Land Rover Series 1 Chassis and Bulkhead Firewall Restoration

The heart of a Land Rover is its chassis and bulkhead firewall. Rust is not a problem on Land Rovers because they are made of aluminum. But these two items are made of steel and so they are prone to rust. The chassis is also prone to abuse, dents and breaks. A good Land Rover Series 1 chassis and bulkhead firewall restoration is an important foundation of a good rebuild.

Assessing the Damaged Chassis

The only way to do a proper assessment is when you have completely disassembled the vehicle. Looking at my Land Rover Series 1 restoration project I could see that the rear right spring hanger was broken off. The rest of it didn’t look too bad with the body on. Even when I had the body off it still didn’t look too bad.

Once I had it fully disassembled I could get the chassis outside and wash it properly. I used a high pressure washer and it took me half a day to get it clean. Cleaning the outside wasn’t too difficult it was the inside of the chassis rails that were caked with mud and grass and acorns. Apparently the chassis has been home to some rodents who had lived there and stored all their food. After cleaning it properly I started to see some more areas of damage. Previous patch work had been done and some of the box sections had gaping holes in.

The next step was to have it sandblasted to get the surface rust off and do a final assessment of the rust damage. I was sitting with a rather long list of damaged sections. Rusted front, damaged and rusted middle cross member, rusted gearbox cross member, Damaged box section with gaping hole, 3 badly repaired sections.

I coated the chassis with a coat of etch primer before sending it off for repair.

Chassis Restoration

Looking at the bits of chassis that were cut out reminded me of a small massacre. But when I looked at the finished product it was virtually impossible to see where it has been repaired. This was aesthetically appealing but also gave me confidence that the full strength had been restored.

The last step of this Land Rover Series 1 chassis restoration was to give it a good coat of Plascon Synlac Enamel to make sure that it would give me a lifetime of service. Starting with a “brand new” clean chassis is one of the most satisfying parts of starting a rebuild.

Rusted Bulkhead Firewall

The firewall or bulkhead is the real heart of the Land Rover and connects the body to the chassis and it is both structural and aesthetic as it forms the dashboard as well. On old vehicles that have spent time outside or near the sea the firewall takes a beating. To do a proper restoration on Land Rover Series 1 the chassis and bulkhead firewall restoration is critical.

My vehicle had been outside in a non corrosive environment with a cab on so it did not look too bad. Once again my initial thoughts were that it was going to be ok. I could see quite a bit of surface rust but structurally it looked good. It was also a bit difficult to access properly until I had cleaned, sand blasted and painted it with the etch primer. It was then that I could see where the surface rust had actually rusted through the sheet metal in the thinned sections of the footwell and dash tray sections.

Bulkhead Firewall Restoration

Firewall repair is even more specialised that chassis repair and so it was off to Sharl again. The news was not good. The cost of repairing all those rusted through sections was going to be similar to the cost of rebuilding a new one.

Rebuilding the firewall has been the biggest and most  unexpected expense of this rebuild that I just had to accept. But once I got the finished product it was worth it. I now had the perfect starting point for a top quality restoration that would be worth it in the end.

The get the rebuild going properly I had to get the firewall painted in the final colour. Everything on the vehicle is centered around the firewall so it needed to go in first. I had Landynet do the painting for me in an original Series 1 colour of RAF blue. As soon as I got the firewall back I put it onto the chassis just to see how it looks.

I have been more than pleased with the final result all the effort to do a proper Land Rover Series 1 chassis and bulkhead firewall restoration has paid off. As I restore the rest of the Land Rover I will know that I did not take any shortcuts and will end up with a top quality restoration.

You can find the full story on this restoration on youtube

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Cleon Grobler

    Good day Alan,

    Did you do the firewall repair yourself or did you have someone else do it for you?
    Me and my brother is in the process of rebuilding a Series 3SWB and our firewall is also not in such a good condition at this moment.
    Thank you for the effort with the YouTube channel. I enjoy your video’s.


  2. Alan

    Hi Cleon, I did not do the firewall repair myself. My firewall had to be completely rebuilt so I had it redone. If it’s just the footwells then its not too difficult to do by yourself. But mine had holes all over. It is expensive to have it redone but it is the heart of the vehicle so will last a long time if done properly.

  3. Adriaan

    Hi Alan
    Please tell us who is Charl that build the new bulkhead

    1. Alan

      Hi Adrian

      Sharl Maritz does a lot of fabrication work and can make or repair most of the body parts on early Land Rovers. He is base In Muldersdrift. I can send you his details if you like.

Leave a Reply