27 January 2023
Our experts answer your questions on corrosion, restoration, leather treatment and gear selection woes
Hidden chassis corrosion
My Series III failed its MoT test on what seemed to be a minor point. One of the rear bump stops had disappeared, or at least fallen off from its mounting plate that is bolted to the chassis. I left it at the test station for them to order and fit a new pair to the rear, then they rang me to say that, after removing the mounting plate, they’d found a hole in the chassis that had been hidden by the plate. The truck then had to go to another garage to be welded, then back for its MoT retest; all in all a costly exercise. It might be worth readers checking this area occasionally to avoid the same fate.
Here’s a Series III bump stop that’s probably a year or two old and there’s no obvious serious rust on the chassis in that area…
… but with the bump stop unbolted and swung aside, things look different. Apart from the hole, the depth of the adjacent rust scale suggests this frame needs scrapping, or major repairs
Ed Evans adds: This is a common problem that isn’t normally detected during an MoT test because it’s hidden, but it needs fixing. One way to avoid this is to pack the gap between the bump stop mounting plate and the chassis with grease, leaving no room for water to collect. Underseal doesn’t work because it holds the water in.
I was bequeathed a Land Rover Lightweight Series III 24-volt by my uncle some years ago. Now I’ve finally got the space to get it back up running, and this will be my first restoration with a friend who can weld, etc.
So my question is: where do I start? First, it needs a new top vent panel, and there is a hole in the bulkhead which was a previous repair. So I was thinking to take the body off to assess the chassis and start from there. My friend, whose garage I’m using, is aware that it’s a project and I intend to use Jake Wright (who is in the next village) for parts and advice. I intend to put the canvas top back on, too.
Straight panels, good tyres and a clean front end of the chassis points to a good history
Unusual treatment of the upper bulkhead suggests expensive repairs or replacement of steel body sections may be needed
Ed Evans suggests: It’s best to confirm the state of the upper part of the bulkhead first. From the photo it appears to be coated with gunge, perhaps to protect or cover damage, or to seal the bolted joint between the upper and lower sections. Either way, I’m sure there’s corrosion trouble beneath, though the bonnet hinges attached to the bulkhead look to be firm. I suggest you remove the bonnet and the bulkhead vents and see what’s left and whether it can be satisfactorily repaired. The lower section of the bulkhead needs a close check for rust, though repair sections are available for this. But both the upper and lower bulkhead sections are a significant cost consideration to buy new, and decent used sections are difficult to find.
Otherwise, the body panels look straight, so that’s good. And, although the paint is flaked and cracked, this is actually quite desirable in a way, because in military service the camouflage would have been daubed on with no particular concern for aesthetics. There’s a lot of history, character and authenticity in that paintwork; but how you approach that is down to personal preference.
Judging from your photos, the chassis looks extremely good at the front with none of the usual corrosion on the dumb irons to which the bumper is attached. That doesn’t in any way guarantee that it’s as good further back, but the chances are that it’s reasonable. So thoroughly inspect the chassis underneath using a small hammer and a tough screwdriver to locate any corrosion, and also remove any dirt and mud to expose the surface underneath. If corrosion is only minor, or remedial work can be done with the vehicle assembled, then doing it that way will save a lot of time and work. Unless you really want to do a complete restoration (and I suspect, as you say, that you just want to ‘get it up and running’) it’s best to leave the vehicle assembled. However, the state of the bulkhead influences this because if that needs to come off for repair, it will involve removing the front body and doors, at which point you may as well remove the rear body tub and do any chassis work then, while it’s fully exposed and accessible.
Most of the mechanical parts are the same as the civilian SIII and easily obtainable, so that needn’t be a consideration while you’re planning the rebuild. Driveshafts, axle widths and road springs are different, and all body panels are unique to the type.
So I suggest you start with a detailed appraisal of the complete bulkhead and complete chassis with the vehicle assembled, and that will confirm whether the body needs to be taken off for bulkhead or chassis repairs. Removing the body is essential for a full restoration and obviously makes access easier. But if doing this, take lots of photos and notes of what every part is, where it goes and how it fits – do this no matter how small, insignificant or obvious it may seem because, by the time you come to rebuild, the forgotten fine details will cost you a lot of time and hassle. If you don’t need a full restoration, a rolling restoration has the advantage of keeping the vehicle more or less in one piece, and keeping it mobile and running, or at least not far away from that state.
The parts required to fit a soft top may be difficult to locate so I suggest you check them off in the parts book and keep searching diligently while the restoration is underway.
It looks a lovely old truck. Here are some contacts where there is plenty of expertise to help with getting on the road:
• Ex-Military Land Rover Association: emlra.org
• Lightweight Land Rover Club: lightweightlandroverclub.org
• Military Lightweight Club: militarylightweight.co.uk
• Bulkhead: shielderchassis.com
• Canvas top: undercovercovers.co.uk
Leather steering wheel treatment
How do I restore my tatty leather steering wheel? It is stained, gone a bit mouldy and faded from the sun, I guess. It’s been suggested I could get it re-covered, but I expect that will cost a lot, and I really want to retain the originality and patina.
Any areas on a black leather steering wheel that are faded by the sun (bottom left) will turn black when the leather conditioner cream is applied
Ed Evans replies: The best way to do it is very carefully because it’s easy to further damage the surface. There will be plenty of ingrained dirt and oils from hands that must be removed without damaging the surface texture of the leather. I use Gliptone Liquid Leather Gentle Cleaner followed by Conditioner. First wipe the surface with a wet cloth, then wring the cloth out and use it to dry the surface (so it still remains slightly damp). Apply the cleaner fairly generously, enough to be sure of covering the entire surface while allowing it to work into the stitching. The entire surface can then be worked over with a nail brush (including the stitching) to agitate the cleaner into the surface pores where it will bring all the oils and dirt to the surface. Of course, it’s necessary to treat any abraided surface areas and damaged stitching with great care – leave the dirt in if the agitation is likely to worsen any existing damage. Straight after the agitation use a fresh dampened cloth to firmly wipe the whole surface, rinsing and wringing out the cloth several times; you’ll see the dirt come out of the cloth into the rinse water. There might not appear to be much dirt but, remember, hands on the steering wheel are wiping dirt off all the time – but all the oils will be coming out, leaving the pores in the leather free to absorb the leather conditioner later.
The leather now needs time to dry naturally – I give it at least a day in a warm, dry environment. Next, the conditioner is wiped over the leather and the stitching liberally, leaving the surface fully wet, though not with visible streaks of surplus conditioner – just keep wiping this over. The conditioner will soak in of its own accord and, when dried again, repeat the process until no more conditioner can be absorbed. At that point, wipe away any surplus and, when the surfac is dry, buff it up with a fresh, dry, soft cloth.
The whole process is repeated on a regular basis, maybe every six months or a year, depending on vehicle use and the environment it is kept and used in.
Commanding the gears
I have recently bought an early Range Rover Sport with the 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel engine. It’s a superbly smooth car with a great sound when using the power in sport mode on the automatic gearbox. However, it refuses to go into top gear when accelerating. In normal auto I can feel it going through the gears and eventually into sixth. What do you think; is there a fault that they should address?
E Williamson, Norwich
With the gear selector tipped across and pushed forward or back to engage command shift, sixth gear will be manually selectable
Ed Evans says: No, you haven’t got a fault. When you select sport mode the gearbox delays the up-changes to give more aggressive performance, but will only change up as far as fifth gear. Sixth is not used in sport mode. If you select sport mode while driving in sixth gear using standard auto, the gearbox will immediately downshift to fifth. If you want livelier performance and the use of all the gears, select command mode. This uses sixth gear, though you will, of course, need to select the gears manually on the lever whenever a gear change is required (the gearbox will override this to prevent damage if you leave a gear change too late).
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