Land Rover 101 Restoration

Land Rover 101 Restoration From Cow Shed to jeep hauler.

Farm Fresh.

The first tentative steps towards 101 ownership.

Words and pictures Toby Savage.

It was just a throwaway comment on Facebook in response to something I had written about off roading in a Discovery 3 - ‘You would have been better off in my 101’.  A simple sentence on the face of things, but one that was to lead me into ownership of the ultimate big boys toy - a 101 GS FC Land Rover.  I had not seen my old pal Jason Woodward for a few years and had no idea he had a 101, but when he also mentioned it was currently on eBay I thought it would be polite to pop over and see him, even if only to confirm that I had no need of a 101 and that buying one was the last thing on my mind.  It was sitting in one of his barns, the flotsam and jetsam of farm life piled against its stalwart flanks. ‘take it for a drive across the field if you like’, said Jason, knowing glint in his eye.  I fired up the 300 Tdi engine, expertly fitted by Keith Gott many years ago and set out across Jason’s land.  It was dreadful!  The engine cover was off so it was as noisy as a nail factory, impossible to steer and a rock hard ride, but a few measurements indicated that I might just be able to transport one of my 1943 Jeeps in the back, which could be handy, so I did some serious Man Maths and bought it!

Not exactly a barn find in the purist sense, but the 101 was in a barn and had been there a few years.

Being a farmer, Jason had changed the status of the 101 to ‘Agricultural Vehicle’, so it was zero rated for tax (it had a current disc) and did not require an MOT as long as it didn’t stray a mile from the farm.  On that basis I asked if he could drive it back to my partners house a few miles away.  We had the great advantage that Jo was on holiday with her two boys and unaware of my new folly, allowing us to park it on the drive without having to make any excuses.  The next morning I did a rough calculation and worked out it might just fit in the garage if I removed the roof, doors and screen.  Piece by piece I carefully removed everything and inched it into the garage.  With the Nato hook just nudging the freezer I could shut the door and my purchase was hidden.  The first Jo knew of it was when she came back from holiday, went to the freezer for a packet of peas and was confronted with a wall of drab olive!   She was thrilled........

Toby calculated that minus the roof, doors and screen his new purchase could be hidden in a normal domestic garage.

Once stripped down the garage fit looked promising.

When the dust had settled and gin and tonic had been poured on troubled waters I did an assessment of my new toy and formulated a ‘to do’ list.  First it would need to be insured. That was easy and done over the phone, then an MOT, which I thought it would stand a good chance of passing.  With those two in place I could apply to change the class from Tractor to Car and start restoring it.  I registered it at Jo’s address reasoning that as she had two ducks it could, at a stretch, be called a ‘farm’! 

Once behind the wheel and driving around the ‘farm’ Toby’s partner Jo warmed to the new toy and the kids loved it!

Four years of the dirt associated with an organic dairy herd had to be jet washed from the underside of this farm truck.

I booked an afternoon MOT test through my old pal Tony Sinclair at All-Drive UK, not a million miles away and asked if we could get in on the ramp first and sort out a sticking front brake and non existent hand brake.  Tony got stuck into the drum brake finding that a broken return spring was the culprit, whilst I tackled a seized up hand brake linkage. 

Tony Sinclair at All Drive found a broken return spring was the problem with the front drum brake. A simple repair.

Toby rolled his sleeves up and freed the sticking hand brake lever with WD40 and a wire brush.

With both of these items sorted out we set off to the MOT Station feeling reasonably confident.  The test examiner put the registration number into the computer and shook his head. When last tested it was Class 7 (truck) and he could only do Class 4 (car).  He said I would have to get it weighed and if under 3000 kgs he could test it.  

Foiled at the first hurdle we headed back to Tony’s.  It was too late to arrange getting it weighed that day and I was faced with a 30 mile drive home to the ‘farm’.  I asked Tony what he thought I should do if I was stopped by the Police for some lengthy questioning on vehicle classification.   Always one for sound and practical solutions to a problem he came back with  “Tell them to hurry up, you need to get back for milking!” 

“So Tony, I’m 30 miles from the farm with no MOT, what shall I do if stopped?” - “Tell them to hurry up, you need to be back for milking!”

I booked an appointment at the weigh bridge the following week and stripped of all things surplus to requirements it tipped the scales at just under 2 tonnes.  With written confirmation of this I made the return journey to the MOT Station and came away with the all important pass certificate.  With all the paperwork now in place I could change the class back to ‘car’ and apply for a legitimate tax disc.

Stripped down for a weigh in at the local weigh bridge the 101 came in at a sprightly 1950 kg

At last. After much effort the reward was an MOT Certificate.

Having clocked up about a hundred miles around the ‘farm’ by now I was starting to fine tune the list of jobs.  On the good side the bodywork  and chassis were both straight and protected by several layers of paint based on the ‘if it moves salute it, if doesn’t paint it’ military doctrine.  The 300 Tdi engine was superb and showed no signs of wear.  It was even reasonable on fuel.  The tyres were the worst part about it.  I think they had been left flat in some former life and gave the most alarming ride, despite appearing okay with bags of tread.  With the engine cover properly fitted the noise was acceptable but a session with some glue and carpet should work wonders.  Whether a Jeep could be shoe horned into the back remained to be seen, but the measurements indicated it should - just!  These niceties would have to wait though as it had to pass the ‘keep her happy’ test first by taking a mass of old clutter to the local Car Boot Sale, conveniently just a mile from the ‘farm’. A hundred quid better off and with a clearer garage it was time to plan the next stage in the restoration of this worthy truck.

Toby Savage April 2012

A Lick of Paint

In Part 2 of the renovation of a 101 GS, in which Toby covers up 30 years of drab olive with glossy Bronze Green.

With the 101 now road worthy and squeaky clean on the paperwork front, it was time to give some much needed attention to the trucks appearance.  Tentative scrapes with a chisel had revealed many coats of drab olive applied with a large brush by successive bored army recruits over about 30 years and below all that was evidence of white paint indicating some Nato peace keeping role perhaps.  From the outset I had rather fancied it in gloss bronze green with the galvanised cappings stripped back to original, instead of painted.  I had seen other 101s finished like this and thought they looked very smart.  The question was, how far to go?  Should I remove all the old paint back to the aluminium, fill any small dents, prime and apply a couple of top coats?  It would certainly look superb, but if that smart I would be hesitant to use it off road in case I scratched it and the value of the finished product would not reflect the full cost of undertaking such a big job.  Instead I opted to strip all the paint from the galvanised sections then remove any loose and flakey paint, sand down the all the surfaces and brush paint it.

Paint stripper is pretty dangerous stuff and it is advisable to wear gloves and goggles as it stings like hell in your eyes!

All the brackets for unwanted accessories across the front were removed - but kept.

Preparation for painting bodywork is quite the dullest job on any list, but perseverance pays off in the finished result so I worked out a strategy to lessen the boredom by planning some sections that could be completely finished to give my soul a psychological lift and propel me on the next job.  I removed all the side panels and the doors leaving just the bulkhead and rear platform.  Without those parts the job suddenly looked far more manageable.  Next I attacked the galvanised cappings with paint stripper.  Several applications working around the vehicle had most of the paint off within a couple of hours and the galvanising was perfect underneath and looked great. Whilst the paint stripper was doing its work I decided that I did not really need the brackets for mounting an axe and shovel on the front, so they came off (put in a box in case a future owner needs them).  Then with an old chisel I scrapped off any flaking paint and started to sand down anything that remained with a normal electric sander and some 240 grit sand paper.

The long side panels were tricky needing the galvanised cappings stripping and a lot of flakey paint removing.

Underneath many layers of paint the Solihull legend is made visible again.

The wheels were the worst part, requiring stripping of all paint to get a decent finish.

It was remarkable how much I achieved in a weekend.  By the time I sat down for the Sunday roast the main body was ready for some primer and all of the galvanised parts were finished.  During the week I had a job over in Wolverhampton and managed to call in and see The Paint Man.  I had bought paint from Bill ‘The Paint Man’ at various Shows over the last few years, notably a good semi gloss sand colour for my LRDG replica Jeeps.  What Bill doesn’t know about Land Rover paint is not worth knowing so we discussed my needs and he sent me off with the correct primer and 10 litres of Bronze Green - plenty for two coats on the 101 he assured me.

A self etching primer was supplied by Bill ‘The Paint Man’ to ensure the new paint does not flake off.

Looking a bit patchy, but with all the bare aluminium areas primed it was time for a top coat.

I treated myself to a couple of new brushes, some white spirit and a tin of cellulose thinners for the primmer and primed all the bits that needed a base coat.  This was an etch primer suitable for the areas of bare aluminium and should ensure the new paint does not peel off.  Working at a leisurely pace out in the sunshine the paint was drying very quickly and I was able to give it a light sanding within about an hour ready for the top coat.  Time was running short, so I decided that rather than rush the job and risk messing up a couple of weekends work I would leave the thrill of applying the first top coat until the following weekend.  The next Saturday was cold and damp so I worked inside first wiping any dust off with a damp cloth.  When everything was dry I started painting.  The new paint had remarkable covering qualities and after just one coat the bulkhead was looking fantastic.  Uplifted by the results I had the rest done within the day and was in a position to move on to the pile of other panels.  These responded to the same treatment, though the side panels were more fiddly with flaking paint in every inaccessible corner. 

The first coat of top coat and progress was rapid with superb covering properties.

Wheeled out of the garage after four weekends work Toby’s 101 is looking good in Bronze Green.

With all of the bodywork finished it was time for one last push to do the wheels.  Something I had been putting off as they appeared to have more flakey paint than any other part of the truck.  I decided the best solution would be to completely strip them of all the old paint.  A task that used up all of my remaining paint stripper and took a whole day - quite the longest single item of the project.  When eventually finished they did look good though and I knew the effort would be worth it when I could afford a new set of tyres.  Pulling the 101 out of the garage into the sunlight I was able to stand back and enjoy the fruits of my labours.  In four weekends of pretty easy work and for a cost of about £200 I had transformed a shabby looking farm truck into a pretty smart 101 GS.  I was lucky in that Jason, the previous owner, had lashed out on a new canvas tilt with extra windows fitted for great visibility.  With that cleaned and fitted my 101 was starting to look like the truck I had always promised myself.

Toby Savage April 2012

Improving the Breed.

With Toby’s 101 GS both roadworthy and rather smart it was time to make some improvements.

Words and pictures, Toby Savage.

My 101 GS was now in useable condition and looking good following six months of casual renovation.  I was already finding myself popular with all my friends who had to move large objects around the County -  ‘Could you possibly take our old wardrobe to the tip?’ and ‘Any chance of using your 101 to fetch a load of logs?’.  Of course I was delighted to play with my new toy and all these requests went some way to justifying its purchase, but as a project I had further plans.  Top of the list was a new set of tyres.  The originals were donkeys years old and I suspect had been left flat at some stage as the ride they offered was truly dreadful - as if driving on large corrugations and wobbly to boot.

Protracted conversations on various forums offered several alternatives.  John Craddock’s were offering a good deal on new wheel/radial tyre combinations which was certainly tempting, there were several offers of original Bar Grips, but I have always been a fan of the Michelin tyre, or their subsidiary BF Goodrich.  You get what you pay for with tyres and despite commanding a premium price I know from extensive experience that a Michelin/BFG tyre will out perform anything else, making it a better investment in the long run.  They make a 255/100 x 16 XZL which is the nearest metric equivalent to the old 9.00 x 16, so I ordered five, with tubes, took a deep breath and passed on my credit card details.  As soon as they arrived I knew I had made a good choice.  These were new ‘new’ tyres, not new old stock.  In the process of my research I learnt that rubber hardens over the years, which was partly what was wrong with my existing 101 tyres.  So whilst some dealers can offer cheaper variants of the same tyre it is important to check the date of manufacture.  Anything over about five years is not officially ‘new’.

A new set of Michelin XZLs not only look good but will give great performance on and off road.

It was time to book the 101 in for a short holiday at my son Matt’s place up in Matlock.  He and mechanic Andy were to take the 101 through to the next stage.  With such a good 300 Tdi engine it seemed prudent to have it properly serviced and have a new cam belt and tensioner fitted along with new oil throughout the transmission.  Whilst there, Matt fitted the new tyres and tubes and Andy constructed a spotlight bar and wiring loom that would fit both the 101 and my Series 2a Carawagon at a later stage.  We decided on four K.C. Daylighters, legendary in the States for longevity and performance.  It is said that once you have made the move to KC’s you never buy anything else.  Like the tyres, quality does not come cheaply, but at least I could swap them from one Land Rover to another.  The drive home afterwards was certainly illuminating and the ride on the new tyres a revelation.  No wobble and the Motorway felt flat for the first time in my ownership.


Mechanic Andy offers up a custom made light bar with four K.C. Daylighters.  This will also fit Toby’s Series 2a Carawagon.

Next on the list was a performance hike.  My 200 Tdi engined Carawagon benefited from an AlliSport intercooler years ago and I have enjoyed the increased performance ever since.  A call to Andrew at AlliSport revealed that they already made a bolt on replacement specifically for 300 Tdi converted 101s.  “Ah, but Andrew” I said with one raised eyebrow, “I desire something bigger”.  Excited at the prospect of a 101 GS Veloce, Andrew suggested I brought it down and they could make up and fit  a bespoke intercooler whilst I kept out of the way reading old car mags at their workshop. 

Andrew Graham at AlliSport offers up the double size section of intercooler which fits snugly in the front of the 101

I decided it would be useful to do some kind of objective test to measure the improvement and armed with iPhone stop watch and Sat Nav unit, chief timer Jo and I found a quiet stretch of road to conduct the ‘before’ time trials.  The road we chose was, deserted, straight and climbed a fairly steep hill over a distance of about half a mile.  We made notes of the start point and where the test would end and did three timed runs differing only in when I changed gear and how many revs I used in each. The results were written down and kept safe for an ‘after’ comparison.  Down in deepest Gloucestershire Andrew measured the large square aperture in the front of the 101 and thought he could probably squeeze one in twice the size of the normal one offered.  A double sized area of intercooler was cut and offered up.  Bingo! It fitted and a couple of hours later end chambers had been welded in place and various polypropylene tubes cut and joined to link up the the existing turbo.  By 6.00 pm the job was complete and a quick run down the road confirmed everything was fine and there was most certainly a big improvement, particularly in the mid range torque.


An objective test to confirm the improvement the intercooler made to the 101’s performance involved timed runs, before and after, up a quiet country lane.

After the intercooler was fitted the improvement was 16% overall with greater torque in the mid range.

Back at the Leicestershire test track we repeated exactly the same three runs and recorded the increase in performance which is detailed in the box below.  The results were what I had hoped for and expected, based on previous experience with my Carawagon and the whole 101 project was looking good.  Throughout the renovation I had been working out whether or not I would be able to fit a Jeep in the back and although that was not yet confirmed (neither Jeep or 101 in the same place long enough at the right time) I certainly felt it now had the power to pull an extra ton and was as good, if not better that when it left the factory with a 3.5 litre V8 back in 1976.

A tight fit.

In the final part of Toby Savage’s 101 renovation the team squeeze a Jeep in the back and tow a second on a trailer.

Words and Pictures, Toby Savage.

Over the past three instalments my 101 ‘Big Boys Toy’ has been transformed from a farm truck into a fairly rapid and very smart 101 GS with the help of a fresh coat of Bronze Green, new Michelin XZL tyres and a massive AlliSport intercooler for the 300 Tdi engine.  Now it was time to see if it could fulfil its roll at mule capable of transporting a couple of World War 2 Jeeps.  It had always been my intention that, if possible I would like to squeeze one Jeep in the back whilst the second sat on a trailer behind.  For two years a small group of us have been planning an ambitious trip to Egypt with the Jeeps and a truck to take and collect them from the docks would be handy.  But would it all work?

Having all the vehicles in the same place at the same time was the biggest obstacle, but there was an occasion last summer when the 101 was up at my son Matt’s place in Matlock and there was a Jeep in the final stages of completion so it seemed an ideal opportunity to try the idea out.  The Jeep, a 1943 Willy’s MB, did not actually run at this stage, but was on the ramps so I reversed the 101 back to meet the ramps and we pushed the Jeep gently forward onto the rear wheel arches of the 101.  There were a few creaks and groans and the suspension dropped about an inch, but first impressions were favourable.  We put two old trailer ramps across the sides of the 101 to bridge the gap between the rear wheel arch and the seat bulkhead and pushed further.  All was well until we reached the bulkhead and made some measurements.  We knew the wheels would all have to come off to get the 101 roof back on, but the front bumper flanges were about 2 inches too wide to slide the chassis between the seats.

Offering up the Willys for the first time required a bit of pushing and shoving, but the signs were promising.

Even the spring hanger grease nipples had to be removed.  This was a tight fit!

Measure twice and cut once is a wise saying, so over a cup of coffee we worked out the best solution, then took a grinder to the outer sections of flange.  With another push it was almost there and in the end we even removed the grease nipples from the front spring hangers allowing the front end of the chassis to just fit between the seats.  The rest of the process looked fairly straight forward so we left it at that until the Jeep was finished a few months later. 

Towards the end of the summer I went up to Matlock again armed with a variety of bits of wood, a small circular saw, a drill and various sizes of screws with the aim of making a semi permanent platform to take the weight of the Jeep and hoping that after a days work we might try a test drive.  The weather was kind to us and as I sawed timber and drilled holes out in the sunshine Matt and mechanic Andy finished the Jeep.  We used the convenience of the four poster ramp again and using the knowledge learned in the first attempt, this time managed to get the Jeep fully in and all the wheels off.  A quick measuring session confirmed the canvas tilt would fit on if we removed the spare wheel and jerry can holder from the rear panel of the Jeep.

Lashing points were fitted to all four corners of the 101 load bay to secure the Jeep.

Construction of a semi permanent decking down each side of the 101 was a pleasant days work in the sunshine.

The finished load bed would support a ton and was made using plywood and old lengths of 2x2.

Matt had fitted four lashing points to the deck of the 101 to secure the Jeep and as a ‘belt and braces’ approach we fitted a big ratchet strap from the Jeep’s back axle down to the 101’s Nato hook, just in case we had to stop suddenly.  With everything lashed down we ventured out onto the road and it certainly felt okay.  We drove for about 10 miles and both decided the idea worked and it felt powerful enough to tow a trailer as well.  Unfortunately we could not try this out as the second Jeep was elsewhere, but instincts were trusted!

‘.... so if we take the wheels off, this should fit here and that should fit there.....’

Having successfully tested the idea we realised that we would either have to always find a convenient four poster ramp, or make some portable ramps to drive the Jeep up into the 101.  Andy set too with some lengths of angle iron and the grinder and soon fabricated a pair of ramps about 3 metres long and strong enough to support the weight.  A simple peg and hole location system was made and they looked just right.  It was a few weeks before we had chance to try them, but when we did they were perfect.  So the scene was set this Spring for the big test.  With a logistics problem to challenge the best of Quartermasters, both Jeeps and the 101 all came together with the trailer on the morning of departure to Felixstowe Docks.  Loading the Willy’s into the back was the most time consuming, but made quicker by using a 3 metre fence post as a jack.  This simple lever technique as used by the ancient Egyptians in the building of the Pyramids made wheel removal much quicker.  With one lashed down and the tilt back on the only evidence of the cargo was a small bump of the steering wheel mid way down the roof.  We hitched the empty trailer up and loaded the second Jeep, a 1943 Ford GPW, onto it and made all secure.

Off to Felixstowe with an all up weight of about 5 tons. We cruised the A14 at 50-60 mph and averaged 18 mpg.

AlliSport Power!

It was a tense first drive up the steep track that links the Matt Savage Overland Preparation Barn to the civilised world outside.  I took the first go and opted for second gear, low ratio.  With an all up weight of about 4.5 tons we gradually crawled up the track and out onto tarmac.  It all seemed fine and we stopped for a quick check of everything relevant and hit the road.  First to the M1, then east along the A14.  The going was easy.  Far easier then I had imagined.  We were maintaining a steady 50 - 60 mph, with a Sat Nav confirmed maximum of 63 mph and the whole rig felt totally stable.  With its maiden voyage a success we headed for home and were delighted to find that overall we had achieved 18 mpg.  I would hazard a guess that in original V8 mode we would have been lucky to get half that.  So the ‘Man Maths’ had worked and I now find myself the owner  of a very useable and smart 101 GS to have some fun with.

Toby’s 101 is 1976 standard 101 GS 12 volt version.
The 300 Tdi engine was originally fitted by Keith Gott.
It has an uprated AlliSport intercooler and an Optima Red Top Battery fitted in a fabricated battery box under the floor.
Lighting is standard with an extra four KC Daylaghters.
Tyres are Michelin XZY 255/100 x 16s

Toby Savage April 2012