Chassis replacement extravaganza!!!

Defender 90 strip down and rebuild...... in 3 days!

Diary of a rebuild - The Story so far...
pre APRIL 2001


The Land Rover about to be ripped and rebuilt is a 1993 Defender 90, 200Tdi. What's that I hear you say? Why re-chassis a 1993 Defender? Well, it was owned from new by Merseyside Police and was used mainly on and around, and here`s where you`ll begin to understand why, the beaches of Crosby and Southport!!! Now, when purchased the chassis showed surface rust - not a worry since it`s new owner was planning to galvanize the chassis within the next few years. So as not to have the vehicle off the road for maybe two weeks it was decided that when it could be afforded, a separate chassis would be purchased and galvanized. All that would be left to do would be to swap the running gear and body over. Easy!
One day, not so long ago, a small hole appeared on the nearside of the chassis. The body outriggers had virtually gone, but this new hole was worrying. As the days went by a noticeable kink was starting to appear. Ooops - the side needed a panel welded on! Time to start saving so that chassis could be changed next year, I think.
Then, one day after offroading, the back end was being jet washed. Now, the jet wash (in work) is very powerful, but I`m sure you`ll agree it`s not meant to blow a 3 inch hole out of the rear crossmember! Yep, you heard me.
So ... the chassis had a plate welded nearside, and desperately needed a rear crossmember. The rear crossmember, supplied and fitted, was priced at 150, and no way could it wait until 2002!

Deciding to join a club? Need a reason? Read on my friend...

Not wanting to waste 150 to be thrown away a year later, our bold hero started pricing chassis`. The best price, supplied and fitted was just over 1000. Then, using a chassis was purchased from the web editor of Midland Rover Owners Club for a very good price - it had been dry stored for 3 years, had no rot, had body outriggers (which was a novelty for our hero!) and only needed the engine mountings!
The shotblasting and galvanizing was priced at 250, so all that needed arranging was the fitting. This is where the joys of being a Lancashire and Cheshire Rover Owners Club member comes in...
The re-building of a Defender 90 appeared to be quite pricy. Discussing this with other club members brought out the three words of magic from our ex magazine editor, Si, "I`ll do it". When asked "at what price" came the reply, "I don't deal in the Queens Head - it`s a favour for a friend". Is this guy a Saint, or what? Good thing is, he knows his Land Rovers. Looks like we struck gold there then! Time? The first weekend in May has been set. Yep, Saturday to Monday ... 3 days to complete!
The engine mounts were supplied by Williams Landrover` Parts Controller, Peter Davies, who has been the co-ordinator for the whole project. This guy is a mine of information and has brought together the welding jobs, shotblasting and galvanizing. The engine mounts are going on at the end of March, the rest to follow...

APRIL 2001:

April 1st:The new engine mounts have been welded on, and the hunt is on for shotblasting and galvanizing companies in the Liverpool area. It looks like it could be a trip to Manchester for this work. A suitable trailer for moving the new chassis is proving difficult to arrange, too.
The 90 has been stripped of it`s kit; winch, bumper, a frame, spotlights, roof rack, ladder, roof lights, cb system/aerial, lightguards, tow bar/ball, steps, dog guard, headlining, cubby box, rear seats, toolboxes, sandladders, ropes, shackles, etc etc etc. Looks bloody baldy, now!

April 2nd: The complete interior was taken away today - all that is left are two seats. A phone call at 5pm came from Peter at Williams Landrover, Manchester, concerning a sunroof. By 9pm the sunroof was fitted. Not part of the chassis process, I know - but doesn`t everyone fit sunroofs at 9pm at night? We do. Took about an hour and twenty minutes.
April 3rd:Gave up hunting for Liverpool companies to shot blast and galvanize. Chassis booked in on Monday in Irlam for the jobs.
April 9th:The chassis was loaded onto a car trailer this morning, taken to Manchester for shotblasting and delivered to the galvanizing company. Things are rolling! The workshop that is being used from a saviour called Rob Walker (A1 AutoGas, 01512074277 or checked out today, and it`s neat. It`ll be a joy fitting the chassis (fingers crossed!).
April 11th:Checklist; money contributed (Mandi); nut`n`bolts and bushes ordered (Peter); chassis shot blasted and at galvanizers (Peter and Phil); brains behind build-up confirmed (Si); saviour with space willing to help (Rob). Looks like all the club members pulled together!!! Joy of being a club member, eh? Wanna join up yourself? Click here.
April 19th/20th:Peter brought the nice, shiny, freshly galvanized chassis back with another of the new acquisitions: our new car transporter trailer (solid, but we`re having to extend it a bit at the front to gain an extra foot and a half). Chassis looks great - until we first take it offroad, that is. The chassis was admired for an hour before we decided to help things along by threading a wire down the length in preparation for the wiring loom.
We were told that threading the loom was a major pain in the a*** and we`ll admit, it wasn`t simple. A little bit of thought, however, goes a long way. First came three wire coat hangers, well taped together, kinked in certain places. After a bit of playing they went through (caught on some stuff inside a bit beforehand), then a wire was attached to one end and pulled back through. Hey presto! We now have a wire right through ready to tie the loom to and pull back. Saved a bit of time, we imagine.

The chassis (and centre crossmember) was then taken to Robs workshop where we`re doing the job. Stacked against the wall, it`s the last we`ll see of it until the day. Rob took us for a spin in his 4.6l auto Defender 110, converted to gas. Ohh boy!
April 30th:Everything set for the weekend. Nuts`n`bolts boxed and ready, bushes arrived etc. Mate (Ray) volunteered to come the Saturday and as we strip stuff off, he`ll clean and oil it ready to go back on. At 8am on Saturday, May 5th, we`ll start the job...

Day 1:

Saturday 9am

The original plan was to re-chassis the Defender in the three days of the bank holiday weekend, May 5th-7th. Si,(mechanic), and Peter (parts specialist) then decided that the three of us could do it within the two days of Saturday and Sunday. Okay, I thought - I`d been told when pricing the job up that it`d take about a week. Nothing like confidence, eh? The weekend started on the Friday night - nothing to do with the chassis, more that it was my parents 25th wedding anniversary and they had a party in which Peter and myself were more than happy to attend. Being their son, I had been helping all day and started drinking about 7:00pm. By midnight we`d lost count of the vodkas that had gone down! Now, imagine waking up on the Saturday morning. You begin to realize what lays ahead, as your head spins and the contents of your innards make the decision to "abandon ship". Yep, the weekend had begun. Wisely, I had loaded up the 90 the previous morning. The drive to Rob Walkers workshop was not pleasant; dark glasses on and a carrier bag was in place for any further stomach contents going awol. I arrived at the garage at 9am and phoned Peter - him and Si were tucking into a brekkie at a cafe opposite the ships were I work. The thought of eggs, bacon and beans didn`t help my health. They pulled up ten minutes later, unloaded the boxes of tools as loudly as possible and grinned each time they looked at me. Lovely lads. Full of sympathy. The 90 was driven onto one set of ramps, whilst the tools were lined up at bench height on the ramps next to it. The job had begun.
First to come off were the doors. Easy enough. 14 bolts and three pins and it looked like we`d been working for an hour. The decision to take the body off in three parts had been made wisely by Si the week before. It`s been heard of that the body can come off in one, and this was certainly possible here as Rob had a 3 tonne roof winch in the workshop. However, (for the sake of a couple more bolts) we didn`t want the hassle of lining everything up. It`s much easier to line up the front end, the rear tub and seat box and then the roof separately than all at once. Doors off, we began to unbolt the windscreen from the bulkhead (6 bolts) and the rear roof (four bolts). Seat belts off and the three of us lifted the windscreen, roof and rear windows off. At this point my Dad turned up unexpectedly. A very welcome sight in my condition - I could now be substituted if I fell over. Problem was, he`d only arrived back from his party at 4:30am. I bet mum was not too pleased - probably the reason why he was here so early!!! The rear tub was unbolted from the chassis, and the seat box from underneath and the sills/bulkhead. Unplug the filler neck and off came the rear tub and seat box. It had just turned 11am. Up went the 90 into the air on the ramp, and time to unbolt the front end (bulkhead forward). As I stood by the ramp, still feeling sick and dizzy, Si decided to see if a technical piece of equipment was still working - a large hammer. It came down on the floor of the ramp about three inches from my head, and had the effect of a rather large bomb going off - I lifted off the floor, and landed, shaking, eyes tight shut. On opening them there were even more large grins from the other three. To say I was not amused would be an understatement!! At this point I decided to get some fresh (quiet) air and arrange the lunch. On return the front end had gone, and was sitting on the floor next to the other two bits of body. Radiator and intercooler came off and were taken to my place of work (2 mins away) for a thorough steam clean. Looking at my baby it was now a rolling chassis!! Engine and boxes came off as one, as did the power steering (saves bleeding) leaving the 1993 chassis looking very used and abused. The wiring loom had been cut by the plugs (badly corroded) leaving enough to wire them back in once we had the new chassis in place. Wiring loom was pulled out of the old chassis, checked, cleaned and re-covered. Having spent it`s first seven years in the hands of Merseyside Police (much of it on the beach) certainly showed in the chassis. I`d had a plate welded on the side of the chassis, and the rear crossmember was completely shot. Surprisingly, though, under the layers of mud that were not reached by the steam cleaner, it was surprisingly sound. The decision was then made to keep the old chassis and build a 90 based trialler at some point. More fun to come...
The old chassis was removed, with the exhaust system still there for now, leaving just the two axles, shocks and springs sitting there - as if the rest had been blown away. Very strange sight, looking at the vehicle I`d been driving not five hours before! .



This way the halfway point. Whilst my dad unbolted the exhaust from the old chassis, and a few other bits, the new galvanized chassis was hoisted into place and bolted onto the suspension. Time for some food for the lads, and crack open a can for those not driving. I was not driving, but (looking at my health that morning) decided not to allow alcohol into my system for at least the next lifetime or four. Once full, we set about again. It was now about 6:30pm!! Over came the engine and gear/transfer box, and in it plopped. The steering was hooked up again, as was "all those fiddly bits in the engine bay". The wiring loom was attached to the wire Peter and myself had previously threaded through the chassis, and was pulled through with ease. The front end was picked up with Robs roof hoist and lowered into place. Si set about with the new copper brake pipe, telling us we would be going no further until this looked perfect - apparently a pet hate of his, this pipe must be straight and look genuine before any other jobs continued. Perfectionist!! Must say: when finished, it really was perfect, too! The decision was made to lift the rear tub into place, and call it a night. We did so, and stood back and admired the project. 8pm now, and 11 hours into the job the 90 looked almost ready to roll. We still had to do a bit of wiring, put the seats and roof back, and a few more fiddly jobs but the majority was done! We packed up the tools, cleaned up a little and set off for the night. Si wanted to experience the scouse drinking scene, so after we set off to my house first (Si was staying there the night). A quick shower and bite to eat and we set off to meet up with Peter and headed to Wavertree High Street. I refrained from allowing Vodka into my system, but did join in with the admiration of that girl in the blue skirt....

Day 2:

Sunday 9am

Sunday morning, we arose exited but tired. It was 1:45am before Si and myself got to bed (not together) and we were knackered. Good job we were more than halfway. A breakfast of egg on toast (eggs broken, toast squashed and burnt - well, I`ve never claimed to be Ainsley Harriot did I ?!) helped a bit and by 9:30am we were arriving at Robs garage again. My dad was there waiting - keen, eh? He had not been expected on day one, and his helping on day two was appreciated as well (apart from his ability to wind me up with ease - which Si and Peter both thought extremely funny). Today would be a case of my day and myself putting the body back together, whilst Peter and Si tackled the more technical jobs of the engine, wiring and steering etc. The rear crossmember was painted before the tub went into place, and whilst it was drying my dad went out for bacon butties (okay, okay - not burst or squashed this time). The wiring loom was re-wired up into a scotch-block, and the tub and seat box bolted back in. The job had gone amazingly well so far, and spirits were high (if not slightly tired). Less than half a dozen bolts had snapped on the whole job, and about 90% of bolts back on were new. The only "problem" we came across was a difference in the two chassis`. My original 1993 chassis had a bracket welded onto it for the 200Tdi back box on the exhaust system in which the new chassis did not. This was simply overcome by bolting a nice new rubber engine mount up to the rear tub and bolting the bracket onto this. The original idea was a bloody long bolt, but this way looked very original and was probably a better idea to stop any exhaust vibrations. At this point we lost a tiny "o" ring and had to pop to a motor factors to get a selection and some brake fluid. Job almost done. Once the underside had been thoroughly checked it was a case of putting the roof and doors back on, and then setting about bleeding the brake and clutch systems - the power steering had been taken off as one complete unit, so didn`t require any bleeding. The 90 rolled off the ramp at 2:40pm for a test drive. I whizzed it around for 10 mins with the biggest, most genuine grin you could imagine. It drove better than ever! It sat great, not sagging anywhere, and stopped amazingly well. No rattles at all, and only a little squeaking from one of my rear shockies. Si had a drive, and disappeared for quarter of an hour. Arriving back he told of his lovely drive down the dock road at about 70mph over the bumps and humps!!! Well impressed, we checked fluid levels, put the bonnet back on and stood back. It was 3:30pm - under 18 hours from start to finish.


My appreciation was handed out and the tools packed up into the back of the 90.
I returned to Robs garage on the Monday to fit the soundproofing and sills, and to clear away all the mess we left the day before. A thorough brush up saw his lovely garage returned to the condition it was when we arrived, and I returned home in my lovely 1993 Defender 90 with a galvanized chassis that took less than 18 hours and around 700. Job well done.
Special Thanks
A very special thanks goes out to:
Peter for the planning, arranging, moving and helping of the whole thing. If you need a good genuine parts guy contact him at Williams Landrover on 0161 232 5004. Si for agreeing to do the whole thing - especially as he lived so far away, I owe you one! Rob Walker for the loan of his workshop for the weekend. It would not have been possible to do it in such a short period of time without the place, the compressor, the ramps and the electric roof crane. Rob does Fiat parts and specializes in LPG conversions for all vehicles. Contact A1 Autogas on 0151 207 4277, or see A1 Autogas website or Go-Gas website
My dad, Vinny, for turning up both days to give us a hand. I`ve got to listen to his tales of how we couldn't have done it without him for years to come now...
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This article has been edited since it's original posting - Ed.