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The English Patient Goes Under the Knife

posted by on 9 August 2010 in Project

A couple months ago we wheeled our dead Discovery out of the office parking lot and into the kilometer garage to begin the process of swapping out its blown engine. Just days after our last update, the donor engine arrived, and with it came great hopes that we’d have the dead lump out of there in no time. But alas, this project moved to the back burner as a very busy June and July ensued. Such is the project car cycle.

Nevertheless, we’ve managed to pull away from the desk on more than one occasion since then to start the swap process. As of this installment, the donor engine has been stripped to the block and appears to be in pretty decent shape, showing only a bit of carbon buildup for the worse. The heads are off, as are all the accessories.

Inside the truck, we’ve stripped the old mill down to just the long-block, leaving the cylinder heads intact to that we can lift it out of there. In the process, we’ve completely removed the radiator, the trans cooler and the engine oil cooler. The air conditioning system is actually still in place, the compressor and lines sitting neatly off to the side (where the airbox would normally reside) and the condenser resting all alone in the front end without all of its other finned friends. The transmission has been unbolted from the engine (Skin abrasions? Too many to count.) and the motor is resting on its unbolted mounts awaiting its final ascent from the engine bay.

The next step, once the ruined piece of aluminum is extracted from its nest, is to assess the potential of the cylinder heads. Hopefully the original heads will be in decent enough shape to re-use, or at the very least will require minimum machine work to bring back to true. Once the heads are deemed worthy, we’ll begin the process of reassembling the engine, installing new gaskets and hardware.

The engine, as you’ll recall, isn’t the only thing getting our attention; while the truck is off the road, we’re attending to its interior as well. A sagging headliner afflicted our Discovery (and most other decade-old European cars). The headliner consists of a thin stretchy fabric bonded to a thin layer of foam for that soft, finish look and feel. Over time the adhesives that keep the fabric and foam glued to the ceiling panel succumb to heat and gravity, and the two layers eventually part ways. We pulled the headliner assembly out once the truck came inside, and we got started by stripping the old material from it.

The process of stripping the old material sounds easy, but patience is a virtue. Move too quickly and you’ll end up peeling not only the foam and fabric, but also the facing surface of the headliner board. Corners and edges are particularly vulnerable. We started by cutting the material where it had already detached itself (primarily in the corners of the sunroof openings) and working our way outward to the edges to avoid any damage. This was the easy part, taking only a few minutes to do, even being cautious.

Once the cloth was peeled, a layer of sticky deteriorating foam was left behind. Experience with these headliners &mdash: this is far from the first time we’ve ever dealt with this issue — has taught us that a stiff wire brush is the best way to clean it up. A half-hour or so with a stainless steel brush and a vacuum cleaner resulted in a clean surface on which we’ll mount new material.

We’re finally making some real progress on our Land Rover, and with the possibility of it actually running in the near future, we’re discussing what else we might do to it. We’re pouring through a variety of gear options that could allow us to use the Disco as a combination camera platform/tow vehicle/adventure truck, and we’re also investigating having it wrapped in vinyl for a more dramatic appearance without the trouble of painting it. We’ll keep you posted as we decide.

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