kilometer magazine

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The English Patient Gets a Room

posted by on 28 May 2010 in Project

It’s hard to believe seven months have passed with virtually no progress made on the dead Land Rover sitting behind the Kilometer offices. Winter should have been the perfect time to pick up a used engine and make a swap. If it only it were that simple. Seems I’m not the only person in need of a solid 4.0-liter V8 with secondary air injection, as they’ve been as rare as hens’ nuts and pricey when they’ve reared their cast-aluminum heads.

But now spring has sprung, and a new engine is finally on the way by way of a compromise. A non-SAI-equipped engine was found a couple months ago on eBay with a reasonable Buy-it-Now price, and a deal was struck with the unfortunate owner, whose wife had driven her Discovery off the road and into a tree during a New Hampshire snowstorm. The fact that it lacks the necessary air injection means I’ll have to re-use my old cylinder heads, assuming they aren’t warped from the heat that destroyed the rest of the engine. The situation is certainly less than ideal, but after months of watching used engines come and go, I felt I had to make a move. The donor engine is on a pallet at this writing, bound for the office in the next few days.

In the meantime, the teardown process has begun. As luck would have it, Land Rover dropped off a brand new LR4 for us to drive, in an almost identical color no less. This proved to be the perfect piece of equipment for dragging the dead Disco into the garage safely, and we think the story has a nice “all in the family” appeal to it. We contemplated taking the LR4 to New Hampshire to retrieve the used engine, but Land Rover’s fleet manager politely asked us not pile 2000 miles on her new truck in the course of three days.

Now that we’re tearing things apart, it’s amazing what a simple truck the Discovery really is. The space under the hood is remarkably generous once the battery box and air cleaner assemblies are out, offering decent access to most of the ancillary components. The hood itself has been removed to facilitate removal of the dead lump of aluminum; it now resides in my office, where it is accompanied by the full headliner.

Land Rovers are notorious (like most other older European cars) for dropping their headliner cloth after a decade or so of duty. Mine is no exception, with the stained cloth starting to pull away any place there’s a recess. To be honest, I probably would have changed it out anyway, partly as a matter of preventive maintenance (its decline is inevitable) but also because it is peppered with what appear to be stubborn chocolate milk and/or coffee stains from the previous owner. Either way, I’ve been through the headliner routine before, and it’s not such an ordeal if you’re handy with basic hand tools, some glue and scissors.

The next few weeks will have us busy playing both upholsterer and mechanic as we dig deeper into the project. Hopefully next month we’ll have some real progress to report.

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