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The English Patient is Alive and Well

posted by on 10 June 2011 in Project

Any number of factors can put a big project on hold: lack of time and funds are the usual suspects, but occasionally it’s a matter of overthinking something simple. In the case of our Land Rover, the momentum gained by finally completing the rebuild of its dead engine lost steam with the realization that we still needed a good fuel line to make it actually run again. Months slipped by as the completed engine sat in a corner of the garage awaiting reinstallation.

The original plastic fuel line, you may recall, literally melted from the extreme underhood temperatures created by a seriously overworked engine. The previous owner had ignored a coolant leak, and when it finally ran dry, all hell broke loose on the side of the road. Miraculously, the Disco managed to not burn itself down in the process, and the fact that the fuel line melted before the engine seized was a probably a blessing in disguise (for me, not them), as no further drivetrain damage was done from the sudden lockup of a crankshaft.

But back to the fuel line dilemma. Last summer I plucked one from a dead Discovery in our local pick-a-part yard. For a mere ten bucks, it seemed like a steal, especially considering the factory replacement part was NLA — no longer available — from the Land Rover parts department. But when I returned to the garage with my awesome score, I laid it out on the floor next the remains of the dead one only to discover there was a running change at some point, and the routing of the lines appeared to be different. And not just different in routing, but also slightly different in length, the good part pulling up some three to four inches shorter than the blistered original.

Several options were bandied about, ranging from making an extension to bridge the small gap, to creating entirely new lines from good ol’ fashioned flexible hard line. None seemed like the right solution though, and I fixated on finding the correct factory replacement part. Exhausting my local resource, I turned to Los Angeles-based Land Rover maintenance and repair specialists British Car Service, who also part out dead Rovers under the guise of A detailed e-mail was sent, and a week later a new line appeared at the office. And wouldn’t you know, the line that travelled all the way from California was identical to the one I had swiped off a local donor. Back to square one.

Several other inquiries led nowhere, and I reached the point where I had to make some sort of progress or risk losing what was left of my sanity, not to mention my faith in eventually completing the project.

“To hell with it,” I said, “the engine’s going back in with or without a fuel line.”

A couple afternoons of wrenching had the newly-built V8 bolted back into its rightful place. For the first time in a year, there wasn’t a Land Rover engine sitting on a stand (or the floor) in our workshop. It felt good. In fact, it felt so good, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and see if that junkyard fuel line I still had would maybe, just maybe, stretch to fit. And guess what? It clicked right into place. All that sweat and heartache for naught.

With everything finally reassembled, I topped up all the fluids, installed a fresh battery, and double-, triple-, quadruple-checked all my fittings. More than a year and a half after reluctantly picking up this dead mystery machine, the day came to see if all the work was worth it.

The whole staff gathered in the garage, perhaps out of morbid curiosity more than actual faith in my abilities. Camera phones were wielded, protecting cover was taken. I nervously inserted the key and gave it a reluctant twist.

Chugga, chugga, whir. Chugga, chugga, whiiiir, pop!. Chugga, chugga, vroooooom! It was alive, smoking and idling at 4000 rpm. It was also pissing oil as if a femoral artery had been severed. But it ran.

A quick adjustment of the throttle cable brought the idle back to normal, and the oil leak was traced to a severed oil cooler line, which took all of a half hour to replace; luckily I still had a spare in my box of leftovers. Eventually all the residual fluids stopped smoking, the cooling system was bled, and we took a victory lot through the parking lot.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, we took numerous short rides to make sure everything else was tip-top. A subsequent coolant leak was fixed, the trans fluid was filled to its proper level, and a wheel bearing noise turned out to be a wheel that had come loose from having its nuts only hand tightened. Brake fluid was replaced for good measure, though the brakes still feel wooden. Only the air conditioning appears to be inoperable, but we can live with that for now.

So our ten-year-old Discovery is finally back on the road. As we continue to break it back in, we’ve already started planning the next phase of the project, which will involve a mild color change. We’ll have more on that in the near future, but for now you can rest assured our choice is an appropriate one.

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