www.teflons-torque.com, Teflon's Torque, Tef's-tQ, Teflon-Mike's Web-Site

  HOME Learner-Riders Workshop General Scrap-Book Miscellaneous e-mail  

Taking on a 'Project'?

Get Organised & Don't bite off more than you can chew!



Land Rovers and Motorbikes; once you get one, almost immediately you become an 'enthusiast'! Nothing wrong with that; but all too easy to get a BIT too enthusiastic; look at what other 'enthusiasts' are doing, and get all carried away, taking on a 'project', when all you started out with, was something to get you about or to have a bit of fun with!

And doing more than just drive or ride your Landy or bike, CAN be a lot of fun; BUT, what stared out as a 'cheap' off roader for a bit of fun; be it an old trials bike, or an old Land Rover; can quickly lead you to a major project.

Either when you find out that it's in need of rather a lot of repairs or full restoration, OR you realise that it could do with a LITTLE bit of improvement beyond the standard it left the factory.

And that is where the FUN can quickly come to an abrupt end; because all the hassles, niggles and problems you can discover along the way, can see you spending long uncomfortable hours, expending effort and money, getting irritable, frustrated and more and more pizzed off, skinning knuckles, annoying family, neighbours and friends, getting into a right state.

But; take a step back, think long and hard about the 'Project' you are contemplating, and employ some of the basic simple 'Project Management' techniques, I'm going to suggest, and you stand an INFINITELY better chance of a successful project, that is far more likely to actually be FUN!

Almost guaranteed you'll still spend more money and time than you intend; skin knuckles, and wonder 'why did I start this'; but when it's done you'll look back on all that as 'part of the fun'!


There is ALWAYS a plan.

EVERY failed endeavour started with a 'Plan'; and usually it was within the 'Plan' that its subsequent failure was caused!

Planning is critical. Notions & Ideas are great; and are the START of a good plan. But without a lot of THOUGHT, and consideration, a 'Good Idea' on it's own, is a Plan for disaster!

How many times have you heard the excuse "Well..... I thought it was a good idea..... at the time!"

This is the first pitfall I hope to steer you around.

Some people have very clear ideas about what they want to achieve and how they are going to get there. Most don't, and quite a lot just sort of make it up as they go along.

Now, I don't expect you to be a complete anorak and treat everything like a military operation, putting everything onto reams and reams of paper that you MUST obey as though they are the word of god! In fact, such inflexible project management can be as unhelpful as having no plan what so ever!

But; thinking things through, evaluating what you want to do, how you want to do it, looking at alternatives; testing the idea, and gaining some kind of confidence that what you want to do is possible, practical and achievable; that the notion has merit, that it is a 'good' way of achieving what you want, and that it is a GOOD idea to pursue, is the first step to a successful project.

So, lets do some planning. What are you trying to do?

Predicting your answers; three broad possibilities;

  • Restoration / Renovation Project
  • Custom / Competition Project
  • A bit of both
  • Next Question; why?

    Predicting your answers; four broad possibilities;

  • Can't afford to buy what I want / pay someone else to do it
  • No one Sells what I want or does what I want done
  • I want to do it / don't want some-one else to do it
  • A bit of all three
  • So, ticking the boxes, we are starting to 'develop' a plan.

    And there are two very useful 'tools' we can now use in that development. The first is a 'Project Specification', the second is a principle called the 'PACC cycle, or 'Plan; Act', 'Compare' & 'Correct', cycle. Bit like the four phases of the Otto Cycle, its a natural process we use all the time, but recognising it, and putting a bit of thought into it can make it VERY much more useful.

    So, I'm going to jump ahead of ourselves a bit, and explain these tools, because we can use them to actually develop our plan.

    The PACC Cycle

    Plan; Act; Compare; Correct; we do it all the time, instinctively, without thinking about it, or even realising we are doing it.

    I want to make a cup of coffee. I go to the kitchen; switch the kettle on; get a mug out of the cupboard, spoon some Nescafe in; wait for the kettle to boil; poor water in the mug, go to the fridge; take out the milk, add some milk to the mug; put the milk away; stir coffee. Drink.

    Doesn't need a 'Plan' does it?

    No, but there IS a plan. Its just so well followed its second nature. I dont need to think about it.

    Right; lets look at some of the possible 'pitfalls'. What could go wrong? Well, Is there any water in the kettle? No? OK, well our plan falls down at that point, doesn't it, because if there's no water in the kettle, it's not going to give us any hot water to make the coffee, is it?

    "Don't be daft" you say, "You just unplug the kettle, stick it under the tap and fill it, before you switch it on"

    Brilliant! You have JUST gone through a complete loop of the PACC cycle.

    We planned to make a cup of coffee, by the usual procedure; BUT when we came to follow that procedure, we encountered a 'Problem'. We PLANNED, we ACTED, and found we couldn't act as planned. So, we COMPARED what we were trying to do with our original plan, and CORRECTED it, adding an extra task to the procedure, 'Check, and if necessary, fill kettle'

    Important lesson in there, because our original 'plan' didn't actually tell us to 'check' the kettle. We just did it. If we hadn't we would have been stood there an awful long time, with the kettle element burning out, wondering why it wasn't boiling!

    So, in planning, we have 'controls', which are where we 'PLAN' to do something to actually check our plan. Sometimes we can easily predict points where we can or need to check something. Other times we find that a 'Problem' presents itself and we have to stop and do some checking.

    But you get the idea; the 'PACC' cycle is not a 'prescriptive' method of planning; it's an 'adaptive' one.

    If you are building an Airfix model, you get a set of instructions, with nice neat drawings, and you follow the instructions from start to finish, without deviation. You start with a box of bits; you end up with a model of a Harrier Jump-Jet.

    That is a 'prescriptive' plan; or 'procedure' and where there is little possibility of finding problems or scope for deviation, easy to work with. And for something like a plastic model, churned out in the million, where engineers can work out the best way of doing something before giving it to you to do, very useful.

    But, you have all probably tried to put together a flat-pack desk or wardrobe!

    Prescriptive plans are great, IF they have been properly thought through, and everything 'comes together' as it should!

    If it doesn't and 'problems' may be encountered, be it holes in the wrong place, the wrong number of screws in the bag, or a disclaimer that says 'other models may vary' can be worse than useless, and incredibly frustrating!

    So prescriptive plans can be unhelpful, even where they are applied to supposedly tried and tested situations that have been done time and time again.

    If you are doing something that hasn't been done before, or you haven't done before, then there wont necessarily be a 'prescriptive' plan already in existence, and trying to cover all the possibilities to generate from scratch a prescriptive plan, before you begin would simply be impossible.

    So, the PACC cycle gives us a mechanism for having an 'adaptive' plan, which basically keeps things flexible, and allows us to go back and change our plan to suit whatever problems we find along the way.

    It allows us to 'make it up as we go along' to a certain degree; but, by having an outline plan or partial plans, which we can adapt to suit our circumstance or convenience.

    Which brings me to the next 'tool', a 'Project Specification'

    Project Specification

    OK, sounds daunting and technical, and why the heck do you need a spec; it's simple innit? You want to rebuild an old Landy or Trials bike, or whatever?

    Absolutely. But, I'm endorsing 'adaptive planning' via the PACC cycle; because it is helpful to give flexibility and stop the project grinding to a halt at the first 'problem.

    If you were renovating an Old Land Rover or Trials bike, reasonably, you could just get the relevant Haynes, Clymer or Factory work shop manual, and try following the instructions...... flat pack furniture springs to mind again..... but still.

    If you are considering an engine conversion, building a trials 'chop' or attempting to do something for which there isn't a Manual, THAT is going to be your first problem, and making it up as you go along, could lead you off ANYWHERE!

    I mean, you start off with the intension of renovating an old Series II Land Rover. As you get into the business, you find your bulkhead is rusted beyond welding, and cant get a replacement; So you have to adapt a Series III bulkhead, which is different.....

    And, unchecked your 'Plan' starts to SERIOUSLY depart from your original intent, and what you end up with, rather than a tidy original specification Series II is a mongrel custom, with Defender bonnet and body work, Range Rover V8 engine, Series III axles and parabolic suspension, and gawd knows what else!

    So, the Project Specification is there to try and keep things sort of 'on track'.

    Just like your plan; there's absolutely no reason why it cant be developed as you go along, and in all probability it will be.

    But, most basically, the Project Spec is where you start; its your overall objective and your original 'outline plan' before you start using the PACC cycle to develop it.

    And the thing about the Project Spec, is that it shouldn't JUST be an over glorified wish list or objective of what you want to have achieved at the end of the project.

    It should also take into account HOW you would like to achieve it; and whatever else is important to the project, by way of priorities.

    I mean; if you are attempting a 'restoration' project; what's your 'philosophy' going to be? How important is it to retain as much of the original vehicles parts as possible? Are you prepared to use new replacement parts, or adapt parts from later vehicles that aren't the same pattern? How far from the original specification are you prepared to go? And when? Will you only use non original bits IF they are essential to making the vehicle road worthy, or will you consider 'upgrades' to make the vehicle more useable, such as later brakes or engine?

    Or, lets say you are building a low cost Trials Hybrid from an old Range Rover. You aren't interested in originality, you will however be interested in MSA regulations and probably ARC class regulations. But, apart from complying with those; how far do you intend to take the modifications? which is higher in the priorities; competitive performance or cost?

    Or you have a battered Series III that you want to 'upgrade' and make a little bit more useful in modern driving, and maybe a bit more competent at Pay & Play days. How important is going faster in relation to keeping running costs down? How important is every-day practicality and comfort in relation to off-road ability? How important is the 'cost' of your mods, in relation to reliability, etc?

    And for old Trials bikes; are you building a concourse machine, where its going to be judged on presentation and originality; or are you building a classic competition machine where functionality is more important?

    which is starting to introduce a few other ideas and factors, such as cost, 'originality', 'functionality' and rules and regulations, and prioritising of often conflicting criteria or concerns.

    Which, REALLY is what project management is all about. Identifying all these factors and influences; researching what the difficulties you have to manage or are likely to have to manage might be, and giving yourself GOOD information on which to base well considered decisions, RATHER then blindly rushing in and responding randomly to the situation you are faced with, and hoping you eventually achieve what you set out to.

    Back to making that cup of coffee and the empty kettle; common sense told you what to do to sort the problem; but imagine some-one rushing, leaving the kettle switched on and trying to fill it from a jug, cracking the element.... so they use a saucepan on the hob. OK, so they still end up with a coffee, but they have taken longer and broken a kettle in the process.

    The 'Key' is in the approach, and that starts with thought, consideration and planning. so lets start developing a plan.

    Developing the 'Plan'

    OK, well, we are right at the beginning of our 'Project', and the fact that you are reading this probably means that you already have one in mind, means that you are doing some research and can start developing your project plan.

    Lets go back to that PACC cycle; it is going to be instrumental to just about EVERYTHING I want to tell you, and I want you to start using it from the very beginning.

    The PACC cycle is just that a 'cycle'; you can go round it time after time after time, not just once in a project, you do it EVERY time you learn something; find something or do anything.

    And the 'Plan' in question doesn't have to be the entire project from beginning to end, but each tiny little bit of it.

    For example; in my 'grand plan' sound proofing my Series III. Today, I am putting some sound felt into the door cavities. That is my 'plan for the day'. Right now, this moment, I want to remove the door trim. My plan is to take a cross head screwdriver, undo each of the self tappers holding it on; cut some felt to go in the cavity behind, then replace the door trim, by the reverse of removing it, as they say in the manual.

    Not a complicated plan; but still a plan.

    Act; I take my screwdriver; does it fit the screws?

    First 'Compare' or 'Check' or 'Control' (all 'C's, see; substitute as appropriate!), I'm checking my plan is feasible. do I need a different screwdriver?

    No? The one I have fits? Great, I don't need to 'Correct' anything; but if I had I would have.

    But, I have still gone through the PACC cycle; I just didn't need to 'correct' anything in my original plan.

    So, you get the idea, we can break a plan down into tiny little pieces and treat each piece as a plan in its own right, and we can use the PACC cycle all the time, on each bit, until we are using it continuously, but rather than like making the coffee, instinctively, doing it consciously, so we are always thinking about what we do.

    And we can use it now. We need to develop the 'project plan', so sub plan, lets plan to make a plan? and see how it goes from there!

    Back to page 3; what do I want to do and why? And develop these ideas into a project spec. So lets start with a rough 'plan' of how we can do that and start cycling!

  • 1) Define what you want to do
  • 2) Identify what your actual needs and wants are
  • 3) Decide on your project philosophies
  • 4) Make an initial plan
  • Over in 'work-shop' is an article on Bert's V8 engine rebuild, From Dead, to RED! , I wrote that to illustrate how I applied these Project Management techniques in a real project; one that was not so large as to necessarily be thought of as a 'project', like a full vehicle restoration, or one so small as just a 'procedure'. It is worth while reading, but I don't want to start dodging between articles or duplicating the same thing. So, I'm going to work through this with some hypothetical examples that you might face.

    Rule Number One - Put the Kettle on!

    (remembering earlier lesson to check it has water in it, or course!) This is a golden rule; and should NEVER be broken. Most important bit of kit in ANY project is the Kettle. Next most important things you will need are not angle grinder disks, welders, or gas; but, a large mug; your preferred choice of tea or coffee, a tea spoon, then milk and or sugar depending on your preference.

    The instruction 'Make Cuppa' should be liberally included in ALL project plans and flow charts. As the very minimum; it should be the FIRST instruction on any jobs list; and the last. In between, and at the bottom of every piece of paper should be the instruction; 'if in doubt - 'make cuppa'. And 'make cuppa' should be the standing instruction to contend with ANY unforeseen or unplanned situation.

    So, having complied with the first rule, and in possession of the necessary lubrication to allow reasoned though, we may begin!

    So lets grab a brand new pad of paper, and start scribbling our thoughts down. It's not essential, but it is helpful.

    Some people have the capacity to do everything in their head, and to remember it all. However, most of us don't; and even if we think, "well, its not THAT complicated, is it really worth it?".... err... yes, it is!

    Don't expect you to keep Federal Aviation Authority standard records, but keeping notes and writing plans down for reference is helpful; how detailed you want to make them, is up to you.

    Define what you want to do

    Right, at this stage you can be as optimistic as you like; you can say you want to build a 200mph Series Land Rover, with the comfort and refinement of a Daimler limousine, and the off-roadability of a Bowler Tomcat, all for fifty quid, if you want. It's a 'wish list' of anything or everything you might like to achieve with your project.

    As we 'develop' the plan we will be continually looking to gain confidence that what you want to do is possible, practical and achievable. (have I mentioned that before?)

    So, hopefully we shouldn't have to go round too many PACC cycles to discover that we have a few conflicting objectives in there, and that we aren't likely to achieve everything we want, and will have to look to make some kind of compromise some-where.

    Obviously, the more 'realistic' you are in your objectives, the less compromises you are going to have to deal with; BUT, its a good idea to be a bit optimistic in your aspirations when you begin.

    Generally it's easier to 'drop' things from the wish list, than to get half way through the project and think, 'Ah!' and try and incorporate new objectives into the program after you have started.

    So, scratch your head; make another cuppa if you want; go read some mags or surf the net for ideas and think about all the things you'd like to build into the job, and write them down.

    Identify Needs and Wants

    Right, so we have our 'wish List', and it's time to look at that and get a bit realistic. We aren't going to chuck anything out as a 'stoopid' idea just yet; just decide which are the more important things we want to achieve and what are the more realistic.

    (Little bit of 'management' speak; there's no such thing as a Bad Idea. Ideas are Good. Ideas drive us on to better things; It's just SOME ideas are better than others, and some ideas more easily realised than others. - And when you come across a senior manager in a meeting spouting such stuff; you KNOW that that man couldn't have an idea if his life depended upon it. You ALSO can be pretty damn certain that he's got where he has, taking other people's ideas, promoting them, and getting promoted on the back of them, after getting other people still, to tell him whether they are 'better or worse' ideas! - But ANYWAY!)

    Our 200mph; luxury extreme off-roader!  Do we really NEED the capability to do 200mph? if not, it's a 'Want' not a need.

    Ah! you cry, I might not NEED to go 200mph, but I REALLY do want some speed out of this beast. 200mph might be hugely more than I NEED, and OK, IF I admit it, I probably COULD live with the 50mph flat out top speed of a Series Diesel, but, my WANT to go a bit faster than that, and at least be able to keep up with traffic on the by-pass, doing 70mph, is PRETTY important.

    Hmmmmmm. Difficult. When does a 'Want' become a 'Need'?

    This is where it all gets very subjective; and where the thought really needs to be applied. Lets follow the thread for a moment; we have a rattly old series Landy, we are contemplating playing with.

    We are probably faced with having to undertake a project simply to keep the vehicle going, and are hoping to make a few improvements to it along the way.

    Following the 'Need' idea to its logical conclusion, we could go as far as deciding that EVERYTHING is a 'want', because at the end of the day, we could catch a bus, and not 'NEED' a Land Rover at all.

    Or, end up saying, yeah, well, that's ridiculous I NEED such and such, because of what I want the vehicle to do. Which are 'consequential' needs necessitated by a 'want'.

    Which is actually what most of the stuff on the 'need' list will be; but can still take a lot of thinking about to get to.

    But the object of the exercise is to do some prioritising, and sift from your wish lift, the 'essentials' and 'niceties'.

    And it may be simply a case of changing the wording, from 'make it do 200mph' to 'make it a bit faster', or 'for under 50' to 'Within 'reasonable budget', or 'make it like new' to 'make it as tidy and reliable as possible'.

    But, it's something that will be revisited time and again, as we cycle through the PACC, refining the 'plan', and finding compromises. At this stage we are still trying to get a handle on the objectives of the project; so don't loose any sleep over it.

    Project Philosophies

    OK, we've created a wish list, and we've had a long hard look at them, and tried to decide what our most important objectives are.

    So, we now need to do a bit of thinking on the way we'd like to achieve them, and decide on some policies or philosophy that will help guide us when we come to making compromises.

    Still with our rattly old Series Landy, what are our important considerations here?

    Is our project being demanded simply because we haven't the money to do anything but try and fix up an old Landy, and we need to make the thing as functional as we can on what little budget we have?

    Or is money (almost; it's NEVER entirely) no object? Can we be as dedicated to this thing as we like and spend whatever it's going to take, to either restore it to absolutely original, as it left the factory, or to modify it to whatever exotic standard we can dream up and science will allow?

    These mark the extremes; but there will be circumstances in between, where you will have to consider compromises, and make decisions, that cant always be made by applying a simple test, like 'what's cheaper'.

    You will have to consider the pro's and con's of a solution to something, and weigh up which is best for your situation or circumstance, and the choice can be quite difficult to make.

    In which case, 'guiding principles' can be helpful.

    Lets say we have rattly old Series Landy; budget is not too restrictive, but we are conscious of it; our aspiration isn't for the 'ultimate' off roader, and we aren't bothered about impressing part number fiends or concourse judges.

    We want to 'renovate' the thing to some sort of useful standard; The original 'factory' standard's 'OK' but if we can incorporate any improvements along the way, that would be great, provided they don't cost too much, and are at least 'sympathetic' to the thing being a bit of a 'classic'

    THAT is a project philosophy.

    And not an uncommon one; but it could do with a bit of tightening up, to be honest to make it a bit more helpful when you come round to having to use it to help 'tip the balance' in real decisions you'll have to make.

    Could find 100's of examples; but picking one at random, Series Suspension.

    We are 'renovating' our old Series Landy, and we get to the suspension, and taking a look at it, the leaf springs are a bit flaky. They are a bit rusty; but its not spreading the leaves apart. It's still sitting level, and it's not sagging TOO much, possibly a bit lower than when it left the factory, but the tails not dragging or anything, so the springs COULD be re-used as is; though they would obviously benefit from stripping, and oiling, possibly re-tempering, or replacement. Dampers. Well, they are a bit rusty, but there's no holes in the shrouds, and they do still 'damp'. They COULD be re-used, but again, replacing them could save a job a year or so down the line. Likewise the spring and chassis bushes.

    So, what do we do? And what are the options?

    Well, if they are the original springs that were fitted when the car left the factory, and Authenticity is the guiding principle; then making them good is the preferred option. And quite possibly the expense of having the springs re-tempered born to do so.

    If the guiding principle is to keep the costs as low as possible; then again, cleaning them up and using as is, is the obvious choice.

    But 'what if'; our philosophy is to renovate and improve where possible?

    These springs are obviously an area for improvement. And, fitting new springs and shocks would obviously not add inordinately to the project cost, and put a lot of life into the vehicle. As ain 'improvement' it would increase reliability and life a fair bit, but it wouldn't vastly improve comfort or performance. So, adding Parabolic Springs, and gas dampers, would be an option well worth considering; giving 'improvement' beyond standard.

    So, you go away, you ask on the Land Rover forums for people's opinions, you read my 'Parabolic Springs ' article, and you ponder.

    Opinion is varied; they do offer improvement, but at additional cost. And one comment that haunts you is 'they are better than 'plain leaf springs, but not as good as coils'

    So, you are now contemplating a third option which is to use a coil spring conversion; which you investigate, and discover is quite 'do-able' using Range Rover bits and pieces, for not an awful lot more than a set of Parabolics, though it is a little more work.

    Weighing up the pro's and cons; new standard springs have a lot going for them; Parabolics likewise; Coils too. They are ALL viable options. You could afford to use either option. Parabolics, would fit up as easily as plain leaves, so would be absolutely no more difficulty to fit; just a bit more expensive. Coils. A bit more tricky; and you'd have some more 'planning' to do deciding on whether to use Range Rover axles or modify the series ones and things like that; but, not beyond your competence to do, or your budget. And could give significantly more improvement than parabolics.

    The choice is in the 'balance' what is going to tip it one way or another?

    Well, our idea of being 'sympathetic' towards Series 'authenticity' might not completely discount the coil conversion, it wouldn't be that noticeable, unlike fitting a defender front end, but is it one step too far?

    Or our ideas of 'improving where possible'. Coils could make a big improvement. Far more than parabolics. The extra work in the scale of operations probably isn't that huge, especially if there's chassis welding to be done any way. Using Rangie axles is appealing by dint of bringing improvements in other areas, like the added track width, and disc brakes, maybe the higher ratio differentials.

    Having a 'philosophy' or some guiding principles, in these cases can be helpful. They wont necessarily make the decision making easier, and give criteria by which yes / no answers can be given, but they can certainly add weight to tip the balance when evaluation options.

    And in a situation like this one; the PACC cycle can be used again, and you go back to your project spec, and your project philosophy, and have another look, and decide if you need to tweak them to make the decision any easier; and maybe you decide that on balance, ACTUALLY costs should be ranked a bit higher, and sticking to plain leaves the 'best' way to go. Saving some money for new seats or sound-proofing or something.

    Initial Plan

    So, we have a 'wish list' and have refined that a bit by looking at what's needed, or just wanted, or essential and nice; and set ourselves some guiding principles for how we'd like to achieve that, that might be useful in making decisions later on, and guiding the project to completion.

    We now have to look at that and make some kind of initial plan, of how we might achieve what we want to do.

    Going back to the beginning where I said, we can use the PACC cycle to make a plan; we planned to make a plan; and so far we only have 'objectives' for our plan, not an actual plan.

    So we need to look at the ways we can achieve our objectives.

    And as we 'develop' the plan we will be continually looking to gain confidence that what you want to do is possible, practical and achievable. (have I mentioned that before?)

    So, we need to do some thinking and or some research. And answer the question; "This is my objective; HOW can I achieve it?"

    Now, good idea to go put the kettle on at this point; because JUST like when we set about defining those objectives and drafting the project spec; there is no such thing as a bad idea, just better and worse ones. And, as they say, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

    There should be lots of different ways to achieve your objectives, and even more possible variations or permutations of variations based upon them. And at this stage; you need to look at them all.

    Just like at the beginning, when I said don't limit your project spec by being overly cautious in your aspirations; now don't limit your options by discounting any means of achieving your objectives.

    It is ALL to easy to make a hasty decision or plan a course of action without considering all of the options and being sure that the one you have chosen is best.

    And unfortunately, it's far too common to work on presumption or instinct and often not even realise that there might be other ways of doing things, let alone better ones.

    Now, I go into this Idea at length in You can do ANYTHING to a Landy! and I'll come back to it in a little while, when we complete the PACC cycle to see if we have a Project Plan, and if it needs any 'correction'.

    BUT; we need to go back to our original objectives and 'back up' from them a little. Because our objectives can easily be influenced by how we might plan to achieve them.

    It's this cyclic idea, yet again, and the question; if this is what we want, and this is how we plan to get it, and the implications of that are such and such, does that influence what our objectives are?

    Sort of needs an example to explain.

    Back to our rattly Series Land Rover. We want to renovate the thing to a useful standard and incorporate what 'improvements' we can, that are reasonably in budget and our capabilities.

    And we have a wish list that said at the start, that we wanted it to do 80 or 90mph, we wanted it to be quiet and have more comfortable seats; we wanted to fit a CD-Radio, a less bone jarring ride; be more economical, and not so heavy on the steering.

    On the bit of paper with all these things we'd like to endow the thing with, was a comment; "Want it to drive like a NORMAL car, but still go off road!"

    Which, was penned in pique, and not really a serious 'wish', but ACTUALLY, if we go back to, it is very useful.

    We have looked at our wish list; we could get our rattly series to do 80 or 90mph; just not with the standard 2 1/4 four cylinder engine. So, if we want to achieve that objective, we have either got to tune the standard engine, or fit an engine conversion; V8 or V6 would do the job nicely, Turbo Diesel would probably do it quite well too.

    So, we have options to evaluate, and decide what is the best thing to add to our plan.

    We have decided that adding sound proofing could make it quieter; so that's going into the plan; either fitting an accessory felt kit, or sound mats, or DIYing it with camping mat and carpet foam.

    Seats; likewise. More comfortable seats, like deluxe high backs can be bought as replacements; or we can use Defender seats, or some-one has suggested seats out of an old Metro or Volvo.

    CD-Radio; well, we've had a look in the Argos catalogue, and there are loads to choose from; just a case of finding somewhere in the car to fit it, like the dash, the cubby box, under the seat, or in the roof, and wiring it in.

    Less bone jarring ride; hopefully dealt with by looking at the suspension, and we've already looked at the options there; fettling the springs we have, replacing them with new ones; fitting parabolics or going to a coil conversion.

    Steering, we haven't thought too much about; but again, fettling the steering we have; maybe replacing ball joints and the relay; possibly an aftermarket power steering kit, that we've seen advertised, or fabricating something from a Range Rover power steering box; WHICH if we decide to go with the coil conversion and use Rangie axles might be quite convenient.

    Which gives us another thought; brakes; which we DIDN'T have on our original wish list; but now we come to it; IF we are doing an engine conversion, or suspension conversion, MAYBE it's something we ought to add.

    See what I mean? We've gone round the loop, and looked at HOW we might achieve our objectives and found something else we could add to the list.

    BUT, we have started off, by looking at our 'project' and trying to break it down, and look at elements of what we really want; and have listed actual bits of the car we want to do things to.

    However, we have jumped straight in, ahead of ourselves and entirely MISSED our fundamental objective.

    And incredibly we actually wrote it down, on our very first bit of paper!

    "Want it to drive like a NORMAL car, but still go off road!"

    FUNDAMENTALLY, our objective isn't to improve the suspension; the seats; the engine; the interior equipment or anything like that.

    FUNDAMENTALLY, our objective is to get a vehicle that drives like an ordinary car; keeps up with traffic on the by-pass; doesn't give us tinnitus from the clatter and rattle, or shake our fillings out; BUT one that goes off road.

    So, having come up with some sort of plan, and gone back, and looked at our objectives; have we any better ideas? Do we want to 'correct' anything?

    Old Joke about the Irishman asked for directions who replies "Ahr; wells Oi wuddun be wantin t be a'startin from here's now!"

    Because, backing up; rather than launching into a 'project' doing something or even a LOT, to this old Series Land Rover, could we achieve our objectives better starting some-where else?

    And immediately, I can tell you, straight away, that there is; Range Rovers and Discoveries, have ALL the improvements that we have put in the wish list; Defenders aren't quite so civilised, but still contain as standard all of the improvements we are looking for, if still not 'quite' as refined as a Ford Mondeo.

    So why go to all the effort of this 'project', when you could simply part ex the old Series Landy for something that doesn't need a spanner lifting towards it?

    OK, so it depends on what you put into your project spec, and your project philosophy.

    If you want to restore a car, then obviously it's not an alternative. But, if you simply want a 'classic', then there is still a lot of sense to buying one already restored. If you want something customised for serious off-roading, likewise, a lot of sense in buying one already done or done closely to what you want.

    But, the one justification I will NOT take without a HUGE pinch of salt, is "I couldn't afford it".

    Do the sums, and its nearly ALWAYS cheaper and certainly a lot easier and less hassle over all, to spend the extra for what you really want or need, than to try and adapt something that wasn't designed to do what you want it to.

    And, time and time again; when its pointed out that the cost of a Series III 'project' has been so much more expensive than buying a Defender or whatever, I here the comment, "Ah yes, but my car has so much more life in it than anything I could have bought" Sorry people; BUT, there are plenty of second hand Series Land Rovers out there, that have been renovated by their owners and sold on for an AWFUL lot less than they cost to renovate!

    I'm NOT saying that your project is a non starter before you have already begun; but I am saying that before you begin, you need to be FULLY aware of what you are taking on, and making sure that it is the BEST way for you to achieve what you want.

    And, backing up, and starting some place else, is an option FAR to many people just don't even think to consider.

    They should. End of the day; the economics and practicalities of the project are only one aspect of the thing; and whatever the 'objectives' by way of the vehicle are concerned, we shouldn't miss the not so obvious objectives or aspirations, like the satisfaction derived from the work undertaken; driving a car that YOU have built and know intimately, or the skills or knowledge you have gained from undertaking the project.

    Which brings us back again to the project spec and objectives, and our project 'philosophy'

    And maybe they could do with some 'correction'. Maybe, we should include some aspirations about what we would like out of the project; like 'satisfaction of driving car I have built' or adding to the guiding principles 'learning as much about mechanics as I can'.

    First sentence in this article was "Land Rovers and Motorbikes; once you get one, almost immediately you become an 'enthusiast'!"

    And we shouldn't loose sight of that. We are looking at this vehicle, at this project as MORE than just a means of transport. It is something that we have some enthusiasm for, that gives us more pleasure than JUST getting us from A to B.

    People can spend inordinate amounts of time and or money chasing a little plastic ball around a field trying to loose it down a hole in the ground, or dangling a bit of string in some water, in the vain hope of catching a fish they probably wont even eat.

    That is their hobby. Spending time or money on your 'project' is no different. But you DO need to recognise it for what it is, and not try and kid yourself that you can justify the time or money as anything much more than indulging your enthusiasm in your hobby.

    And you REALLY need to keep on top of this 'Plan' if that hobby isn't going to lead you to a lot of grief!

    Project Feasibility

    So, there are various stages to planning, especially to Adaptive Planning, and its more than doing loads of research and procrastinating about getting on with the job, or just making a clear decision of what you want to do and getting on with it.

    And we have made a pretty good start; we have

  • 1) Defined what you want to do
  • 2) Identified what your actual needs and wants are
  • 3) Decided on your project philosophies
  • 4) Made an initial plan
  • And using the PACC cycle, gone round that a couple of times looking at all four, and correcting them, and refining them and hopefully working out if we have missed anything, or could come up with anything better.

    And as we 'develop' this plan we will be continually looking to gain confidence that what you want to do is possible, practical and achievable. (have I mentioned that before?)

    So, it's time to look at our initial plan, and decide if it's feasible; whether it is possible, practical and achievable, or whether we ought to go back and re-think things a bit.

    The objective is to take the 'initial plan' and turn it into a 'working plan'.

    Now, going back to my example of a Series III land Rover renovation.

    The 'Initial' plan that was sort of formulated, was that we were going to renovate it; improving its condition and standard as we went along, incorporating improvements over standard where we could.

    We've heeded the warnings about backing up and considering other options; idea of selling it and getting a Discovery was toyed with in consequence; BUT, we like the style and image of the old Series Landy, and we have accepted that there's no huge economic incentive in this; but we still want to do it because we are fond of the car; and we want the satisfaction of knowing it inside out, having built it up the way we want; AND realistically, rationalised that as the cost of our hobby, along with the consideration that we can plan the project in stages, doing things as we can afford them, rather than trying to find a big lump sum in one go that we couldn't easily do.

    But, our initial plan is STILL a little bit flaky around the edges. The engine is a target item in the plan; but right here right now, we don't know EXACTLY what we want to do with it. Whether we will keep the 2 1/4 four cylinder engine we have, and overhaul it, and possibly tune it a little; or whether we'll swap it out for something else; be it a V8 or Turbo-Diesel.

    And we have a LOT of what ifs in our plan, like that where at SOME point decisions are going to have to be made, and quite possibly, those decisions are likely to influence other elements of the plan.

    So what we need to do, is look at each element in turn, and see if we can make some choices, and make this plan a bit bore workable; And what I want to look at first are the available resources of: Space; Time; Money; Expertise; and Effort.


    Fist of all where are you going to work?

    Have you got the space?

    Please DO NOT even DREAM of trying to merely fit an engine to a car parked at the side of the road, let alone undertake an engine conversion there!

    Been there, done that, got the T-shirt covered in oil.

    You might get away with swapping your leaf springs in the street, but even that's not really advisable, and anything much more than changing the spark plugs, really ought to have some dedicated room.

    As a rough estimate, treble the area your car covers when parked, and don't bank on using the Kitchen as a workshop & the bath to degrease your casings!

    The people you live with wont like it.

    If you are working on your own drive, are you going to have to move the car, either to get round it, in it, get past it etc, or to take it to a specialist, eg to have engine mountings welded on or have wiring installed?

    If so, how are you going to move it?

    Landies aren't light, even without an engine or gearbox. Push it, shove it, tow it, or trailer it.

    How? Is that reasonable, realistic or practical?

    Do you have the ability to tow or trailer it, or are you able to call in a favour or pay some one else to do it?

    These things need to be considered.

    If its not on your own drive, or sometimes even if it is, it may be worth thinking about the degree of tolerance you'll have from the people you live with or near.

    And just as a thought, what about security?

    If you live in the middle of nowhere and the car's parked outside your house up a two mile drive, you probably wont have the local kids throwing bricks at the windscreen, and can leave it without doors and bodywork and be fairly sure that your battery wont get nicked - but then again?

    If you live in a city terrace?

    These things need ALL thinking about.

    If your project is on a Motorbike, the demands on space might not be as daunting, but you'll still need some; and the considerations of where you will work, if and how you need to transport stuff; security, and the forbearance of family, friends and neighbours still apply.


    Work expands to fill the time available. Weather stops play. Parts get put onto 'back order' & don't arrive for two weeks, things get delayed and it gets dark earlier in the winter & neighbours object to halogen lighting stacks glaring through their curtains and the noise of angle grinders coursing through metal at ten o'clock at night.

    The most common oversight when giving yourself time for a project is in thinking about the job on hand and not the things you need to do to be able to do the job.

    Typically, you look at a job and think along the lines of, it'll take ten minutes, or I'll do that before lunch, or I'll be on that all weekend.

    What we don't do is count on the time it will take to make phone calls to order parts or book work, go to and from to fetch things we need or even the time it takes to get out & pack away the tools to do a job.

    One of the worst examples of this is estimating the time to do a job based on getting on with 'bits of it' in the week when you get in from work.

    At best, you have maybe four hours of free time you can use in an evening. But, when you take out the time taken to get changed, get out your tools, spend a few minutes talking to the kids, have a bite to eat, worked out where you got to last night, set up and got started, you are lucky to actually accomplish much more than an hour or two of useful work.

    Working in instalments is generally not very efficient and a good way to miss things, rush things or make mistakes, unless you are extremely organised.

    And some jobs can be done in instalments; where you can break them down into convenient tasks; things like rebuilding an engine, where you can take it apart step by step and sort each sub-assembly one at a time.

    Others though, like swinging it in, cant be broken into so many convenient chunks, and you HAVE to be able to set aside a reasonable period to do just one task.

    Nor can making a 200 mile round trip to take something to a specialist be done in instalments, after work, on Sundays or a Bank holiday. You have to find the time to make the journey when they are open for you.

    So there are 'lead times' to factor in.

    You might have ten or twenty hours a week set aside to do jobs here and there; But, if you can only get to the galvanisers to drop your bulkhead off on a Saturday morning, and not get back to collect it until the second Saturday after, that can seriously limit the amount of work you can get on with in the mean time.

    So not only do you need to think about the period of time you can devote to the project, but also the scheduling of that time.

    What time have you got; when is it available; what can you do in a particular time slot; what do you need to have done before to be able to do it; what can you do instead; what can you fit where into the schedule.

    Planning you time, is as important as planning the jobs themselves.

    Before you start, make sure that you actually do have the time available to devote to the project, this is the biggest reason projects don't get finished.

    They get started, they get all the money spent on them, but other things are constantly allowed to get in the way of the job getting done, and once its started to drag out the more difficult it becomes to find the motivation to go do some more.

    A good way to try and keep the momentum going is to set a deadline for when the project's to be finished, but this should be flexible and realistic, there must be some lea way for slippage, and there must be some lea way for other commitments coming and taking precedence.

    And another useful tool, is charting a 'critical path', which is taking all the tasks in your project, and looking at what jobs are dependent on what.

    Then you can fit them into a schedule, so that they are done in sequence.

    With a bit of luck, you'll find that there will be gaps in the schedule where you just cant do anything, because of a lead time for something on the critical path.

    But, hopefully, any work slots you have in these gaps, you can then fill with tasks that aren't on the critical path, or yet on it.

    Which is what 'scheduling' is all about; and is basically just 'organising' your time; but key to a successful project.


    If you had infinite funds, you probably wouldn't be looking to modify your car, you'd be shopping around for a new one, or giving it and a fat check to an expert and telling them what you want.

    So when you start, you have probably decided to undertake the project because it is the cheapest solution, or the most economical way of achieving what you want, or at least be concerned to keep the project spend in realistic limits!

    Now, before you get on with it, go over your figures a couple more times. What are the margins you are working in? And consider a few scenario's.

    Eg: if you are budgeting to be able to get most of the parts you need from second hand or re-conditioned sources, what if you cant get hold of this part or that and you have to buy new ones?

    Typically, you source your engine from a scrap vehicle, and when you have got it in, there's problems with the ignition system. You cant cobble it to work with the parts you've got & you have to buy new parts to make it work. Or you've fitted the engine but you haven't got clearance for the oil filter. You could get brutal & modify the chassis to give you clearance, but that means taking it all out again and cutting & welding, or you could fit a remote filter kit.

    At what point could hidden expenses like these make it cheaper or more viable to have chosen a different route, with less risk?

    And before you begin, make sure you have allowance in your budget or room for slippage in your schedule to cover these eventualities.

    Few problems are insurmountable, but having time and some money in reserve helps.

    A wonderful adage I was once offered was:-

    "There aren't many problems that can't be easily solved with a bit of money.....
    ......"Therefore your FIRST problem, is making some money, innit?!"

    And its usually not far from the truth!

    What we don't have we must obtain.

    We are looking at our resources; Space; Time; Money; Expertise; and Effort.

    And MONEY can secure any of the others in which we are deficient; if we don't have space, we can buy or rent some; if we don't have time; we can usually pay some-one else for theirs, or pay a surcharge for an expedited service or delivery; if we don't have the expertise; we can pay some-one to teach us theirs or apply theirs for us; and if we don't have the effort, we can pay some-one else for their labour.

    Money is useful like that; but getting hold of the stuff in the first place CAN be a bit tricky; and making sure you don't waste what you can get hold of, even trickier.

    Price your Time

    This is worth considering, just to help you work out where best to place your money and where best to place your effort.

    The company I worked for valued my time at about 10 an hour. My local friendly garage value their time at about 25 an hour. So five hours of my overtime buys me two hours of my garages labour & facilities.

    So, simple, time consuming, or niggling little jobs like fitting new door tops, or soundproofing & trim, I'm probably best off doing myself. But welding is probably best left to them. I can weld, but I know that by the time I've got my eye back in, and drawn a couple of good joints, and am confident enough to get on with the job, I'll have wasted more time & moneys worth of materials than giving the job to a professional, who would do it quicker, cheaper and better.

    Likewise, very easy to waste a lot of time messing around trying to save a few quid, making something good, or not pay what you think is over the odds for a part.

    Example here is door tops; Paddocks advertise new unglazed ali door tops for about 20 a side, glazed versions for nearer 50; and you used to be able to get the steel sections for about a tenner. Fiddling bloomin job to assemble the frames and get the glass into them, and sitting true in the runners so that they do actually slide, and don't leak. Might take you half a day to sort both windows; add getting the old ones off and fitting the new ones up, call it a days work.

    Buying the windows glazed, will save you half a day; but cost you 60, which is four hours of over time on a Saturday morning, so its 50/50 time vs. cost. BUT, if you are on a tight schedule, paying that extra, even though it doesn't seem like you are getting value for it, could be very worth while.

    Effort & Expertise

    According to Sir Isaac Newton, work = effort x distance moved, or effort is how hard you are pushing to get the job done, and whatever the project, some-one has to do the work. The effort needed could be you own or that of people you pay to do bits of it for you, but one thing's for sure; You can't just throw a load of parts into a garage, come back the following morning & drive them out a shiny new car.

    Probably the main consideration here is not how much effort is needed as where it's going to come from.

    Faced with a lack of time and a lack of money, it is very easy to go into a work frenzy trying to do far to much, far to quickly without enough expertise or equipment.

    And it's a good adage to remember that the faster you work, the faster you make mistakes.

    Undoing mistakes and re-doing the job properly is a waste of time & effort.

    Similarly, leaning on your shovel, telling passers by what you are up to, isn't getting the job done. You need to be realistic about your abilities and just what you can do yourself. Get help where you need it, and be prepared to pay for it when you can't count on a friend or favour.

    And you need to pace yourself, so you get work done at a reasonable pace without making mistakes, without missing things, without accidents or injury but without wasting time.

    A typical example would be trying to take the engine out without an engine crane. It can be done, but it's not the easiest way to do the job. If the hire shop is shut when you are ready to get the engine out, or you don't have the 20 to hire one, you will be tempted, to save time or money, but you may not save either.

    Similarly welding. It's a common misconception that welding is easy, and to decide that buying a welder and doing it yourself is cheaper than paying some-one else to do the job. This is usually fatal to a project, and now looked at in detail in 'Welding'

    There are Morris Minors and Triumph Heralds and Spitfires the length and breadth of Britain and littering North America, as unfinished projects, or rattling around with doors that don't fit and 'tracking problems', the consequence of amateur welders; and so often in Practical Classics, example restorations where they comment that they had to cut the chassis up and start again, and conclude it would have been easier to get a new chassis to begin with!

    A brand new, galvanised Land Rover chassis is about 800. The repair sections, to make one good, maybe 300. The savings look VERY tempting. But, it is fraught with dangers!

    Be realistic about what you can do, be prepared to learn, but also be prepared to get help or pay for expertise where it is needed.

    Red Light / Green Light

    OK, so we have gone round the loop a few times by now; we have had our ideas, and we have bashed them into some kind of shape; and got the germ of a plan together.

    We've a project spec, of some sort outlining our objectives; we have an 'ethos' or project philosophy as our 'guiding principle'; we have done some prioritisation of our necessities and niceties; and hammered out some possible plans of how we can achieve our aims.

    We've taken that lot, and reviewed it a few times; going right back looking at our proposed or suggested plans, and considering the implications of everything, and adapting our objectives or ethos and looking again at possible plans of action.

    And we have taken THAT lot, and looked at the feasibility of it all; looking at what resources we have available, by way of Space; Time; Money; Expertise; and Effort.

    We have a more realistic handle on what we are looking at or taking on, and aren't jumping in feet first, hoping for the best; and hopefully with some degree of confidence, can make some decisions and formulate a 'working plan'.

    We probably still have a whole raft of areas of uncertainty which we cant plan for in detail; we probably have loads of decisions left to make about how to deal with some bits of the plan.

    BUT; having worked our way through, we SHOULD be able to make a decision, with SOME degree of confidence whether or not, we have a viable project that we have a reasonable chance of seeing to conclusion. If we have; we can give it a green light and go ahead.

    Seeing it Through

    So, presuming we have given ourselves a 'green light' we may, as the highway code suggests, 'proceed with caution'.

    The 'Plan' will be 'raw', it will be 'tentative', and it will almost certainly be subject to change.

    BUT, we can deal with that. Cant we? We use the PACC cycle, and all we do, is continually keep looking at what we are doing, comparing it to the plan, and correcting and adapting the plan to suit; keeping in mind our objectives, ethos, and available resources.

    Simple. All, common sense really!

    Final bit of advice? When you encounter a problem, from loosing the socket you need, to not being able to get something to work; remember Rule Number One!

    STOP. Go put the kettle on, have a drink, and THINK.

    If needs be, pack up for the day, go do something else then look at your plan and do a quick comparison and correction exercise, BEFORE you make a serious mistake.

    A successful project comes to a successful conclusion, with calm rational action and decisions, lost tempers and hasty action ends in accidents and hassles.

    Good Luck.


      HOME Learner-Riders Workshop General Scrap-Book Miscellaneous e-mail  

    + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +