Land Rover series iia 1971

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Project Cars: 1971 Land Rover Series IIA – Update

Update: Diagnosing the problem

It’s not worth it. You’ve got no idea what you are doing. You’re chasing your tail. You should be spending your money on other things. Just sell it. Move on.

Despite such reasonable and pragmatic thoughts, I haven’t been able to bring myself to sell this flogged-out old battler. I haven’t even advertised it, using that time honoured trick of jacking up the price beyond anything realistic to ward off suitors.

Throw in aspirations to buy a home within 100 kilometres of Sydney and a couple of kids that take up just about every skerrick of spare time you once had, and old projects like this become even more untenable.

It used to breeze through registration once upon a time, when a now-retired mechanic was, well, quite sympathetic to my own (and my vehicle’s) cause. He’d remember fondly his early days of gritting through an apprenticeship many moons ago, spinning spanners at a Land Rover workshop.

The he remembered, not so fondly, how annoying those drum brakes were to get right. And he told me to take it elsewhere for such work. He’d turn a blind eye to the leaks and whatnot, and send me on my way for another year. This kept on for around five years of daily driver duties.

When I moved a couple of hundred kays away, I was forced to go elsewhere for my annual inspection. Picking the car up later, I was greeted with a list of problems longer than the index of Encyclopedia Britannica, and a quizzical look.

Since then, a few years back now, the old Land Rover has been driven only briefly on the road, in between sheds on temporary permits as we moved houses. And while I loved those opportunities, it was driving like absolute crap. Down on power, rough idle, and nothing like the smooth runner it once was.

Parked up in the shed, I plodded along slowly with my limited means and skills to diagnose the issue. First, I rebuilt the carburettor. Then, I got a carburettor shop to do it. Then I cobbled together one good distributor from three spares. I forget how many times I checked the tappet clearances, and reset the timing.

With the car still running worse than a hung parliament, I next checked in on the timing chain and crankshaft for anything noticeably wrong. None the wiser, it was time to pull off the head.

It was my first time doing this, and I was a little hesitant of delving into the unknown, past some kind of mechanical line in the sand. However, I had watched so much YouTube lately of skilled and knowledgeable folk working on engines (shout-out to the Skid Factory, Project Binky and Geoffrey Croker), I finally got brazen enough to give it a bash myself.

In about two hours, it was done. I followed the tricks of keeping my bolts and pushrods in order, and after removing two manifolds, the rocker cover and rocker assembly, plus a couple of other bits, it was off. One great thing about old cars like this, is that mechanically they are incredibly simple.

And when I finally prised the head from the block, I was greeted with hole in the head gasket you could drive a Toyota Mega Cruiser through.

Although it’s a problem, it’s also great news. Because now I know what’s wrong with the car, I can get it fixed and (hopefully) running like a German band, as my dad says, again. I can't wait, but I will be. A long time.

  • Current Status: Even further disassembled
  • Odometer: 03978 miles, still
  • Kms since last update: 0 (!)
  • Next on ‘to do’ list: Learn to lap valves, refit the head with a new gasket, and then look at the handbrake that is swimming in oil
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