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My Adventures with Brenda - Chapter 2

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Case Studies
September 2017 - Oh Heck, What Have I Got Myself Into?

Since I have little mechanical knowledge (i.e. none whatsoever outside of what I have seen Gas Monkey doing), I figured some books should tell me all I needed to know & so I purchased both the Haynes Workshop Manual and the Haynes Restoration Manual. Google said “Defenders are metric” so along with the books, I bought some spanners too.

Book in one hand, spanners in another (and assuming a Landy is just a massive Meccano set) I set about dismantling Brenda. The bonnet came off easily and the first of 20 nuts and bolts from each wing came off simply enough - then the problems began. I’m not going to bore anyone with the intricacies of the issues but I’ll give you an example of some of the problems nuts and bolts can have;

 Captive Nuts - The original construction called for “captive nuts” – It’s difficult to describe so see the picture above. The idea was, the clippy thing at the back slides over sheet metal & then the bolt goes through the square nut held in place by the little wing things. This is great during construction as the guy in a factory doesn’t need to get any tools into teeny spaces as the wing holds the nut still. After 21 years of rust though, the nut and bolt have become firm friends and when you put torque through it, the wings (also corroded) happily bend out of the way to allow the square nut to spin. To add to the fun, they don’t make spanners for square nuts…. So even if you could get a tool to it, they don’t make one to fit.

Soooo...  My schedule has slipped a teeny bit. Turns out this ‘mechanic’ thing is trickier than they make it look on TV and the learning curve is pretty steep. My “1 week to tear it down” idea has been quickly demolished. There have been occasions where the removal of one bolt has taken 2-3 days of googling for ideas & trying new things. My tool kit of a few spanners has now grown exponentially to include socket sets (plural!), breaker bars, blow torch, a grinder, impact driver, engine hoist, those funky little sockets for rounded heads (I’ll tell you about those another time) and more.

At this stage of the story, it’s September and the Landy is still recognisable as a Landy – most of the front has been removed but the roof and rear body are still in place. I’ve also ruined the garage floor with oil spills. The more I removed, the worse the rebuild (and costs) are getting. When I took the inner door panel off, I discovered that the door frame (the steel skeleton the panel fixes to) had disintegrated & would need replaced. The bulkhead (the metal bit in front of your knees between you and the engine) was essentially 6ft x 4ft of rust held together by the paint. I can poke my finger through most of it. I could be wrong but I don’t think they’re supposed to be like that; another thing to replace…

There is so much left to do. I’ve been working on this for 2-3 hours every night and all weekend for a month & this is all I’ve got done. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew…

There is some success though, shortly after this picture I got the engine and gearbox out. This involved 7 hours of me and one friend (who had also never removed an engine) wrestling with 2 metres and 300 kg of engine and gearbox (still bolted together) to lift it free of the frame & plonk it on my garage floor. What they don’t show you on TV is that when you relieve the suspension of 1/3rd of a ton of engine, it springs up & alters the position of everything you’re trying to squeeze it past which can be a tad frustrating. Think ‘trying to thread a needle while someone jiggles your arm’ & you’ll get the idea.

Things I have learnt so far:
• When beginning a restoration WASH THE CAR! I cannot adequately describe to you the misery caused by crawling around a cold concrete floor trying to reach a nut when a chunk of dirt drops directly into your eye and instantly sucks every ounce of moisture from it. Wash the car before you start. Power wash it. Then wash it again.
• Buy a grinder - battery powered is good but if it’s a very rusty car, buy a cable powered one. You’ll need it.
• Allow plenty of time. Everything takes WAY longer that you think so set a realistic timeline for yourself.
• Take baby steps. When doing a big job like this, it’s very easy to get disheartened and not bother. Take each little task on its own so you can be happy with little bits of progress. Keep reminding yourself of the end goal; Brenda is going to be awesome!
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