Replace rusty body cappings

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By Trevor Cuthbert

15 December 2020

Defender pick-up rear tub capping Rear capping may be hiding rust : credit: © Trevor Cuthbert

Corroded rear cappings are unsightly and may hide serious corrosion beneath. Trevor Cuthbert shows how to renew them

Time: 4 hours 
Cost: £232
Difficulty: 3 out of 5 stars
Models: Defender 90 and 110
Parts and costs: Set of used galvanised body cappings, £150 from BLRC; Safari corner bracket cappings (pair), £13 from YRM Metal Solutions; light cluster corner cappings (pair), £66 from YRM Metal Solutions; rivets £3
Work safely: Wear eye protection and protective gloves when cutting metal, drilling and riveting
Contacts: BLRC Ltd, Tel: 02897 519763, blrcvehiclespecialist.co.uk 
YRM Metal Solutions Ltd, Tel: 01388 488150, yrmit.co.uk

From the earliest Series I Land Rovers through the Series II and Series III models, the rear body tubs were finished at the factory with galvanised body cappings and galvanised light cluster corner cappings.  When the One Ten and Ninety models were introduced in the first half of the 1980s, the practice of fitting galvanised body cappings continued. These galvanised cappings did not suffer from rust, except in local areas where perhaps a constant drip of water occurred over the years. The nature of galvanised steel meant the rust did not spread through the cappings, remaining localised.

Towards the introduction of the Defender name to utility Land Rovers, the practice of fitting galvanised cappings at the factory ceased in Station Wagon and Hard Top models – the cappings were simply standard steel that was primed and painted in the body colour. This no doubt saved some money, although the factory would probably argue that it was to give the Land Rover a more modern look with more colour coding (galvanised front bumpers became black gloss painted in the same era).

Only pick-up and soft top models continued to be fitted with galvanised body cappings, because they were exposed, and prone to wear and getting scratched, though they were painted in the body colour over the galvanised surface.

The corrosion problem

The effect of switching to painted steel body cappings on Hard Top and Station Wagon models was that the steel would eventually begin to rust – commonly at the welds in the structure, but also where scratches had occurred in the paint or a constant drip of water had fallen on one particular spot. The cappings also frequently rust where there are water traps, which we’ll see in this case where the hard top sides had been fixed to the cappings at their mounting locations. These rust effects are unsightly and, in advanced cases, begin to undermine the structure of the body. Replacing the old rusted cappings is not particularly difficult though, but it is time-consuming. In this example, the hard top had been removed to convert the Land Rover to soft top, and it was at this point that it was discovered the cappings – which had looked cosmetically okay – were in fact in poor condition. They had simply been painted and filled to make them look better.

 

Assessing the job

Good areas: The body cappings towards the front of the body tub are in good condition with no signs of rust or bubbling of the red paint.

From within: At the rear corners on both sides, the paint is bubbling as rust is pushing through the steel from the inside of the body capping.

Dressed up: At first glance, this rearward face of the body capping looks okay. But it has actually been repaired with body filler, hiding horrors beneath.

Getting ugly: This fairly advanced corrosion was only revealed when the hard top sides had been removed, at all of the attachment points for the side panels.

Tacky: This glued-down carpeting, which is going to be fully removed anyway, has to be peeled away from the inside areas of the body cappings for their removal.

 

Removing the rusty cappings

The body cappings and light cluster corner cappings are held in place predominantly by blind rivets, with only a couple of additional bolts in place, depending on the model. These rivets are easily drilled out with a 5mm drill and the bolts are also easy to remove. (This is, of course, after the hard top sides has already been removed, as described in LRM July issue.)

There is a row of rivets on the outside of the body tub on each side, which need to be drilled out – beware of the possibility of the drill slipping or snapping through the rivet, so that the paintwork does not get inadvertently damaged.

Sharp tool: Using a 5 mm drill bit, the rivets holding the body cappings to the rear body tub are carefully drilled out across the back and sides.

Easy to miss: There are also rivets along the top surface of the cappings, and these are systematically drilled out too, in order to free up the cappings.

Mind that paint: On the outside of the body tub on each side, there is a row of rivets that needs to be removed. Great care needs to be taken with these to avoid paint damage.

Phew!: The outside rivets have been successfully drilled out without allowing the drill to slip and damage the red paint, which can easily happen.

Searching for clues: There are three pairs of these extra rivets along each side of the tub, which must have been for hooks for a canvas hood in a previous life.

Additional fixings: Now that all of the rivets have been drilled out, there only remains an M6 bolt at each side to remove at the front, using 10 mm spanners.

Slow and careful: The capping can now be gently eased up at the rear, so that the
main body of it can disengage from the aluminium bodywork.

Bit of a puzzle: The top of the aluminium bodywork has a folded inner edge which makes it a little tricky to get the capping off, but it will come with jiggling.

Looks okay: The capping has now been successfully removed from the rear body tub and, other than some areas of powdery corrosion product, the tub is in generally good shape.

Remove them: The corner cappings on each side are going to be replaced as well, so the indicator lights and the stop tail light units need to be unscrewed.

More drilling: With the light units removed from the corner cappings, the rivets that fix the cappings to the rear body tub are drilled out.

Blank canvas: Now that the corner cappings  and the main body cappings have been removed, the rear body tub is nearly ready for the replacement parts to be fitted.

Complete the picture: The ‘Safari’ corner bracket cappings are also removed so that they can be replaced with galvanised ones, for the traditional early look I’m seeking.

 

Fitting the replacement parts

Brand-new galvanised body cappings are available from YRM Metal Solutions Ltd at a cost of around £280 plus VAT and carriage, and these are an excellent upgrade to your Land Rover. However, I was fortunate enough to get hold of a set of used galvanised cappings from my local supplier and only had to source the light cluster corner cappings and the corner bracket cappings from new stock.

Fitting the parts is very much a reversal of the removal process, with a bit of care needed with alignment of the early two-piece body cappings (later offerings were a one piece welded structure) to obtain a pleasing straight line along the top of the body tub.

A bargain: This good secondhand set of galvanised cappings was less than half the cost of the best price I could find for brand-new cappings.

First on: The new galvanised corner bracket cappings are riveted in place first, using four 17 mm blind rivets on each side of the rear opening.

Shiny!: The corner cappings are also known as light cluster cappings, and are offered up to their place on both sides of the rear body tub.

The right equipment: Using a ‘lazy tong’ riveting tool, the corner cappings are soon fixed in position on the rear body tub, by 17 mm blind rivets.

Ease them down: The corner bracket and cluster corner cappings are fitted in place. The main body cappings are negotiated into position in the same way that the old ones were removed.

Not so tricky: The replacement cappings are the earlier two-piece types which are a little easier to fit over the sides of the aluminium body tub.

All secured: The replacement body cappings are riveted in place through all of the existing rivet holes in the side of the tub, and the M6 bolts refitted.

Final touch: The capping across the top of the middle bulkhead has also been replaced with a galvanised one, to match all of the others.

Finished job: The new galvanised replacement cappings have considerably tidied up this Land Rover, both when the soft top is raised and when it’s down for summer.