The first body panel I wanted to complete was the bulkhead (or firewall). The reason for this is that all your sub-systems bolt to the firewall, including clutch assembly, brake assembly, steering, electrics, accelerator, etc. The sooner I could get these sub-systems functioning, the sooner I'd be able to actually drive the vehicle, and thus test the engine and gearbox.
I had previously hot-dipped galvanised the bulkhead and radiator panel, as they are made from mild steel, and extremely prone to corrosion. This meant there was a fair amount of cleaning up (grinding away slag and metal drips, drilling out of zinc-filled holes, sanding rough surfaces, etc) to be done before I could paint it. Also, the finish was never going to be perfect without loads of body filler and/or filler-primer, both of which I was loathe to use. I'd rather a less-than-perfect finish, than know I has used oodles of filler.
Once cleaned, I did my first spray run in the new spray booth, on the bulkhead and radiator panel. First a coat of self-etch primer, then followed by the 2k final colour. The result was very satisfying (seeing a fresh coat of bright, new shiny paint on the part!), even though it was not the best spray job... (again, I'd rather do it myself and have it not perfect, than farm the job out to a professional. I mean, where would the fun, or learning, be in that!?).
With the newly painted bulkhead on convenient (home-made) stands, I could begin to refurbish each sub-system and mount/install it onto the bulkhead. As per the rest of this project, I stripped and refurbished every single item, before rebuilding it onto the vehicle.
The various dash panels (which were badly weather beaten and dull) received a thorough cleaning, and a coat of Rustoleum Vinyl Paint. The product is amazing, and the panels came up like new. Fitting the 80% complete bulkhead to the vehicle went fairly smoothly, and once in place, I could finalise the steering column, accelerator linkage, and brake and clutch lines.
The first body panel that I decided to refurbish and spray was the rear load bin. I thought it would be the easiest item, as it is self-contained, and bolts to the chassis with just a few bolts, so what could possibly got wrong.....? I stripped off ALL body filler from the tub (and there was loads, and it was all peeling off in large slabs!), and returned it to bare metal. I panel-beated where I could to get the aluminium back to as close to straight as I could. I decided to leave good enough alone, and not try and fill imperfections with more body filler - a Series Landy should show its character by proudly displaying a few scars (I was actually surprised at how good I could get the panels in the end - not sure why the previous owner used so much body filler!?).
As it turns out (lo and behold!), the tub is one of the most complex items to spray, given its size and complexity (and the limited space I have in my spray booth). I thus decided to do it in three stages, first underneath, then inside, then outside, masking off the previously sprayed sections after each stage.
When I came to fitting the bin, I realised that the chassis had warped during the galvanising process! The rear section had "arched" more, making it almost impossible to get the bin bolted to its attachment points AND getting it aligned with the doors and front wings! Much cursing, modifying and two full days later, I had it all in place, and aligned to within a millimeter or two of the rest of the vehicle.
With the rear tub finished, I could hone my basic spray-painting skills (did I mention how difficult this seemingly straightforward task is!?) on the rest of the body panels, first the door skins, then moving on to the front wings and bonnet. By the time I reached the bonnet, I had managed to get a pretty mirror-like finish to the paint, but given that the rest of the vehicle was decidedly less than perfect, I opted to sand the bonnet down (three times!) and give it a sympathetic, less than perfect final coat....(well, that's mostly true, but another reason I had to do this was that in my final, mirror-like finish, I let the paint in a small corner of the bonnet run! Rookie error!). Anyway, just as my skills were developing to the point I could start a new career as a paint shop apprentice in a dodgy part of town, the body panels ran out, and it was time to start assembling things...
Whilst a Series Landy might be much like a Meccano set, it is certainly not a precision built luxury vehicle! Getting the various body panels to align, without yawning gaps and distorted flat surfaces was a test of patience and determination. Furthermore, installing solid rivets over an already finished spray job takes courage and finesse, especially when one finds out later that the supplier used a magnesium/aluminium alloy which, despite being tougher and more resistant to shearing, is a complete bitch to bash into position... I had to enlist the services of my teenage daughter, as the process is definitely a two-person job. Much pushing, pulling, banging, squeezing and cursing later, the Landy started to look like a production line vehicle again....
When I purchased my vehicle, the original seats had been long since removed, and replaced with ugly bucket seats from an unknown donor vehicle (probably a Toyota, heaven forbid!!). Traditionally the Series 3 had three separate, individual front seats. In addition to just not having these seats, I kind of love the idea of a three-person bench seat for cruising around the neighbourhood. I thus found an old, rusty (and heavily modified) frame for a Landy bench seat at a scrap yard, and proceeded to fix it up and return it to original condition. It was the genuine thing, complete with tilting brackets, spring steel seat "cushions", and sliding rails to adjust the seat position (important if you see the height discrepancy between my loving wife and I!). After stripping it down, filling all the pitting, removing the welded attachments (like head rests, for heavens sake!), I primed and painted it in a gloss black, with a bit of clear coat over for good measure. Considering most of the frame was to be covered in foam and leather, it was a bit of an overkill, but I felt good knowing the insides of the seat were as good as new.
The three-person bench seat suited our family just right, and gave a bit of an "old school" feel to the vehicle. I decided to get it covered in tan automotive leather, and wanted a simple design with a small touch of class. As it is a seat that is going to be exposed to dirt, dust and (no doubt!) some good old Landy engine and gearbox oil, I went with some black, double-needle stitching to give a slightly sophisticated (in Land Rover terms...) look.
Being a specialised job, I outsourced the job to "The Leatherboyz" in Centurion. I was a bit apprehensive as to how it was going to turn out (those who know me will know I am a bit of a control freak, and entrusting my baby to a bunch of tattoo'ed biker dudes took a giant leap of faith!), but I must say, I love the finished result (and the tattoo'ed bikers were brilliant!)! It is extremely comfortable (thanks to the steel-sprung frame), and just rounds the vehicle off nicely!
Whilst cruising the neighbourhood topless (the Landy, that is...) is seriously cool and a veritable babe-magnet (well, I like to tell myself that...), it does wreak havoc on one's chrome dome (yeah, yeah, I know...!) when the neighbourhood is in a hot, sunny clime such as South Africa! Sitting in a parking lot, or waiting at a traffic light (or just the extended journey times typical of a Series Landy!) can become a little uncomfortable after a while. It was thus that I decided to refurbish the truck cab that was originally on the vehicle.
The fibre-glass roof was severely damaged, and needed some resin repairs in places, some body filler, and much filler primer. I decided to paint it the same "limestone" that the wheels are painted, rather than going for the traditional white (mostly because I had half a tin of paint left over!). The cab windows had some serious aluminium galvanic corrosion where steel rivets had been used in the aluminium sheeting (installed originally like that by the factory!?). Furthermore, the rubber window seals had deteriorated badly, but I decided to scrape them down and scrub with spirits rather than buying new ones, which turned out really nicely.
The final result was very pleasing indeed! I can now cruise the trails all day long...! (the door tops will be next on the list....)