Problems with teeth.
When it all went horribly wrong back in the 70s.
A recent email made me laugh out loud, or LOL, as they say now. It was an ebay advert offering ‘Rare as Rocking Horse Shit’ Land Rover gearbox teeth! The genuine advert was accompanied by a photograph of about 12 broken gearbox teeth. I sent the seller a message pointing out that, far from being rare, most of us who run Land Rovers have drawers full of broken bits of gearbox and that I thought he had miss described the items. A lively debate continued both on ebay and on the Old Leaf Sprung Land Rover forum, for it transpired it was a bet based on the fact that you seem to be able to sell any old rubbish on ebay.
The selection of ‘rare’ gearbox teeth from a 1975 Series 3 belonging to a chap called Dave from up in County Durham.
The story made me recall the days when I used to drive my 1948, 80 inch, to and from trials with the Peak & Dukeries Land Rover Club in the 1970’s. Looking back, I was probably a tad optimistic expecting to drive a 30 year old Land Rover on a round trip of 100 miles and pull in about 6 hours of punishing trials driving! To give the old girl credit, she usually managed it, but I can recall an occasion when things did not go quite according to plan.
We had enjoyed a good days trialling at Ashover and finished with a mass of points that would have established us somewhere near the bottom. It was always a challenging venue where all entrants were beaten by the land, rather than tight canes. The trial may well have been laid out by fellow LRW contributor, Pete Wilford, who had more tricks up his sleeve that Tommy Cooper and presented them with similar humour! My navigator that weekend, for want of a more suitable title, was Tony Sinclair, a lifelong mate and now proprietor of All-Drive in Derbyshire and our combined spannering skills were, at the time, dubious!
Tired and caked in dried mud we pumped the 6.50 x 16 Dunlop Track Grips back up to road pressures and set off home in the late afternoon sun. We picked a cross country route to avoid holding up traffic on the main roads and hopefully to avoid the attentions of the law as although legal, it is a fair certainty that a few lights would have been smashed and the water logged brakes were not up to much. It was down some leafy lane in South Derbyshire that disaster struck. A harsh metallic noise came from the front axle, sounding much like a dustbin full of nails rolling down a hill!
We pulled into a lay-by and jacked the front up. Spinning a wheel it sounded as though the front diff had disintegrated. In our favour, most of the nuts and bolts on the Land Rover were used to being undone and within half an hour we had the axle in bits and the damaged diff out to reveal the full horror of the situation. It was beyond even our botching capabilities. There was no option but to abandon the Land Rover and hitch home. Hitch Hiking was far easier back then and within a short time we accepted a lift from a chap in a Hillman Minx. This was great, but he was rehearsing a role in a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera and asked us to check the words while he sang! It was a long evening, but we did get home eventually.
Considering the punishment Toby’s Land Rover took in the Peak & Dukeries events it is a miricle that it has
survived to give a further 35 years pleasure to date.
The next day we went to the local scrap yard where I knew they had a Rover 100. Aficionados will know that the diffs are similar, but when we removed it from the scrapper and counted the teeth, this was a 4.3:1 ratio, instead of the 4.7:1 used in the Land Rover. We used this as a way of negotiating a lower price with the dealer, but he said it would not be a problem as he had another Rover buried under a pile of rusting cars at the far end of the yard. More spannering and we had two 4.3:1 diffs in good order.
Tony drove both of us back to the abandoned Land Rover in his Morris 1000 Convertible and we began a full axle rebuild right there in the lay-by armed with a few old Whitworth spanners and a couple of dodgy scissors jacks. With lashings of Red Hermatite to keep the oil in the result was a great success and a few hours later we were back on the road with the benefit of slightly higher gearing. Those very same diffs are still in the Land Rover to this day and I am relieved to say have been absolutely fine.
As a footnote, I put a bid in on the gearbox teeth, and won them for a penny!
Copyright Toby Savage