During my search for a Series Land Rover, I came across a plethora of trucks that were within my price range. But time and again, after closer inspection (usually via images on craigslist or on forums) it would become apparent that the low price on the truck was due, in part, to a frame that was beyond repair. Off to YouTube I went to see if I could find videos of people doing frame swaps on Series trucks. Sure enough, there were a handful of timelapse videos showing the process.
Knowing my limited skill and tool set, I quickly realized this would be beyond what I wanted to get into. But maybe if I picked up a truck cheap enough, I could have a local shop do the swap for me, and I’d still be into the truck for less than ten grand? A quick search online showed that I could get a brand new galvanized frame in the ballpark of $3000. A few calls around, and my hopes were dashed, with quotes anywhere from six to ten thousand for the labor of doing a frame swap.
So back to searching I went, until I stumbled upon what would eventually be the truck I purchased, at a reasonable price, and with a frame that had no holes and nothing more than surface rust. It had been sitting in a garage for a good portion of its life, and then under a tarp on a driveway for the last 5 or so years, which I presume, somehow, helped to keep the rust at bay.
After a few evenings and only a handful of bolts, the hood, front wings, roof, doors, rear tub and seat bench were all removed, leaving a fully exposed frame. I was relieved to see that under even closer inspection, the frame really was in good condition, aside from flaking paint and surface rust. Starting at the front and working my way back, I used a combination of tools including an angle grinder, orbital sander, and wire wheel to remove as much of the surface rust as possible.
Our good friends at Eastwood donated everything we would need to get the frame ready to go from here. Chassis Kleen was used to remove the grease and prep the areas to be painted. Two coats of Rust Encapsulator were then applied, which acts to seal the bare metal from future corrosion. We chose the gray color for this step so we’d be better able to see the next step, black chassis paint. We chose Eastwood’s Extreme Chassis Black, a step up from the standard product, in a satin black finish. It may not be factory correct, but this project was never meant to be anything more than a fun driver.
With the frame completed, it was time to move on to the suspension. Bearmach supplied us with a set of four new leaf springs and Monroe shocks, so we got to work swapping out the old for the new. The process started smooth enough on the front suspension, only requiring a single bolt to be cut out with a saw-zawl. But when it came time for installing the new equipment, the troubles began. First there was the U bolts, which were simply beyond reuse, so I was able to get a new set from the local auto parts store. Unfortunately, they were a 1/16th of an inch too thick, which meant I had to drill out the holes in the plates that hold the springs to the axles.
Then there were the cotter pins. Oh, the cotter pins. The very last step of installing the suspension in each corner was to slide a cotter pin through a hole in the post that the bottom of the shock slides over. The bushings of the shock needed to be compressed, but this is much harder said than done. The first one took over an hour. The second wasn’t any better. With the front suspension completed, I then moved on to the rear. This went smoother when I enlisted the help of a friend, until we tried to install the final shock on the rear passenger side. Even with the shock fully extended, it was a good 3” away from the mounting post.
Top Tip – when installing shocks, they are NOT identical from front to rear, even if the Haynes manual says they are (see picture). So, for probably the sixth time, I had to remove the front shocks and their nasty little cotter pins, install the proper set on the front, and then install the proper shocks in the rear. Throughout the process the truck never sat quite right, which was making me worried that I had royally screwed something up along the way. It wasn’t until we had the final shock completed that the truck sat level, which was a great relief.
It must be said, this suspension is very stiff. I’ve heard stories of people carrying around bricks in the back of their trucks just to weigh it down and make the ride softer. If the ride really is that harsh, I might consider removing some of the leaves from the springs and/or looking into long-travel shocks. But before I worry too much about the ride quality, there’s a long list of work that still needs to be done.