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Dropping in a V8

The 'Period' conversion, V8-ing By Robert Ivings

People frequently refer to "Dropping a V8" into a Land Rover. Many Conversions look exactly as if a car engine fell off the engine hoist accidentally into a Land Rover Engine bay, instead of being part of a properly engineered vehicle improvement scheme. The first consideration is to ask your insurance company for a quotation for the finished vehicle. There must be many 'two and a quarter V8" engined Land Rovers on insurance company files and the DVLC computer. If the reply is favourable and there is still funding available to complete the job then lets get on with it. But hold on a minute. What are the consequences of tripling the design power of the vehicle? Will the tyres stay on at 100mph? (on private roads of course!) Will it stop? Will it go well? As the answer to all these and many more is 'NO', we'd better consider a package with several options for uprating the whole vehicle.


A Thorough Inspection of the vehicle structure must be completed before any work is considered. A 'Tired' chassis may last several years in normal use, but under the extra loading of a V8 may fail in days. Tap the chassis with a SMALL hammer and listen for a good ringing sound. A Corroded or repaired chassis gives a dull thud. Check the spring locating points very carefully. Examine the bulkhead footwell areas as when cutting into these to make room for an engine they often fall apart.


There's no point in making it go if it will not stop. The brakes on the LWB 4 cylinder and the larger brakes on the 6 cylinder are sufficient for these vehicles with the addition of a servo, unless already fitted. The servo may be the remote type or fitted to the pedal assembly as on later vehicles. The SWB 8 & 86 require the system uprating to LWB spec by changing all cylinders and back plates and drums for LWB units including master cylinder and servo. This is a MUST. All pipes and cylinders must be in as new condition. Steering: No mods required, but must be in perfect working order. Tyres: Radial tyres should be used suitable for 110 V8 or Range Rover. They also improve the road holding. do not skimp in this department, as suitably geared, the V8LR is capable of 100mph and your tyres are the only contact with the road.


There is no doubt that the strongest gearbox is the later type series two with the large layshaft bearings and the large intermediate shaft in the transfer box. The series three box will be alright but one has to be careful with the synchromesh on the lower gears as it is not very strong and will not stand hard work. The gearbox needs no modification other than the addition of an overdrive to increase the gearing. An adapter plate which is supplied with the conversion kit is used to join the gearbox to the engine. The axles with standard Rover Diffs will cope with the increased power - JUST! The LWB series three with it's Salisbury rear axle is ideal as the axle is much stronger and will not regularly break half shafts as the Rover axle will unless in gentle hands (feet?). This axle may, indeed should, be fitted to earlier LWB and it fits by direct substitution if fited with a S3 propshaft. The axle may be fitted to SWB if new spring mounting pads are welded on and a new shorted propshaft is professionally made and balanced. If the Salisbury axle is fitted it also has the larger brakes needed fitted already. New on the market is a conversion by Ian Ashcroft to allow the SD1 5-Speed gear-box to be fitted to a Land Rover transfer box. This does not then need an over drive or engine to gearbox adapter plate and is a neat looking job. He also makes the same type of conversion for the SD1 automatic gearbox for those who like autos or possibly may need an auto because of a disability and cannot afford the many thousands needed for an auto Range Rover. His number is 05827 6081.


The Standard series three rad will work well with the V8 but needs an electric fan if used with P5 or P6 engines. The standard viscous fan may be used with RR or SD1 engines. The radiator requires the addition of a small pipe soldering to the header tank to take the bleed pipe from the inlet manifold. Do not be tempted to block this pipe off as localised overheating and head gasket failure may result. The SD1 rad may be used with a 110 type front conversion.

Exhaust System:

If one has the facilities of a large fabricating shop then make your own by adapting a Range Rover system. If not then ring Jake Wright who manufactures an excellent set of front pipes which mate to Range Rover manifolds and fits the standard Land Rover system or to his slightly larger bore system which follows the normal routing and uses the original chassis mounts. Ring 0943 863530 for details.

Adapter kits:

Kits are available from many manufacturers and vary in price and contents. Some include remote oil filter assemblies, some use an oil pump adapter and some just use a small oil filter. Some include engine mounts and some you make yourself, but all have cast aluminium or fabricated engine back plate and flywheel bush and instructions.

Clutch & flywheels

V8 with SD1 Flywheel & S2 Diaphram

(Pictured is V8 with SD1 flywheel and S2 diaphragm)
Either the SD1 (P6 "S" is the same) light flywheel or the Range Rover flywheel may be used. The slightly rarer SD1 one does not require re-drilling to take the Land Rover clutch cover, but the Range Rover one does. The Range Rover is heavier and gives more lugging ability than the car's. The standard 9.5" Land Rover clutch plate is used with a Series 3 cover for a Series 3 box and Range Rover flywheel. The SD1 flywheel/S3 box uses the SD1 cover or S2 diaphragm cover with its central boss. With a S2 box then the 9.5" plate is again used with a SD1 diaphragm cover (LR Part No 567557). The adjustable mechanism on the S2 clutch being able to cope with the thickness of flywheel. If you use a Range Rover fly wheel unless you are skilled in this type of work then have it professionally re-drilled, threaded and balanced - related vibrations may result A special thin wall spigot bush is needed to fit all conversions.


One may be forgiven for thinking that all Rover V8 engines are the same. They are basically similar but have various power outputs and many variations in external fittings such as exhaust manifolds and water pumps, depending on their original application. All will run on lead free fuel, but the higher compression engines need retarding slightly. We shall not consider engines from the rarer vehicles such as the MGB and the Land Rover 101, but from the more common "Donor" vehicles. Try to hear the engine run before purchase. All applications require a Range Rover starter motor as the front propshaft hits the starter solenoid with car type starters.
Rover P5 Saloon and Coupe:
Getting a bit old now, but the engine offers lots of power. Was designed to run on now extinct Five-Star petrol, but will run on anything is the timing is retarded. Available as an auto only. A Range Rover or SD1 flywheel will also be needed. Rover P6B 3500 & 3500S The youngest unit is now fourteen years old but still offers lots of useful life. the "S" is manual. Rover 3500SD1 Probably the best engine for conversion and most readily available from car breakers. Try to find a manual one to use the flywheel. Dont forget to buy the electronic ignition powerpack with the engine.
Range Rover
As lots of Deisel conversions are carried out there are many engines available. they already have flywheel and correct starter motor and the angled nearside exhaust manifold so are probably the most economic conversion. The engines tend to be harder worked than the car units so watch condition. They are less powerful than the car engines but have more torque.
110, 90
Less powerful, but as per Range Rover engines above.
Fuel injected engines:
If you can insure it then great, but carry a spare gearbox with you!

The mixing of ingredients

Before fitting the engine it is best to uprate the rest of the vehicle in respect of overdrive, tyres and brakes (in case we later forget!) This may be over a long period whilst the vehicle is still in use. Collect all the bits necessary before starting.
Remove the old engine - I find it easier to work with the front wings off.
Cut the bulkhead on the O/S level with the steering box mounting plate (see photos: Off Side, shown left; Near Side, shown right) and reweld to allow room for the back of the engine.


Repeat on the N/S level with the bulkhead support bracket and reweld. This allows plenty of room for future spark plug changes!
(Picture: Engine sits in 'wide' bulkhead)

Assemble the clutch and flywheel and bolt the adapter plate. Install the engine into the engine bay.

Fit the exhaust system and make up pipes and connections for the fuel system. The SD1 and later type RR engines need and electronic fuel pump mounting on the chassis near the tank. Use the Facet type from the RR or anSU from such as the Jag XJ6. The SD1 pump is actually in the fuel tank and will not fit in the LR.

Use RR throttle cable on modified linkage.

Refit the rad and after soldering a small copper tube into the header tank to take the manifold bleed pipe and connect to the engine. Depending on your engine/rad type, modify SD1 or RR hoses to fit clear of the fan and belts.

Fit the remote oil filter adapter.

The RR air cleaner is best to use on all engines but he SD1 will fit with RR "elbows" Refit the bodywork and try the engine.

Check the operation of the clutch before fitting the floor on S2 boxes as it is a lot easier to adjust with the floor missing.

The floor will need trimming to suit the modified footwells.

Time now for testing after checking for leaks etc.

Remember with twice the power you can get into trouble twice as quickly!

The fiting has been only briefly outlined as it varies with different engine and vehicle combinations. The conversion kits carry good fitting instructions.

Comment (by Teflon):

This article was provided to me as a magazine cutting. Unfortunately, I don't know which magazine it was taken from. Judging by the comment about how old P6 engines would be, and reference to the availability of fuel injected engines, I'd hazard a guess that it was probably published in the mid eighties, and it is decidedly dated now.

However, it does still provide some useful information, into what I still consider to be probably the most effective means of V8ing a Series Land Rover.

If you take it any further, say by considering using an LT77 gearbox from a Rangie or Defender, to take the power a bit more reliability, you then get to the question of whether to also use the matching permanent four wheel drive transfer box, and from that notion, whether to use Range Rover or Defender axles as well, which of course leads to questioning whether to keep the Series leaf springs or go to coils, at which point, you no longer have a 'Converted' Series 3, but a full on 'Hybrid'!

One thing I noticed in the article was mention of Ian Ashcroft's LT77 to Series Transfer box adapter; this I know is now obsolete, which is a bit of a shame, because that option had a lot going for it.

Only thing I'm not to sure about in the article is the recommendation of 'needing' an over drive on the series gearbox to increase the gearing to suit the V8's power output. I've commented on this in 'gearing' in greater detail, but, for the grunt of a V8, an OD would not be my choice, but given the era the article was written in, it was probably one of the few options then available.


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