All about Chris Cowdery

My Landie is a 1963 Series IIA SWB Truck cab.

It has the following alterations from standard:


performance figures:

Fuel economy

History since I've had it

I purchased my Landie in '89, just before my 16th birthday. It cost me 300 quid, and it was a wreck, but it had a new engine with it. I reassembled it and had it roadworthy by my 17th birthday, and I used it to learn to drive in. I used it for a couple of years in standard trim (2.25 litre 75hp max speed 70mph), but by the summer of '92, the chassis was very rotten. So I purchased a heavy duty galvanised item, and did a chassis swap, or in other words, completely rebuilt the Landie in a week.

I then ran it for another year, but long distance driving back and forth from Bangor to Reading pursuaded me to improve performance a bit. So during the summer of '93 I rebuilt it again, but this time with the 3.5 litre engine, 4 speed auto box, and power steering.

I ran the vehicle like this for a year, but the extra power and speed wasn't matched by the braking system. i.e. you could get smoke coming from the brake drums at 60mph if you slowed down from 100mph hard, and that still left 60mph to lose. So during the summer of '94 I built an improved front axle with disc brakes, and put that on. That was good, until I snapped it during July '95, and so I made another better front axle with improved steering lock and steering geometry. Also over the summer I put in a newish MG Metro dash because I like the backlit green and orange illumination, very readable. I also kept the MG steering wheel and steering column stalks, which are lit by fibre optics.

After graduating from University, I decided to rebuild it again on a new chassis, with all the suspension and running gear from a Range-Rover as this gives coil spring suspension and disc brakes. I also changed from a hard top to a truck cab and made loads of other detail changes to improve the comfort factors. I also devised a flip-front at this point, as the V8 is quite a tight fit in the series engine bay, so now the access is much improved.

In February 2000, I blew up the V8 EFi, much knocking came out of it. So I purchased a Rover SD1 Vanden Plas and took the engine out of that and put it into the Landie. I also carried over the instruments and trip computer.

The brake servo was from a SIII LWB, but the pedal effort required was extremely high, and it felt like the servo was running out of assistance. So I fitted a servo from a 90 (tight fit!) and now the braking is vastly superior.

2003 - 4.6litre engine & LPG conversion

During the first half of 2003 I substantially overhauled her again. I built a 4.6 litre V8, and fitted an LPG conversion. Because I intended to run mainly on LPG, I built the engine with this in mind. LPG has a very high octane, around 105 I believe, therefore it will benefit from a much higher compression ratio than is practical with petrol. I therefore took 2mm from the cylinder heads and used tin head gaskets to get the compression ratio to be >11:1 This of course makes the pushrods too long so I fitted 1.3mm shims under the rocker shaft pedestals. Further, the inlet manifold and valley gasket no longer fit, so I machined down the inlet manifold, and made the valley gasket narrower by cutting it and pop rivetting it together (tried welding unsuccessfully).

I also powder coated the rocker covers green to give the motor the Landie look. It runs standard twin SU's which I believe run out of go at the top end.

The LPG conversion is interesting in that I decided to fit the tank under the passenger seat in the space that the second petrol tank would usually go. Chris Perfect said that he'd never seen that done before, but I measured up and bought everything anyway. The tank (50l) is a tight fit, you have to widen the seat box, modify the door to clear the widened seat box, and make a small bulge in the front and top of the seat box. I also fitted the filler in one of the petrol filler galvanised pressings that I fitted to the passenger side so it looks like it's supposed to be there. The engine side of the install is as per instructions. I had it inspected after I had finished at the local LPG installer, and they said it was the best DIY job they had ever seen, which is a testament to the kit as much as anything else.

Diagnostic equipment takes the form of a Weber Alpha Lambda sensor with coloured LED readout to tell me if the mixture is OK. I also plan to make a knock indicator as I have found that the knock sensor from a Montego fits the V8 block. I just need to finish reverse engineering the Montego ECU.

I also modified the flip front to also give the option of traditional bonnet opening as well.

I have fitted white light lenses all round, which is easy with indicators, but the rear stop/tails I found I could not get red bulbs. So I fitted a BLMC style lense inside the Imp type lense proper.

I've fitted an acoustic floor mat from Wrightoffroad which works well, although I had to cut it to fit my custom transmission tunnel. I have also fitted some self adhesive thermal acoustic foam from Europaspares on the engine side of the bulkhead

How did it turn out?

It goes like hell! Stopping is OK, but a rapid stop is quite scary as it is not that directionally stable. Cornering again is to be treated with respect, but the suspension is for off-roading so there is no anti-roll apparatus.

The steering was vague - a new steering box and offset front suspension bushes have made it a lot better

The ride was a little bumpy, the time constant on the suspension was too short, so it tended to follow most of the bumps in the road. Some adjustable dampers from Scorpion helped along with Range Rover rear springs. It's not perfect, but it ain't bad.

There was vibration in the drivetrain, when coasting at high speed. Much head scratching went into this one, and a visit to Ashcroft to see what he thought. The fix was a Disco Series II front propshaft with a double cardan joint which I aquired and had lengthened and balanced.

Wind noise - she was very noisy. More foam and damping material helped, although the shape of the vehicle will mean it will never be that quiet.

A 50 litre gas tank, with an 80% fill is about 40 litres, and if you fill up comfortably before you run out, at 12mpg, you get a range of 80-90 miles. Which is a bit of a faff filling up that often!. So I acquired a second tank, and fitted it under the drivers seat. This necessitated making a small petrol tank to fit in the rear. So now I can get over 200 miles from a fill.

I also decided that the Series 3 radiator (heavy duty) wasn't cooling the engine sufficiently. I compared it with the original Series 2 rad, and found that there is far less cooling area! So much for progress / cheap rads!! Therefore I found that one of the 300 series Sherpa rads would just fit, so I had Cambridge Radiators refurbish and make the core thicker too. It's been good since.

Mind you, whilst putting it all back together I got the pipes to the remote oil filter back to front. The one-way valve stays closed, and I starved the engine of oil. Had to regrind the crank and fit new shells. Bummer! See latest rebuild for details.

Golden Spanner awards go to

RPi for providing me with a 4.6litre short engine kit and taking the time to go through the build with me.

Chris Perfect Components for supplying a comprehensive LPG conversion kit. Everything I needed was included, with generous amounts of piping and clips.

Burtons Car Disposal who are my local breakers, and from whom I got many of the odds and ends always for a good price

Chrome Vanadium Spanner awards go to

Europa Spares for supplying lots of the little odds and ends, lamps, badges, brightwork, acoustic foam etc.

Paddock motors for supplying most of the standard Landie spares

Wright Off Road for the acoustic floor

Burlen Fuel Systems for supplying parts and advice for SU carbs. Their website is very good

Wooden Spanner awards go to

Demon Tweeks for selling me the Lambda Sensor kit for £240 when I found I could get it from the manufacturer directly for £140

Lyndale Engines for buggering me about no end. I got them to press in new valve guides, which they finally mangaged to do. They were incapable of telling me when the job would be finished, which meant some wasted visits, and much delay. And to top it off, they charged £4 per guide, which amounted to £64, which I thought was a lot. I think they're too busy, and give preference to trade customers. I'll find somebody else next time

All images (C) 2005 - 2017

Last modified on: 25th August 2017 by email the webmaster

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