Thoughts and advice on the care and feeding of fine automobiles from Machine Aficionado and bestselling author John Elder Robison, owner of JE Robison Service in Springfield, Massachusetts

We are independent restoration, repair, sales and service for Audi, BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Rolls-Royce automobiles.

Bentley archives

Land Rovers

For the past 20 years we have been restoring and rebuilding Series Land Rovers and Defenders. In the beginning our jobs were workmanlike, for function and not looks.  Gradually that evolved as our clientele shifted.  People began requesting better paint, better panel fit, and finer detailing.  To my amazement, some even requested reliable vehicles that didn’t leak so much oil – a very un-British idea indeed.
In our part of North America Land Rovers went from being utility vehicles to beat around in the north woods to treasured collectibles that graced homes on the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.  We weren’t the only ones to see this trend.  Others restored Defender and Series trucks to similar standards and prices climbed well into six figures.
And even at that price, the vehicles remained very basic.  The newer ones might have air conditioning and power steering, but that’s about as far as they went.  Some folks wanted more.  In the new car marketplace Rover had met that need with the 1987 introduction of the Range Rover.  The original design was replaced in 1995, and that was in turn succeeded by a new model in 2003.  The current Range Rover arrived in 2013 and will itself be replaced any day.
The original Range Rovers are now 30+ years old, and most have rusted away or worn out.  The few that survive are, like the Series and Defender trucks, candidates for restoration. For those who want more luxury than a Defender the Range Rovers have it all.  Leather seats, nice stereo, softer springs, power windows . . . all that and the same basic off-road ability made for a very appealing package and that remains so today.
It should not surprise anyone that requests to restore Range Rovers began coming in about ten years ago.  By that time restored Defenders were selling over $100k, and Series trucks were not far behind.  Used Range Rovers were perhaps 10% of that price, leaving a lot of room for restoration investment. 
Even then, few people jumped in with both feet because there was no established resale market.  “I know I can sell my Defender,” people said, “but where’s the market for restored Classics?”  It is now starting to emerge.
We are just now seeing owners transition from “patchwork” and “repair” to true broad-based overhaul and restoration.  Here is a vehicle we did for an owner in the Boston area.
This truck started out as a stock 1995 Range Rover County LWB.  In the Classic world the long wheelbase trucks have emerged with a certain cachet, and the 1995 are desirable for the airbag dash and split climate control.  Good examples command a premium that will only rise with time.
The engines in these trucks were always criticized for their combination of low power and marginal fuel economy, combined with poor reliability.  Elsewhere in the world the answer was the famous Land Rover 300TDI engine.  That motor offered almost double the fuel economy with better low speed performance and improved reliability.  However it was never sold in the USA.  Today, though, 300TDI engines are readily available from English breaker’s yards and we have a steady call to put them in older trucks.
This particular vehicle was converted from the gas V8 to diesel power, and also changed to a standard transmission  - another thing that was never offered here.
The standard transmission conversion required some changes inside, and we're proud of the fact that you can't tell this truck wasn't originally built this way
The interior was tired.  In a Defender you can buy new seats from a number of sources.  Seats for Classics must be rebuilt in our shop.  We stripped the worn seats to the frames, replaced loose pieces, tightened the springs, refinished and rebuilt with new pads and leather skins.  The result is probably better than new.
We've been refinishing woodwork in Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and classic Mercedes for a long time.  Now we're getting calls to do the same in these early Range Rovers.  We had this wood done by Jeff at Madera Concepts, one of the top wood restorers in the country
The gold paint on this truck had gotten pretty tired and faded.  The family that owned this vehicle loved the metallic British Racing Green that Rover used at that time, and that’s what color we made their vehicle.  Changing color requires extensive disassembly as you can see.  All the doors and lids came off so the jambs could be painted, and the insides of everything were refinished before being fitted to the body for the final outer coat.
The original paint was a BASF solvent-based process.  We now paint BASF with the newer water-base process which is better for the environment.  The new paint is also glossier and probably more durable than original.  BASF is the original paint supplier to most of the European carmakers under the BASF, Diamont and Glasurit tradenames.
All the corrosion was cleaned up underneath and Waxoyl hard wax was applied everywhere you can see.  Clear Waxoyl cavity protector was sprayed in all the places you can’t see in hopes of slowing corrosion, which was not bad on this vehicle to begin with.
The brakes and axles were fully overhauled and new hoses fitted.
Wheels were refinished and shod with Michelin XZL military tires.  The XZL is a very rugged tire; standard on Land Rover in rough climates.  They are standard tires for the US military and NATO, and also popular in places like Africa or Afghanistan.
We fitted a roof rack, upgraded the stereo, added undercoat and under floor sound deadening and did a thousand little things to make this vehicle special.
The engine was overhauled last year with a new top end and a Alisport turbo/intercooler/hose upgrade.  At the same time we fitted a bigger radiator and the increase in performance is unmistakable.  This is a good package for this truck. Makes me wonder why Rover never built this particular configuration themselves!
This fall the truck had its first outing at the 2017 British Invasion in Stowe, Vermont.  It certainly stood out there. After a few years, the owner who commissioned this work moved and this truck was sold at the Bonham's Greenwich auction. It now resides with another collector, and we will see it for service.
© 2017 John Elder Robison
John Elder Robison is the general manager of J E Robison Service Company, celebrating 30 years of independent Bentley, Rolls-Royce, BMW/MINI, Mercedes, and Land Rover restoration and repair in Springfield, Massachusetts.  John is a longtime technical consultant to the car clubs, and he’s owned and restored many fine British and German motorcars.  Find him online at or in the real world at 413-785-1665
Reading this article will make you smarter, especially when it comes to car stuff.  So it's good for you.  But don't take that too far - printing and eating it will probably make you sick. 

No comments:

| Designed by Colorlib