Buying a LandRover:
With the new modern age of everybody and their brother bringing in LandRovers because they now supposedly fetch $10K -- I'm not really sure what's going on.
What I do know is this--the vast majority of the Rovers that I see are really bad. I mean there's a lot of junk out there folks (and I own more than a bit of it.) For a good while Da and I saw every car that hit the paper in our area and we were almost always disappointed and lied to. Perfect cars with orignal paint turned out to be dent buckets with houspaint. Rover hunting is a lot like mining for gold, you can get lucky, and all you hear are stories of people getting lucky, but for most people its filled with disappointments. In fact after awhile I became addicted to just the chase. Remember, it should be fun, not a burden -- just be careful to control you expectations.
In the old days what you used to look for was the following, in this order:
2. Body Cosmetics
If you are a glutton for punishment and plan to restore the car (frame up) you might modify the order:
1. Body Cosmetics
The LandRover was gifted with a super strong full box construction welded frame. Few cars have as stiff or strong a frame and this makes Rovers great for off-roading. The drawback is that once water gets in, it doesn't get out that easy and then its rust, ruST, RUST. Da and I dream of the perfect Rover with original "paint on the frame" and no rust. (Also remember to look at the Firewall and door channels, both can be fixed but it is not desired.)
When checking out a Rover's frame:
- Get under it with an old screwdriver. Poke at rust. If you bust though you got problems. See how extensive it is. Patches can be welded in... if you know how to weld. East Coast cars tend to have good bodies and bad frames (English vehicles are often similar).
- Remember to check the firewall and center & rear doorposts if the car is a 109 5 Door. The firewall should be checked from both the engine inside and under the floor mats on the passenger compartment sides.
If you want a Rover cheap, get one with a bad body. You know--dents and stuff. In the 70's and early 80's when the cars went unappreciated, hunters used them as forest buggies and bounced them off rocks and trees. The problem is in the new world of Rovers, Rovers as collector objects, a good body is everything. You know what they say about antiques if you watch the Antiques Road Show: condition is everything. Rovers are no different. It is very hard to make aluminum flat again. It can be done, but just not that well. At current prices people are no longer really breaking down cars so its both difficult and expensive to get true replacement body panels. Remember collectors, you can buy lots of engine parts and even a new frame but not really a new body.
When checking out a Rover's Body:
- Paint: In my mind original paint is the best but rare. Be careful of thick glossy paint jobs. Painting the galvanized trim is a Rover sin and should be avoided. (This is common with many English "restoration" cars.)
- Dents and Dings: While in the sun, look diagonally at the body and see the reflections -- look for dings and dents. Small dings can be filled and are obviously much better than panel warping dents. Fenders are easier to replace then the back tub, which is welded together.
- Droopy Front Fenders: Often walking on the fenders causes them to drop towards the sides. This is not that easy to fix.
- Interior: An original dotted gray vinyl interior is sacred. They are very rare. Personally, I can live without one and it is a bonus to get a car with a good interior. True replacement parts are hard to come by but if this is your only problem, buy the car-- its probably a really good one.
- Look for missing or Busman mechanics fixed items.
- Check the condition of the weatherstripping. It is usually in bad shape and is relatively expensive to replace. Bad weatherstripping is not usually the problem, rust from bad weatherstripping is.
- Open and close the doors -- make sure the metal chanels are not cracked at the joints. The rear door is especially susceptable to this.
Remember: you can always buy a new engine and rebuild a box (But you really don't want too). It only costs money but the "inside" parts are easy to get, with Fed-X it only takes a day!
When checking out a Rover's Mechanicals:
I am not going to go into copious detail here because you are either a good mechanic or not (I am at best a mediocre one). If you are not too confident in this venue, it is good to hire a mechanic to check the car. Rover's are not that different from other cars--compression can be checked etc. I will just list a few common things to check for:
- Noisy box: Most Rover boxes are noisy but how noisy? Just listen to the transmission and transfer box. Very noisy is bad. Remember to try putting the car in four wheel drive low and high etc. When I first bough Littlecar, she turned out to be stuck in four wheel drive high due to a missing pivot bolt.
- Noisy Overdrives: Many Rover have had after market overdrives installed. The oil was often run low and the bearings burn out. Listen for noisy overdrives. Again loud is bad.
- Steering and Steering Boxes: On all Rover products this seems to be a problems. When you drive the Rover, see how much play there is in the steering. If it is hard to keep the car on the road since it seems to swerve side to side with the wheel still, this is bad. Steering boxes are difficult to rebuild and are expensive to buy in the US rebuilt.
- Running Gear: In my experience this is usually pretty good. The rear diff can go but just listen for how loud it is. Axle half shafts blow all the time but then the car will not run. Outer oil seals leak but this is not that bad. Inner oil seals are harder to fix and are often blown -- check for oil in the drums or dripping out of the drums.
- Saggy Springs and Bad Bushings: These are old cars and have generally had rough lives. Both of these things can be replaced. Just check them.
- Brakes: Rover breaks are not "fabulous." Check them. Rovers take dot 4 break fluid and American gas stations usually do not understand this. Dot 3 eats the system's natural rubber like acid and kills all the seals. You can peal back dust covers and check for fluid but this obviously requires pulling the drums and is this is a little above the call of duty for the average mechanical check. Just look for fluid leaking from between the drum and the drum backing plate; yellow is break fluid, black is a blown inner oil seal.
- Remember to check the little things: windshield wipers, switches, gages, door locks etc. They addd up.
Well, that's all that comes to mind right now. I'll add to the list as time goes on and suggestions are sent in. Good luck and may the Rover of your dreams find you....
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