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V8 Conversions

Like Skinning cats, there's more than one way to do it!

Introduction

This is a Rover V8 engine. The observant among you will probably recognise this one as the one I lovingly crafted for Bert, but what the heck, I recycle images, OK!

Beautiful, isn't it? And they SOUND wonderful! Any way, stuffing one into a Series Land Rover is something of legend, and enthusiasts have been doing it almost as long as they have been able to get hold of V8's and Land Rovers to stuff them in!

They've been stuffing them into other vehicles too - because the Rover V8 is probably about the most stuffable engine there is, but that's another matter. Land Rover - V8 the two just have an affinity for each other. Makes you wonder why it took the factory until 1978 to do it themselves. However. How feasible is it? How difficult is it? Is it REALLY a good idea?

Right, well, lets start with

Recommended Reading

On this web-site, and probably essential reading if you are considering an engine conversion:-

You can do ANYTHING to a Landy!
Taking on a Project
Engine Choices

Then, if you are interested, for further reading, we have:-

Gearing Option
Dropping in a V8
V8 into Light-weight
Engines - At a Glance
Gas Guzzler? (all about LPG - Cheap Fuel)

And I can presume that you have a reasonably good idea about what its all about and what might be involved, before we begin.

Don't Tempt Me!

Weighing up all of the alternative engine conversions possible; if you are prepared to go to the effort of a conversion and can live with the resultant 'mongrel', then the V8 conversion REALLY makes a lot of sense and has everything going for it.

A lot of alternative conversions were offered using Japanese diesels or Ford V6's, when the availability of V8's wasn't as good, and when people were very concerned about their economy and the difficulty of fitment.

These days, with so many Range Rover engines available, the little extra effort involved fitting a V8 compared to say a v6, is negligible, and you have the benefits that it is a well tried and tested conversion, and an engine that is at least designed to go into a Land Rover.

Yes, V8's are thirsty. That is the BIGGEST criticism of them, and there really cannot be any argument to the contrary. In a 4x4, be it, Land Rover, Range Rover or Discovery, even in 'mild' states of tune, these things struggle to return 20mpg, and typical figures are around 15mpg, give or take a couple.

But, that is really about the only thing you can criticise about the engine. And it can be answered with LPG. Other wise, it is powerful, torquey, responsive, durable, reliable and bloody well supported.

Wet electrics? Oh come on! It's a petrol engine, and it's got twice the number of HT leads as is usual! I've heard THAT argument to justify oil burners SO many times, I cant count. And the answer is maintenance and preparation. Prepare and maintain a V8 and it will work as well in harsh conditions as anything else. And proof of the pudding? V8's are STILL the favourite engine for comp-trial, hill-rally and 'extreme' events. Why? Because they work. That's why.

Interesting comparison, I've probably mentioned before, but every single V8 variant, has both more power and more torque at ANY given rpm than a 200Tdi engine. That means it will always be able to deliver more motive force to the wheels, and, it will respond on the pedal like no diesel can match.

AND, if you do some comparisons on MPG, you'll find that while the V8 is about 30% down on MPG compared to the TDi, run it on gas, and it's 30% cheaper, miles per . Yes, all that power AND better economy!  Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

Bottom line is, that a V8 conversion is FAR from a silly idea.  But, don't get too enthusiastic, too quickly, because  there are ways and there are ways of doing a V8 conversion, and unless you have a clear idea of what you are about from the beginning, it can easily prove a nightmare job!

Period or Hybrid?

There are basically two ways of V8ing a Series Land Rover; and I refer to them as the 'Period' conversion; and the 'Hybrid' conversion.

The Period conversion, is a conventional hot-rodding exercise, keeping the Series Landy's gearbox and transmission, and most other major mechanical parts.

The 'Hybrid' conversion, takes the job a lot further, utilising a lot more parts from a donor Range Rover; most significantly it's axles and coil spring suspension.

Using different Series parts and Rangie parts gives hundreds of permutations in the recipe; but, by far and away the simplest way of doing the job is to use the Range Rover's chassis, to which all the mechanicals should attach without any further adaptation, and simply graft the Series Land Rovers body over the top.

But even THAT has room for variation; The Range Rover's chassis can simply be 'bobbed' as it would for a Bob-Tail Range Rover, by  removing the rear over hang, and welding a series or 90 cross member in where the legs are abbreviated, leaving  the wheelbase at 100". Or the chassis can be further cut down between the axles, to typically the 88" of a SWB SIII, though some people cut them to 90", or 86" or even 80" and sometimes wheelbases in between!

And then there's the question of body work; and what body bits to use, and some cut down LWB rear tubs to suit the longer chassis lengths, others use 90/110 body parts, others Series parts. Mixed and matched with aftermarket fibreglass panels and some-times fabricated bits of body.

But What are the advantages & disadvantages, and can you do anything in between?

OK, well if you follow the 'Period' conversion, you have to mate the V8 to a series gearbox. This takes a little engine-uity, and an adapter kit, and a fair bit of tin bashing to get it squeezed in. BUT, it can be done fairly easily without having to take the whole car to bits.

Though, it might be a good idea to do that any way.

Standard Landy engine has about sixty or seventy horse-power. Even the most lowly variant of V8 is likely to have more than double that, and some of them possibly more than tripple. That sort of power up, is going to rapidly find out what bits of your Series Landie aren't up to par.

So, the advice is that before fitting a V8 to a Series, the brakes, steering, suspension, transmission, and chassis, should all be checked over, overhauled, and made good. Brakes and transmission, ideally should also be upgraded as far as possible.

And it is that particular idea that makes the 'Hybrid' route look more appealing.

Right, Iets follow the logical development of a 'Period' conversion, to see how we get from there to the full on 'Hybrid' and why, depending on how far you want to go, you may be better off starting at one end or the other and not attempting something in the middle.

Before Range Rover production was ramped up in the mid 1980's, the main source of V8's was from scrapped Rover Saloon cars, as these were the more plentiful. Range Rovers and thier transmissions were not so plentiful, and so if you wanted to V8 your landy, there was little alternative but to use the standard Series gearbox and mechanicals.

When Land Rover, developed the Range Rover, they deemed the Series 3 transmission and axles as too weak to exploit the V8 engine's power, so used a new gearbox and transfer box to cope with the additional load.

The main thing about this was that they gave it permanent four wheel drive, so where the Series transmission, in high range, normally delivered all the engines power to the back axle, the Range rover transmission split it equally between the two. Makes sense; Landie engine makes about 60-70bhp, Range Rover 120-140, so halve it and the power to each axle's about he same, right?

The next thing they did was to give it disk brakes all round, and coil suspension.

So, we have four considerations here; Brakes, Axles, Gearbox, Chassis.

Brakes

Now, starting with the Series axles, the scope for improvement starts with what you have to begin with. SWB Landies got smaller and narrower drum brakes than their LWB brothers, and had to make do without any servo assistance. Later, Long Wheel base Landies, got biger, wider drums, with bigger cylinders to work them, and the help of a brake servo.

When Land Rover came to build the 'Stage 1' V8 Series Land Rover, they opted to keep the Series 3's drum brakes, but of the later LWB specification.

Conveniently, this system is interchangeable with the SWB items, so, if you don't have later LWB spec drum brakes, quite reasonable to upgrade to it, and achieve adequate retardation to slow a Series from the sort of velocities a V8 can propel one to.

But, I say 'adequate'. Well set up, and well maintained, that's all the drums ever are, and I know from experience that they are can easily be hard pressed, and after a long steep decent have seen rain water steaming of my front drums, and the front wheels actually too hot to touch!

So, going to discs, is an attractive option. Unfortunately, not a very feasible one, the Range Rover hubs aren't interchangeable on the Series Axles, and though I've seen a couple of conversions, they weren't easy ones.

There are however two proprietary kits, available, one from Zeus, and the other from TIConsole. Both are however, rather expensive, though the reports I've heard of them have generally been positive.

Which raises the question of using Range Rover axles, to get the Rangies, disc brakes. 

Axles

As mentioned, Land Rover didn't deem the Series axles strong enough to cope with V8 power, reliably, or at least the standard Rover ones, so used permanent four wheel drive to 'share' the power between them and effectively halve the load on each axle.

If you are keeping the standard Series transmission, or transfer box, this is not an option, so what can you do?

Well, if you have a LWB, then the S3 models got a 'Salisbury' back axle, which is significantly stronger than the Rover item, and CAN handle the power reasonably reliably. So, if you are V8ing an S3 LWB, no problem. If you are V8ing an S2 LWB, simply a matter of fitting the S3 Salisbury and propshaft, which conveniently are directly interchangeable.

On a SWB its another matter though. Salisbury CAN be used, but its a bit more tricky. First up, the rear spring mounts on a SWB are under the chassis rails as they are at the front, but on a LWB they are outboard of the chassis rails, so some adaptation is required. Easiest option is probably to weld LWB spring mounts to the SWB chassis, but, if ultimate axle articulation is important, probably better to grind off the axle bosses and weld new ones to bring the spring mounting inboard to suit the SWB chassis mounts.

Then, you simply have the problem of needing to have the propshaft professionally shortened, because the diff-housing on the Salisbury is significantly longer. And it may be prudent to have the universal joints changed for wide or extreme angle items at he same time, because, being so short, it has to move though a much tighter arc to travel the same distance.

Worth mentioning, but when an axle 'breaks' its not usually the casing that collapses, but something in the drive line inside, and the bits most likely to break are the half shafts, which twist and eventually snap, or the planet gears in the differential, that have a habit of collapsing.

Also worth noting, is that these parts are often greatly neglected, and are as likely to fail through wear as they are from abuse, as anything else. And, conveniently some of the transmission specialists actually offer heavy duty or up rated diff-centres and half shafts. Which is good news, because, it does mean that here is the opportunity to improve reliability or axle strength by simply reconditioning the axle and or adding up rated parts to it, though the upgrade bits, as ever, aren't cheap.

So what about using Range Rover axles?

Well, the Range Rover axle, is actually a derivative of the Series Rover axle, and just as weak. In fact, as its 4" wider and so has longer half shafts, it's probably a bit more susceptible than a series item.

However, we have already established, treated with a bit of respect, and possibly overhauled and upgraded, the rover axle probably shouldn't be too difficult to live with, so neither should the Rangie items. However, they are NOT an upgrade for reliability or strength, that comes from the switch to permanent four wheel drive, that lowers the loadings to something the Rover axles can tolerate.

But, the Rangie axles are appealing. 4" extra track width is useful for stability and articulation, basically, you get less 'twist' for a given distance of wheel travel, so twist it as far and you have got more wheel travel. And, of course they have those useful disc brakes on them, and in the front, a feature that is important if you do go permanent four wheel drive, CV joints instead of universal joints in the steering swivels, between the half shafts and hubs, but I'll deal with that later, under 'Flex Joints'

Problems though come from the fact that Range Rover axles are designed to be hung on coil springs, and located by radius arms, panhard link or A-Frame, not leaf springs. Again, not an insurmountable problem, but......

Two possibilities; adapt the Rangie axles to fit the leaf springs, or adapt he chassis to take Rangie coils and links.

If you choose to keep the leaf springs, you need to grind all the coil and location rod mounts off the axle and weld on suitable bosses for the leaf springs. Not a problem at the back, but at the front, it is a bit more trickly, due to the steering arrangement.

On a Series axle, the track rod, linking the steering on either side, is ahead of the axle, whereas on a Rangie, its behind the axle, and the runs of the track rod and drag link are lower, to clear the coil suspension locating links, but when placed on leaf mounts would foul the leaf springs. This means that some intriguing solution needs to be found to make the track rods clear and line up - remember the axle's wider, so the drag links going to be the wrong length, and usually the axle has to be mounted about an inch further away from the spring, which robs some clearance and suspension travel.

Picture shows a Rangie axle being fitted up to go on leaf springs, in this case parabolic ones, which give a 2" lift so in some way compensating for some of the difficulties.

But, the extra track width, combined with the extra clearance because the wheels steering arc isn't restricted by suspension locating rods, gives a great opportunity to reduce the turning circle, and is favoured by comp trailers.

Going the other way, you can simply weld coil and linkage mounts to the Series chassis to suit the Range Rover coil arrangement and use that in its entirety, though again, some ingenuity is still require red to hook up the steering.

Gearbox

Right, well as said, in times gone by, there wasn't much alternative to using a Series gearbox. It's not the strongest in the world, but it will suffice, if its in decent condition to start with, and looked after. But, it would be nice to use something a bit more durable and able to cope better with the power.

Now, as said, in times gone by, most donor engines came not from Range Rovers. but Rover Saloon cars. And the SD1, quite early on was fitted with the LT77 5-speed gearbox. Was about five years before that found its way into the Range Rover and the then new 90 & 110.

However, great device, well able to cope with the power of a V8, and conveniently having a genuine 25% over drive fifth gear, and better still, the things were sat attached to the V8 engine in the donor car in the scrap yard. Didn't take long before some-one had the idea of making up an adapter plate to attach the SD1 engine and gearbox to the Series transfer box, instead of the engine to the series gear box, and for a while, Ashcroft transmissions offered a commercial conversion kit for it, which is sadly no longer available.

I say sadly, because the Series Transfer box, is reputedly a lot tougher than the series main gearbox, and in the USA, where Rover V8's aren't as plentiful, they've put small block 350Ci (5.4l) Chevy power through them!

But, far easier these days, to source an LT77 from a Range Rover or 90/110, and use its accompanying transfer box, which offers permanent four wheel drive.....

Which is a bit useful, because that brings us back to Rover's own solution to the weak axle problem, doesn't it!

Flex Joints

OK, well, this was Rover's solution to the weak axle problem, how difficult is it? Well, provided you can source a Rangie or 90/110 gear & transfer box, cheaply and easily, its no great burden, on its own. As with fitting the engine, needs a bit of fabrication to get the mountings to line up on the chassis rails, and maybe a bit of tin bashing to poke the control levers through the Series transmission tunnel, and blank of the holes where levers aren't used any more.

But, reasonably straight forward, and unless you relocate the engine significantly, chances are you can use standard length prop shafts from one or other models.

BUT, what axles are you using?

Useful, because it shares the power between the axles all the time, so puts less load on the back axle, BUT, series axle depended on NOT having much load put on it to get away with having universal joints in the steering swivels between the hubs and the half shafts.

Now, this is where it gets a bit complicated.

Basically a universal joint is like the one in the propshaft, two U-shaped 'yokes' with an 'X' shaped 'spider' between them, forming a two axis hinge that lets rotary power get bent through an angle. Its just like the knuckle joint in your ratchet set.

Now, the thing about a knuckle joint, is that it's not a constant velocity joint! If you imagine, when the two halves of the joint are straight, twist the shaft and however far you twist the one end, the other end must twist as well, right?

OK, now flex the joint through thirty degrees or so. Now, as you twist one end of the the shaft, the distance that the other end of the shaft travels, depends on the angle between the yokes.

Basically, there is a couple of geometry phenomenon, and you know how as a piston goes up and down, it slows down towards the top and bottom, and speeds up half way up and down, well, the knuckle joint does the same thing.

Rotate the one end of the joint at a constant angular speed, and the other end of the joint will rotate fast for quarter of a turn, then slow for quarter of a turn, so that it's average speed is the same, but its constantly accelerating and decelerating, depending on the angle of the spider. It sort of 'pulses' rather than turns smoothly, and the further you flex the joint, the worse this pulsing gets.

Now, on a propshaft, the problem's not that great, because you generally have one at either end of the shaft, and the pulsing caused by the knuckle joint at the one end is corrected by the knuckle joint at the other, so while the prop-shaft in the middle between the yokes of either knuckle, might 'pulse' the two ends of the shaft at the driven and driving flanges turn smooth, at roughly matching speeds.

Well, in theory, and the practice almost matches the theory; only thing is that it can lead to a little bit of vibration, which is why having your props properly balanced is so important. But any way.

In a steering swivel, you don't have two joints to counter one another. So, if you use a universal joint, when you turn the steering, the front wheel, is going to 'pulse' and try and go faster and slower than the road, and the tighter you turn the steering, worse its going to get.

This is not helpful. A Land Rover wheel is about 30" in diameter, and it's circumference is about 7 feet or 96 inches. Which is quarter of an inch per degree of revolution.

Now, imagine the back wheel is going round at a nice constant speed, but as you go to turn a corner, the front wheel tries to speed up, and then tries to slow down, through this pulsing effect, and we aren't talking tiny amounts here, we are talking about the wheel trying to skip forwards and backwards by as much as perhaps an inch!

Grab a hold of a wheel, with your Landy sitting on the drive and try and turn it just 1/4" in against the tarmac. Your not going to do it with brute force, are you, so imagine the sort of loading its going to put on the half shafts and diffs!

Now, like I said, Series 3, got round the problem by relying on the fact that it had selectable four wheel drive, and when on anything but a loose surface, there shouldn't be any drive to the front axle.

On a loose surface, that pulsing 'scrub' is easily wasted against the loose surface, but on hard tarmac, that force has to be absorbed by the transmission, and it wont like it, it will make it wear out or break, and it will make the steering feel horrible and notchy, and not nice at all.

So, what is needed is a flex joint that doesn't pulse, which is technically called a constant Velocity or CV joint, and conveniently, Rover, in their wisdom, chose to use these in Rangie axles.

But how does it work?

Well, there are a number of different designs of CV joint, the simplest is known as a 'flexible coupling'. Basically a block of rubber, with a shaft attached at either end, so that as the joint is flexed the rubber deforms, but the whole thing turns at he same rate.

Cheap, simple and effective, the flexible coupling however is not very efficient, and has a limited 'flex' or 'load' capacity. Ie: you can have one that will flex a fair bit, but it wont take a lot of load, or you can have one that will take more load, but wont flex very much. Not ideal for a drive line steering joint, but useful in say a steering column shaft.

So, slightly more robust arrangements tend to use spherical joints of some description. Idea is, one end of the shaft has a ball on it, other end of the shaft has a cup, that he ball sits in, and the two are keyed together in some way, so that hey turn at he same speed, no matter what angle they are twisted through.

On most modern saloon cars, the half shafts usually have long 'compound' joints, where the 'cup' is actually a long sleeve, with three or four slots in it, and the ball sits in that with pins keying into the slots, so that not only does it flex, like a universal joint, but it also slides like the telescopic portion of a prop shaft.

On the Range rover, however, there is a very elegant arrangement. It's a 'classic' spherical joint, with the cup end on the half shaft and the ball end on the hub, and both are splined, and keyed together with ball bearings, so that it can flex through a very useful angle, very smoothly, but also transmit a lot of load, very efficiently whilst doing so. Only thing is, bit of very expensive precision engineering.

Which was why, they didn't use them until they had to.

So after that little bit of scientific explanation, I suppose I'd better explain the relevance as far as our V8 conversion goes!

Right, back to our gearbox and axle problems; V8 is a high power unit, and while we can put the sort of power we might expect from a carburetted Range Rover engine through one fairly comfortably, with a few precautions and a little respect, if we want something a bit more robust, or capable of a more highly tuned motor, than going to a permanent four wheel drive transmission: a) gives us a stronger gearbox b) puts a lower loading on the back axle; BUT, we need CV joints in the front axle, if we don't want to have trouble with that instead.

Range Rover axles, conveniently have CV joints in them, and disk brakes, which we have also considered to be advantageous, but, they are not a direct fit to a Series suspension or steering.

So, can we fit Range Rover CV joints into a Series axle? Unfortunately, No. However, there are a couple of alternatives. And, going back to our favourite 'goody' suppliers, TIConsole offer a CV joint conversion for the Series axle, though like their brakes and their suspension, they're not that cheap.

What's more appealing, is the front axle from a Series 3 Stage 1 V8, which had the same problem, of having a permanent four wheel drive gearbox, so needed CV joints, but as it has Leaf springs and a Series type steering arrangement and track width, is a direct replacement for the stock Series front axle.

Only thing is, it has a 3.5:1 differential in it, so you need to make sure that you change it for a 4.7:1 diff to match the one in the Series back axle, or fit a 3.5:1 diff to the back axle, other wise the front wheels are going to be trying to turn 25% faster than the rears!

Bit tricky to fit a 3.5:1 diff in a Salisbury axle, as they aren't easy to get hold of, and if you can, damned difficult to swap - but conveniently Stage 1 had a Salisbury back axle, with a matching 3.5:1 diff, so, you could use both - if on a SWB, though, see comments on using a Salisbury made earlier!

But 3.5:1 diffs are another 'useful' thing to have if you have a permanent four wheel drive transmission, as the permenant four wheel drive transfer boxes, have more reduction in them than the series transfer box; so keeping the 4.7:1 diffs would negate the benefit of the 25% over drive 5th gear.

Chassis

OK, well, what about the chassis? Well, to begin with, if you are uprating to a V8, it's probably a good idea to make sure that its pretty sound to begin with, and that means looking at all of the outriggers and mounting points, to make sure that the metal's solid and there's no diff welds or patches or thin sections where rust has got a hold.

Even the youngest Series 3's are getting on a bit now, and most will have been plated or repaired on more than a few occasions to get them through their annual MOT. So, if you are going to do the job properly, is it worth, starting with a questionable trellis?

I mean, it may not sound like a lot of work to 'weld on new engine mounts' or tack on Range Rover Coil mounts. But if, and its likely, when you actually come to try it, you have to start plating or replacing large sections to find good metal to weld your new mounts to, job is going to be rather a lot bigger than you planned.

And, what's the 'plan'. If you have the notion of adapting the Series chassis to take a Range Rover gearbox and suspension, so that you can use the Range Rover axles, as well as the V8, then you have a lot of iron mongery to graft onto that poor old Series chassis. If you have a donor Range Rover sitting there, might be less work involved taking that patching it where it failed it's MOT and cutting it down to suit the series body work!

But, then again, end of the day, what would you have? A rebodied Range Rover, in series cloths. Not quite a V8 Ninety, but, probably having cost a lot more time, effort and expense to aquire!

In most cases, following the 'Hybrid' route to its logical conclusion, I think that hat is the point that you get to, and you really have to ask, what is the objective? Because it seems that he end result has little to offer that you couldn't have got a lot more easily, starting at a different point. Or has it?

Weighing it up?

Well, if you stick to a 'period' conversion, and keep it as standard Series as possible, then the time, work, effort and cost, might be kept within reasonable bounds, and the 'project' not get out of control.

Likewise, if you start with a dead Range Rover, or Disco, and keep it as complete as possible, making the donor chassis good and the mechanicals sound, before adapting the Series body work to suit, again, the 'project' has some hope of being kept within reasonable limits and not consuming an inordinate amount of time, effort or money.

In between, however, there is a mine field of opportunity for taking things 'just that bit further' or having to go back and re-think or start over, as you encounter each successive problem, or for ending up with something that, practically, is a nightmare to live with, because its basically, botched.

But, half the pleasure is not in getting to the destination, but in the enjoyment of the journey, and for many, the satisfaction of building something the way you want to, and of over coming the problems you find along the way, is more important than how much it cost, how well it performs or how long it took to build.

And some times, regulations, especially for competition, impose constraints and considerations beyond the mere economical.

So there MAY be some very good reasons for undertaking a project, and taking it to whatever level of 'hybridisation' that suits. But be don't say you haven't been warned. It's not a cheap or easy option.

Comes down to advice I've already given, and taking a long hard look at the balance of compromises, and what's practical, what's feasible, what's economical, what you want to achieve, how much its worth and what's most important to you.

Scenarios

Now few people have an infinite budget, but lets have a look at a 'typical' scenario. A Series 3 owner has a SWB with a tired 2.25 petrol in it, and a chassis that needs a bit of welding for the MOT, so is pondering the possibilities of doing a 'renovation' and sorting out a load of 'stuff', all in one go.

As the engine is tired, the first question is is it worth fixing, or is it easier to do a conversion, and would that give any significant performance or economy gains. And since the body is going to come off so that he chassis can be properly 'sorted' or replaced, would it be very much more difficult or expensive to go that bit further, and if so, how far?

Right, well, lets start with the 2.25Petrol engine, lets re-read the 'engine Choices' article, and have a long hard think.

We know, that the 'Period' conversion, is fairly well tried and tested, and the idea of a V8 with all that power, is very seductive, with the idea of putting it on gas and getting better economy than an oil burner, sounds just too good to be true.

Next, we have the notion, that going for a full on hybrid, using a donor Disco or Rangie as our base, probably isn't a lot more work, and could have even more to offer at the end of the day.

But, then the googlie, is to leave it standard, and simply make it as 'good' as we can. Keep the 2.25Petrol engine, but put the money towards a full rebuild, maybe incorporating a few 'tweeks' to liberate a bit more power, and an LPG kit to keep the running costs down.

So, lets have a look at each in turn assuming a budget of about two to two and a half thousand pounds for each case, and see how far it would get us.

'Period' Example:

Well, we have two and a half grand in the pot, and we want to make the best use of it as we can. We can pick up a carburetted Range Rover engine, pretty cheaply. Possible to find examples being given away or offered for pocket money, and a 'good' one shouldn't set you back more than a couple of hundred quid, so lets presume that the first 500 of our budget is going to go into finding a donor engine and second hand LPG kit to fuel it's thirst.

That means that we have a good two grand to put into other bits of the Land Rover. Brakes are obviously the first thing to consider, but they aren't that expensive, if we are sticking to LWB spec drums, maybe 200 all round.

So, lets sort that chassis out properly. Lets not mess about, lets just get a new one. 600, on offer at the moment, galvanised.

So far we are doing well, we have a good chassis to start from a decent engine, LPG, and good brakes, and we haven't even spent half the budget yet. So what else can we do, what's most important?

Well, that gearbox is the niggling consideration. Lets make it as good as we can, while we have the chance, and rebuild it with all new parts. 300's worth, transmission brake and all.

So now we're up to 1500, and we still have nearly a grand left to play with, and, if it was my money, I'd back up, and skimp on the engine. Instead of a 200 motor, I'd be looking for something for pocket money. Then, I'd do a tear down and rebuild it with all new parts. It would be about 700's worth, but, we have it in the pot, so why not.

Well, because it would bring us up to nearly 2200, and the last three hundred quid, really out to be saved to make sure that there's enough money in there for the 'odds and sods' to finish the job.

But, with a refurbished engine, gearbox, transfer box, brakes and a brand new chassis, its so perilously close to being 'as god as new' that it seems churlish to skimp and only go half way.

So, do you throw another grand at it?

Tempting. for that, you could recondition the rest of the drive train from the transfer box, to the wheels, doing the props, diff, axles and hubs, even a new set of wheels and tyres, before adding a set of parabolic springs and new dampers, new steering box, relay, and ball joints, and mechanically you pretty much have an all new car!,

But, back up again, and if you were prepared to live with the 'good' second hand engine rather than rebuilding one, and use standard springs rather than parabolic, you could probably get pretty well as much within the original two and a half grand budget.

Now, that bears some thinking about, because it sets a reference for the alternatives.

But basically, keeping it reasonably standard, we can get a lot of reliability from using a lot of renovated or overhauled or upgraded assemblies, in other parts of the car, and have something that at the end of the day, is pretty reliable, economical and got a lot more performance than originally intended.

So, onto the alternatives.

'Hybrid' Example

OK, starting with the same budget, lets see how far we can get. We have a Series 3, but what we need is a coil sprung donor. And Lets not muck about here, we want as much as we can possibly get, I mean, we wanted something that could take a lot more power than the standard Series transmission could handle, so why mess around with 120bhp carburetted Rangies, when for similar money we can get our hands on a 3.9Efi, with 180!

OK, well that's taken care of the first grand of our budget, for the Donor Rangie, plus the gas kit for it, but, we have nearly everything we need to make out Hybrid.

Few hundred quid to make the chassis of the Rangie good. Cut off the rear overhang, weld on a 90 cross member, and cut the middle down to give us an 88" wheel base, and we almost have our Hybrid, sorted for little more than half the budget.

But hang on a second; That Rangie had a pretty tidy interior, the headlining was a bit saggy, but the rear tailgates were not too bad. And, looking at the Series 3, well, there's some decent bits and pieces we don't need on that, like the gearbox. Few posts on the 'Going Spare' boards, and 20 here and 30 there for this and that, and you know, we might have got back best part of what we paid for the Rangie to begin with!

This is looking frighteningly promising. But, what do we have? Essentially a tired old Range Rover in old work clothes. But, we still have probably 1500 to play with.

That would go quite some way to playing with that V8, and finding even more power. Cam kit perhaps? Stage 2 cylinder heads? Or maybe we should look at doing something with the suspension. Lift kit? new dampers? BIG tyres? Lots of scope and potential. Maybe some serious accessories like a roll cage and a winch.

'Tweeked' Standard Example

Right, well lets not get too carried away, how far would the same budget let us get with what we have to begin with.

Lets start by pulling it down to the chassis. Might as well start with a new galvanised one of those, and well, that engine, we decided was going to have to see some serious attention if we aren't going to get a V8. So, lets pull it to pieces and rebuild it, and spend a little bit of cash with turners for some tuning goodies.

Stage 3 head, free flow exhaust manifold, SU carb kit, electronic ignition, new camshaft and, well, we have liberated just over 100bhp from the thing, and its cost, just under a grand, for what amounts to a remanufactured engine.

That doesn't actually compare that favourably with what it would have cost to get a V8, with about 120bhp, that's just as 'new' and probably a bit less stressed, but hey, at least the gas kit isn't so expensive for it, and it wont take so much effort to fit.

But, we are in pretty much the same place, because we have got a new galvanised chassis, and not spoiling the job for a hapeth of tar, we are looking at breaking the budget to follow it through the drive train and overhaul the gearboxes, props, axles and brakes, to the same standard, and extending that to the steering and suspension.

But, we don't have the possibility of skimping on the engine, here. doing the 'period' conversion, we at least had the scope to use a reasonably sound second hand motor, rather than a rebuilt one, to save ourselves six or seven hundred quid, to put into the rest of the car.

That's gone, tuning the two and a quarter, so, its shit or bust really!

Engine may not have the same amount of power as the V8, but its still more than enough to mean we need to make sure that the brakes steering and drive line are up to scratch.

So, backing up, maybe this one's only viable if we do it in instalments. Perhaps starting with a new chassis, rebuilt gear and transfer boxes, new suspension.

That could probably be achieved with about half the budget, and then the rest could be done in stages, say the axles one month, then the hubs and brakes the next, and so on, keeping the car mobile and in use and doing the jobs one at a time, each week end, rather than all in one big chunk.

And if a spare 'cast off' two and a quarter engine could be picked up for pennies, that could be rebuilt and tuned in the garage, in similar stages until it was ready and then swapped over in a week end.

Not quite what was hoped for actually. Looking seriously like the most expensive option, and the least exiting!

But, not overly ambitious, and at the end of the day, the thing would be pretty well standard, very 'new' so have a lot of serviceable life and reliability in it, and done in stages, it has the potential to be the most feasible of the options.

I mean, realistically, the bulk of the work, swapping the chassis and rebuilding the gearbox, could be done in a two week holiday, start to finish, and not have the car off the road for any longer than was necessary, or people moaning about when it was ever going to get finished. And, spreading the cost of 'improvements' pretty handy, too.

So maybe not a complete non-starter, but lets see.

Conclusion?

Well it's all academic, really, but it sort of illustrates the idea.

Going down the 'hybrid' route, gave the most car for the money, or the least outlay, by a long margin, and probably not a lot more work, effort or time than the other options. But, what should be noted from the example was that essentially, what you had at the end of the day, was a fifteen or so year old Range Rover, and the bulk of the budget went into turning it into a fifteen year old, 'not quite' a V8 90, not into any significant amount of renovation or overhaul work putting any additional life into the vehicle. But, there was plenty left in the budget for a fair bit of that, if needed.

Compared to a 'real' 90, the economics are probably a bit questionable. Could you get a genuine D90 for that sort of money? I don't know. If you hunted hard enough, possibly. How it would compare condition wise, I don't know, but the 'real' 90 would probably be a little bit safer as far as resale value was concerned if not reliability. But, either way, on a budget, and not giving much priority to longevity, a LOT of performance for the money.

So, the 'Period' Option. Not as cheap as the Hybrid route, or as much performance, but, the project did have a lot to offer. Mainly because a decent engine could be found for very little money. And given that they are so cheap and readily available, it was worth putting the budget into bringing the rest of the car up to a high standard, with new chassis, overhauled transmission and everything else. And once the 'conversion' was done, while it would have been nice to recondition the engine, basically, it wasn't worth it. If the engine did die, another one could be sourced just as cheaply and fitted into the engine bay in substitution.

But, the project relied on putting the budget into the transmission and drive line and making it as good as possible to begin with, in order that the V8's power didn't find any weaknesses. Without that precaution, the likelihood of failure would have been high, and the savings just wouldn't have made the job worth the effort.

What was interesting, was just how little extra money needed to be spent, over budget, to result in something that was pretty much all as good as new, as well as 'better'.

Which brings us to the 'Tweeked' standard project, which was a bit disappointing really. Doing anything to the standard two and a quarter engine in compensation for not going V8 was just horrendous. More expensive to recondition and tune the four pot, than to recondition the V8, and it STILL didn't have as much power or reliability. And it didn't end there, because as with the 'Period' conversion, the rest of the car still needed bringing up to par to ensure any kind of reliability.

But, cost and performance put o one side, possibility of doing it in stages, made it a more practical option for many people to attempt, and the benefits were there, for all the cost. Least harm to the resale value, and a healthy if not overwhelming performance boost, and a lot of life put back into the car to see it in use for many years to come.

So, weighing them all up; starting with a clear idea and sticking to it, any of the three examples could be good, depending on what you consider most important. Sticking to the stock engine, I included basically for comparison, to show how viable the V8 conversion really is, whichever way you get there, but also to illustrate that even if it's not 'as good' the two and a quarter can still be a good choice.

Pushed to offer an opinion of which option I thought was 'best', I'd have to recommend the 'Period' conversion, though. Simply, because I think that it is most likely to be the better option for the most Series owners. That said, personally I'd do something in that mine feild in between, that I warn is fraught with problems costs and hassles for little real gain. Why? How? What? well, I like the 'feel' of leaf springs, but I like the power of a V8.

But hey, it would be MY project and I'd have to do what I thought was best for me, just as you will. Point is, more thought you give it, and the more informed you are about the hazards, pitfalls and possibilities, more likely your choice is to be a good one. Best of luck!

Further Reading

Right, armed with that little appraisal of the deal, if you want to carry on; here's a bit more reading for you. Already mentioned, and on this site are two articles taken from magazine cuttings on the 'Period' conversion using a Series gearbox:

But, talking to people of the forums, I have come across some other useful articles or web-sites, that may be useful:

Very Useful UK manufacturer & supplier of Conversion Kits & Adapters, and thier web-site has lots of helpful advice and hints as well as the bits they make and offer.

LRO Forum User, Integer Spin has what is known as a 'profitable hobby'; he messes with cars for fun and out of his hobby work-shop, where he casts, machines and fabricates the bits he needs top make the cars he does, offers to make up 'specials' for other people; his Prima conversion adapter plates were so popular he had commercial casts made up; and has been threatening to do likewise for V8 adapter rings for the last couple of years.

Blogg of the 'period' Conversion on a series Landrover; At time of update, contained  some nice pics of the conversion kit and some clearer drawings for the bulkhead mod, info and guidelines, but actual conversion was still ongoing.

not a Rover V8, but a small block, 302Ci Ford USA device! Interesting though; uses ford gearbox adapter plated to Series Transfer. Ashcroft used to make a similar adapter to mate Rover LT77 'box to Series X-fer, but no longer available (UPDATE: Check with Ashcroft, at time of last revision they had, due to demand had a new batch produced). Principle is quite useful though, and article illuminating, if you want to consider alternatives or permutations on the idea.

Link to External Site of American Land Rover enthusiast TeriAnn Wakeman, features an article by her friend, Lonn Howard, on a V8 conversion using the ubiquitous Chevy 350ci 'small-block' V8, and Dodge 4-speed manual gearbox & transfer.

not a Series, but possibly useful. Article features a V8 90 being fitted with Vitesse engine. Essentially a carb v8 being replaced with EFi version. Not much of an engine conversion, but useful & interesting engine spec data

 

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