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Wheezil The Deezil

1979 Series III Land Rover 109 Diesil, LWB, 3-Door, 'Countied' Station Wagon

This is 'Wheezil. So to referred, because she has a very asthmatic two and a quarter litre diesel engine, that kind of wheezes along at not a lot of knots.

Any way, I acquired her in the Autumn of 2000. I already had another 109 six cylinder commercial that I had planned to use as the basis of my 'project'.

The six pot had lost its engine at some point and had a two and a quarter four cylinder fitted, but that was not important, because at the time, the plan was to take her down to the chassis and rebuild it as a three door station wagon, with a different engine anyway.

The basic idea centred on using the extra clearance in the six pot's engine bay to be able to fit a Range Rover V8 and Automatic gearbox, which we could then convert to LPG for economy, giving us the power the truck deserved and the ability for my wife to drive it, as she has an Auto only licence.

So, we originally went to look at the Wheezil as a source of spares. She was being sold by a chap nearby who had about three series three's and had acquired this one for a winch on the front, and was selling her on for spares or repairs.

After a little initial investigation, it became clear that both vehicles needed about as much work, but the Wheezil was probably the better starting point. By this time, funds were not in abundance, and just getting a road worthy viable vehicle was more important than having everything we wanted. Compromises were called for.

So, the six pot went, and work started on the Wheezil, which was going to keep its diesel engine until it seized or blew up, when I'd decide what would replace it. More important was getting an MOT on it, and getting some seats in the back for the kids.

When we got her, she had the usual array of series three faults. There were a few holes in the chassis, and the bulkhead, but nothing major. Door tops were completely knackered though. She had two good tyres and three duff ones, and more play than effect in the steering. Brakes seemed reasonable though, and she had some useful accessories, like the overdrive, freewheeling hubs, a kenlow fan and some interior trim.

The first thing that was tackled was the door tops, and military spec aluminium items were soured for a not inconsiderable sum from our Local Landie breakers. Fitting them was a doddle in comparison to getting the old ones off which was done mainly with an angle grinder

Next up was the steering. After stripping off the old steering box, and having a right merry game getting the old steering relay out, and after looking at the six pot before it went, and wondering whether to cannibalise its steering, new parts were ordered from Paddocks, and fitted up.

Next job was to get some seating in the back for the kids. After looking at some pretty ropy benches at the breakers, not finding four that matched, and not liking the price, we decided that it was worth a bit extra to get new ones from BLRS. But, the wife insisted that they needed seat belts. Well, not being a fan of lap straps, and knowing that conventional lap & diagonal seatbelts don't work and can be unsafe in a sideways installation, we ordered six four point rally harnesses from scorpion racing. This really ate into the budget, as they were about 40 each, but having got them all fitted nicely, I can definitely say they were worth it (See Strapped for Seating!). In fact, we got two more to make up the full set a little while later. In the front, there were no seat belts, so I fitted inertia reels.

And with a bit of servicing here and there, and a set of wheels and tyres from Craddocks, it was time for an MOT, which she failed. New headlights were needed. After trying to cannibalise the lamps out of the six pot, a trip to BLRS obtained a Halogen Lamp conversion, that saved a lot of effort getting the lights working, and it was just a question of getting her to the MOT station for welding and re-test. But it was Christmas, and the garage was pretty well booked up

So, with some MOT still left on her I used her to go to work and do the Santa run around the family. Which was when the gearbox broke. Bugger. Things are always tight at Christmas, and I hardly had the money to pay for the welding and MOT, let along a gearbox.

So, I bought an old Montego estate car to get me to work and back, and left the weazil on the drive until some of the credit card balance was paid off.  By the end of February, I could just about afford to splash out on an overhaul kit from Legs, and set to in earnest.

By Easter, I had the box back together, and things were looking hopeful, but we still had a long way to go to get the rest of the car sorted out so we could use her to tow the family caravan down to Somerset for the annual holiday in the beginning of August. And in the end, it became a cheque book race to sort things like a tow bar, towing electrics, and steps so that the wife could get in and out. As we found out that things like the exhaust was rotten the starter motor went, and we discovered the battery was the wrong one and wouldn't hold charge, it all started to mount up, and the addition of a deluxe high back seats for the front seemed insignificant in comparison!

But, all told she was sorted for August, or at least as well as we could get her, and off we went, to see how she coped. In short, she didn't, and we got to Somerset with lots of stops to top up the water. And we only made it back all but the last ten miles before she finally gave up and boiled her engine

A new one was needed. Great, but like Christmas, the credit card bill was bulging from all the money spent getting her fit to take us away, plus holiday expenditure. So I cashed in the tax, stuck her on the drive, and promised to leave it until funds were more plentiful. Luckily that old Montego I'd bought at Christmas had proved a good'un and sailed through an MOT and was still going strong.

Christmas came and went, and she was still languishing on the drive, and it wasn't until March, that I had some money, and having gone through every conceivable option for an engine conversion, decided that anything was better than nothing, and secured another two and a quarter litre Diesel engine, a five bearing version, off the 'going spare' section of the LRO forum.

But that was the easy bit. She still needed a new radiator to stop her boiling again, and new injectors because the old ones had melted when the engine boiled. So, we treated her to a new four core radiator, injectors and a hose set, and by May, she was looking viable again.

With the MOT looming though, it was obvious she was in need of new suspension. The rears had always been saggy, and the fronts always overly hard, and it had always been on the 'to do' list, but now one of the rear springs was cracked. Conveniently I had just been made redundant, so before the severance pay was all lost to bills, I splashed out on a set of parabolic springs, and Monroe 'Adventurer' dampers from Paddocks, and hey what a revelation.

Bit of tinkering saw her through another MOT, and she's been out and about all summer, hauling a bike trailer taking me to Motorbike Trials, full of kids on day trips to the beach, and getting her wheels muddy on some green-laning adventures in Wales.

But that engine is definitely a target for replacement - again. And the clutch doesn't seem to have much life left in her. Second gear is getting awkward to find. I think the brakes might need some attention, and well, the list goes on. But its not a car, its a hobby! And one day, I'll have finished the sound proofing and trimming, and I'll probably overhaul the brakes in the not too distant future, and who knows, maybe I'll swap that engine. It might even be for a Range Rover V8, with auto 'box and gas, just like I originally wanted!

Now, where can I find a suitable Range Rover, with V8 and Auto box.................( I wonder)

The final Chapter:-

Well, all the ideas, goals, aspirations and hopes I had for Wheezil have come to an end. Towards the end of 2005, almost five years after starting work on her, I had to take the enormous decision to break her for spares.

She could have been repaired, but at some point you have to say 'enough' and she was worth more as parts than as a runner, and circumstance meant I couldn't afford keeping her as the third car any more. In fact, circumstances meant that I couldn't even keep her as a FIRST car, any more!

She'd been parked up in April 2004, when that clutch finally gave out; needed the master and slave cylinders replacing to remain in service, but also a 'bit' of welding, to see her through her next MOT.

Marital harmony was probably at its lowest when that clutch cylinder finally went extinct; and I was in the midst of rebuilding Bert's V8 (see Berts Transplant  & From Dead, to RED!) And, well, you just CAN'T do EVERYTHING. So she languished awaiting my attentions. By the time I had any attention to give her, circumstances saw me a disabled, single man and rather a bit 'broke' in more ways than just financially!

Without the demands of a large and hectic family, a huge, antiquated ten-seat vehicle was NOT going to earn it's keep very often in my new found 'life-style'; and would have been more than a little awkward to live with as an 'every-day' motor.

The reason it took me nearly a year to doing anything with her, was that I was still optimistic that at 'some-point' I could get her fixed up and find a use for her; and mean while used an old Metro that had been donated to me as a 'get-about'. When that Metro, was stolen though, I had to do some thinking.

And, it boiled down to something like this; in the year sat on the drive, the amount of welding had increased from a 'Bit'; to actually quite a lot! The passenger side door pillar was shot, as was the rear cross member, but there was also a question mark over a couple of the outriggers. Not undo-able; but not cheap.

If I HAD tried to fix her up, realistically she might have been worth about 1500, more likely 1200 sold on; which given that I REALLY needed an Auto, would of been the only thing I could have practically done with her. BUT, would probably have cost me best part of 500 or more to actually get her into a roadworthy state to be able to sell her.

Economics didn't add up; She had cost probably 4000 in parts to make her what she'd been; and a fairly big chunk of that could be recouped from breaking her and selling those parts on separately; I estimated about 1000 to 1500. didn't make sense then to spend 500, I didn't ACTUALLY have to begin with, to see a possible 500 return on all I'd ever spent; but, spending nothing, and recouping maybe 1000 did.

I deliberated long and hard over it that decision, and I was chastised by at least one fellow enthusiast for breaking an other wise 'good' LWB, simply because they don't fetch the money of their SWB brothers.  Which is a sentiment I wholly agree with, but sorry mate, it wasn't YOUR money in question, and you certainly didn't put your money where your mouth was and offer to buy Wheezil for what I'd have got breaking her, to save her from that ignominy, and neither would any-one else!

Entirely economic decision then, I simply couldn't afford the luxury of sentiment; I needed the money to buy something that I could use as an every day vehicle. And Jumpin'Jack was the answer to that problem, and Wheezil made the ultimate sacrifice to find her.  May you rest in pieces old girl and your memory lives on!

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