removing the pistons dashed Martin’s dreams of a quick re-ring and refit

​​​​​​Flipping the block upside down and removing the sump revealed an interior that looked far from disastrous, but of chief concern was the condition of the crank. Removing the four connecting rod caps and withdrawing the shells and pistons showed that, whilst the shells themselves were certainly past their use-by date, the rod journals looked remarkably good.

With the timing chain cover, tensioner and chain itself removed, I could then release the three main bearing caps which would allow me to remove and inspect the bearing journals – all of which looked to be in excellent condition as well and meant that a costly regrind could be avoided. Unfortunately, with the pistons out of the block, the news wasn’t quite so good: a considerable lip was evident in the top of each aperture, meaning that a re-bore and the fitting of oversized pistons was the only sensible way forward.

Camshaft taken out for possibly the first time in six decades – it’s in good nick

That meant removing the camshaft too, so plans to clean everything up and fit new piston rings and a timing chain were now far behind me. As with the crank though, the camshaft looked good, and it dawned on me that the last major documented engine work was done in the 1960s: I was quite possibly the first person to be rooting around in there for six decades! Next stop: find a decent machine shop.


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