Project Defender Td5 part 2: Chassis and body

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19 November 2022
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Trevor gets to work dismantling the bulkhead : credit: © Trevor Cuthbert
Trevor rebuilds the 110’s rolling chassis and decides on a new body type

Need to know

Time: 9 hours.  
Cost: £2652.
Difficulty: 3 out of 5 stars   
Models:
Defender, Ninety/One Ten.
Tools needed: General workshop tools, lifting equipment, vehicle lift,
angle grinder with cutting discs.
Parts used: New 110 Td5 galvanised chassis: £2580, Richards Chassis Ltd; Front suspension turrets: £72, BLRC Ltd.
Work safely:
• Make sure raised vehicle is stable before and during the inspection.
• Use a suitable engine crane for lifting engine and transmission components, and lower them safely onto the floor immediately.
• Wear eye protection when working under dirty parts and components.
• Wear protective gloves.
• Wear safety boots or shoes.
• Consider wearing a bump-cap under raised vehicle.
Contact: Richards Chassis Ltd richardschassis.co.uk. Tel: 01709 577477

 

The story so far

After a customer bought and removed the battered body sections from this 110 Td5 hardtop model, Trevor ended up with the remains including the wrecked engine and gearbox, a rolling chassis with a bulkhead and one wing, and with most components in a decrepit state. In Part 1, this near basket case was assessed and a plan of attack formed, but a more detailed inspection might change all that…

 

Dismantling the truck

At this stage the main plan is to strip everything off the chassis and the bulkhead, so that both of these major components can be fully assessed for their true condition. With this completed, decisions can be made on what remedial work needs to be carried out – or indeed whether the chassis and bulkhead are as good as they initially appeared. In my experience, only a full strip-down will allow the proper story to be told – and unfortunately, things are often much worse than they first appear.

Final journey: The 110 Td5 is driven in to the workshop and the engine is shut down for probably the last time, as work begins on stripping the chassis.

Everything off: We start by removing the rear top damper mounts. Every component will be removed before deciding whether to clean up and galvanise the existing chassis.

Tricky manoeuvre: The only remaining wing assembly is removed. The outer wing here is damaged, but the inner wing and other small parts may prove useful for the rebuild.

Not as good as I thought: Two of us were able to safely lift the bulkhead off as one piece after first removing a few heavy parts, such as the brake pedal assembly, to lighten it.

One complete unit: With the bulkhead gone, the engine and transmission have now been lifted out of the chassis as one assembly using the engine crane and the correct lifting points.

Dodgy maintenance: The transfer gearbox is unbolted from the main gearbox to reveal a mess of sealant which, presumably, has been applied instead of replacing the oil seals.

Saving a costly part: Although the fuel tank carrier was still sound, rust was taking hold, so it was rubbed down and sprayed with some quality paint treatment and stored for later.

Getting bare: The old chassis is now almost completely stripped and we’re in a position to make an assessment and decide on where to go from here.

 

Chassis shock

The original chassis had seemed to be in pretty good condition during the initial assessment last month, with a brand new crossmember welded in place at the rear, along with a couple of replacement outriggers. It was hoped that it would serve well for at least a couple more years before needing further welding. However, with all parts and body panels completely removed from the old chassis, a few more issues were revealed. Worst of these were the rear spring hangers, where rust holes manifested themselves as we battered at this area to release the old coil springs that were jammed in place. Lots of big rust flakes rained down on the workshop floor as the alarming holes appeared.

Other areas of the chassis were far from perfect too, and it came as an easy decision to cut my losses with this chassis and purchase a brand new one – I do not want to be chasing rust with the angle grinder and welder every year.

The cost of the new chassis was offset by selling the old one, exactly as is, for a fair price. The new owner has plans to use the old chassis to build some sort of off-road trailer for his logging business.

While I have splashed out on a new 110 chassis, this is not a project where the budget is unlimited. I am going to make use of quite a number of parts that I have around the workshop and storage barn, rather than buying new. For example, I know that I have a full set of coil springs that have never been used, but cannot be sold as new parts. I also have a special front and rear shock absorber setup that is unused, although the components for the front will not be suitable for this truck.

Shaken into holes: The rear spring hangers have suffered quite badly with rust holes that only appeared after removing the rear coil springs. They need to be replaced.

Mud trap: The chassis rail probably needs to be cut away and new steel welded in place near both spring mounts. This spring mount has corroded in two along the web.

What lies beneath? At the front of the chassis, the dumb irons have had steel plates welded on to strengthen them. The repair appears to be good, but raises concerns.

Strength depleted: General surface rust looks bad and needs sorting before it advances too much. There’s also unusually bad rusting at the radius arm mounting point on the chassis.

Usually a bad place: Where the gearbox crossmember had been bolted to the chassis, the chassis rails have deep rust in what is normally a hidden water and mud trap.

A job for life: A new heavy-duty galvanised 110 chassis from Richards Chassis is the answer to the ongoing rust issues with the old chassis – a permanent solution.

 

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Commencing the rebuild

With the fate of the original chassis decided, it was transported out of the workshop and away to its new owner. The new galvanised chassis was brought in so that work could begin on building the axles onto it without delay. Although the new chassis is very costly, it does mean time is saved in not needing to repair and protect the old one. To do a proper job, it would have needed to be sandblasted, welded and then treated (painted or galvanised) – all of which would have taken at least three weeks, based on past experience.

A load carrier: The repainted fuel tank carrier and A-frame are in place, and the rear axle has been fitted using a pair of new old-stock heavy-duty coil springs.

Longer dampers: The rear dampers and top brackets are also new old-stock. They were a special off-road arrangement, giving me longer travel to work with the heavy-duty rear springs.

A minor tweak: While the unusual top damper mount did not foul the Td5 fuel filter housing, the fuel filter cover needed a small cut-out to make it fit nicely.

The wrong springs: The front axle was fitted also using heavy-duty coil springs as it was discovered that the originals were not correct for the 110. Used Bilstein dampers have also been installed.

A bugbear of mine: I always fit the chassis wiring harness through the chassis rail, as Land Rover did in the factory. This is the correct route for the Td5 loom (arrowed).

 

Body choice

During the initial planning of this project it was in my mind to build the 110 into a High Capacity Pick-Up (HCPU), which is a very versatile working vehicle. I previously had an HCPU on the road for roughly one year (over a decade ago) and found it a great all-round utility Land Rover.

Of course, the body choice is partly dictated by the availability of panels and components to complete the job. Fortunately, there is an HCPU donor available to me – one that is not viable as a separate rebuild project because it does not possess an identity. The vehicle arrived with me on the condition that it was only to be used for the body panels. The chassis number had been cut away, the VIN plate removed and the registration plates taken off. The engine, transmission, chassis and bulkhead were all well past their useful service life.

Turn over the page for a brief look at some of the body panels needed to build an HCPU on the Td5 chassis and drivetrain.

Later wings: The front wings from the earlier HCPU are not ideal, as the air intake is on the wrong side. This pair of late wings will be fine though.

Excellent condition: The replacement wings are complete with the inner galvanised wheelarches and these show no signs of major corrosion – perfect for this job.

My rear tub loaned out: The HCPU tub from my donor was temporarily on this 130 which should have a tipper body. My tub was borrowed until a tipper body could be built.

Load-lugger: The HCPU tub offers an unrivalled cargo area for a utility Land Rover – it will easily carry a full-size Euro pallet, with plenty of room to spare.

Completes the cab: Another body panel peculiar to the 110 HCPU (and 130 double-cab HCPU) is this rear bulkhead that runs behind the seats. This can be fashioned from a 90 tub.

 

Coming up in part 3...

There is an increasing number of Defender parts that are hard to get hold of lately, particularly here in Ireland. One such item is the handbrake lever for this project. The 110 Td5 requires a later-type lever because the transmission brake uses a direct cable entry system and consequently a different handbrake cable.

My handbrake lever is mysteriously absent – possibly removed by the chap who purchased the body panels – so a replacement is needed.

My go-to supplier, for new and secondhand parts (BLRC Ltd) cannot get hold of the later-type handbrake levers. This got me thinking – I already have several of the earlier handbrake levers, so could I modify one to work with the Td5 Defender?

If this modification is a success, I will be able to make use of the many Discovery 1 and
Discovery 2 transmission brake assemblies that are available from all of the poor old trucks that are being scrapped.

I need to make this… This borrowed handbrake lever shows that the end of the handbrake cable slots in to an angled tube on the larger base plate, where it fixes to the seat box.

…from one of these: This early handbrake lever possesses the same footprint in terms of the fixing bolt holes, but the baseplate needs to be extended to incorporate the cable tube.

 

Want to read more? See Project Defender: Part 1, where Trevor makes his initial assessment of the Project ahead.

 

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